11 October 2005 | CraigHamrick
Historic TV that's worth a look
Bob Cummings was a pioneer in the early days of sitcoms, making this show worth viewing if you're interested in the history of television programming. There's a certain "live on tape" feel to some episodes, when actors accidentally step on each others' lines, which also makes the atmosphere a little more natural than today's highly polished (tightly edited) sitcoms.
It's a treat to see a young Ann B. Davis, best remembered today as "The Brady Bunch"'s housekeeper, Alice. In the 50s, she was considered a fairly major TV star, and she was an undeniably inventive comic actress. In many episodes of "The Bob Cummings Show," she has a pretty substantial amount of screen time -- far more than she usually got in the Brady household.
Another classic sitcom star is on hand: Before Nancy Kulp played Miss Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies, she honed her TV skills in "The Bob Cummings Show." Her character, a snooty, sexually aggressive bird-watching enthusiast has much in common with Miss Jane. In fact, in many ways they're practically identical. In later years, Kulp came out of the closet and lived as an openly gay woman. Her character in "The Bob Cummings Show," while aggressively pursuing Bob, certainly has a lesbian vibe. In the episode "Bob Goes Bird Watching," for example, when Kulp enters the episode, she's clad in a very masculine suit, with a "butch" hairstyle, but throughout the scene she's trying to persuade Bob abandon his swimsuit-clad models and join her at Griffith Park, to check out some "tit mouse" birds -- no double entendres were wasted in this show...
Dwayne Hickman is also in the cast, perfecting his Dobbie Gillis character. Like Kulp, he carried this character's basic traits into another show -- so it's interesting to watch him learning his craft here.
Like many shows of this time period, "The Bob Cummings Show" was performed at a pace most viewers now find stunningly slow. But many of the scripts hold up fairly well, and the acting, though a bit stagey at times, is naturalistic and enjoyable. If you want lightening- quick repartee, tune into "Will and Grace," but if you're ready for some relaxing old-time humor performed by some of the best actors from TV's early days, check out "The Bob Cummings Show."