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Archive for April 13th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

(Due to hilarious circumstances caused by the powers that be, a gap was left in the schedule and somebody had to fill it with something. The result is the following essay)

This classic sitcom from television’s first golden age is set at the fictional Fort Baxter, a base in fictional Roseville, Kansas and concerns the machinations of master sergeant Ernie Bilko, who lives up to his name, as he is an inveterate gambler, scoundrel and cheat. Yes, he’s a bit of a bum, but he is our bum, and as much as he loves taking his “pigeons” for all their lettuce-cash-he will be damned if anyone else takes advantage of them. At heart, he is a selfish man but not an evil one, except in terms of that banal evil that comes with his special brand of self interest. This is offset by his charm and the manic energy and immaculate timing of Phil Silvers, who along with a crackjack cast-including more women and  ethnic and minority types than television had ever seen or would see again for thirty years or more-gave life to a series of brilliant scripts headed by creator Nat Hiken, who would go on to create Car 54, Where Are You? As a bit of trivia, actor George Kennedy, who played a policeman in several episodes, served as army technical advisor for the series, which, at the insistence of its creator, was filmed in New York City, and it shows in both the casting and the energy of the series, which has a decided urban and often working class flavor to it.

The series indeed broke ground, for many reasons, but not the least of which was showing an integrated unit at a time this was ignored in films and television and when African American actors, particularly on television, were relegated to butlers, stickup men or Amos and Andy types. Elizabeth Fraser, as Joanne Hogan, was a rare recurring love interest in a story that found both Bilko and Hogan dating other people, making one another jealous, and obviously physical with one another, though given the mores of the day, and the tight reigns of censorship through Standards and Practices, directly referencing the sex these two-and others, because let us face it, this was one horny and lucky base-were having, was not going to be clearly stated. Indeed, one of the series funniest episodes is Furlough in New York, in which the two take a few days in New York City, without realizing they are so close, constantly missing one another by inches. If you have not seen it, the episode is highly recommended. (more…)

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