From TV’s Golden Age comes this vastly underrated sitcom with the brilliant Phil Silvers in the role of Sergeant Bilko, a conniving motor pool sergeant in peace time Middle America. He has at his his beck and call a platoon of fiercely loyal privates and a duo of devoted corporals played by Harvey Lembeck and Allan Melvin (the latter of whom provides an audio introduction for each episode on the DVD). Bilko’s primary foil is Colonel Hall who is wonderfully portrayed by the avuncular Paul Ford. But Bilko and his crazy cadre will take on all comers, be they a visiting Senate investigative committee, crooked gamblers or a new strictly-by-the-book officer.
Bilko is the classic comic anti-hero. Whether his best laid planes pay off or not (and those of you familiar with sitcoms of the 50′s and 60′s know all about get-rich-quick schemes) the laughs are a sure thing. All this comedy and it comes sans the scatological references and overuse of sex that are mar today’s TV fare.
The hallmark of Silver’s comic brilliance is that you often now what’s coming but its funny just the same. Bilko was the perfect vehicle for him with its wonderful writing and deep supporting cast (where did they ever find Maurice Gosfield?)
This DVD presentation is long overdue but worth the wait. In addition to the fine prints of these shows comes such special features are vintage commercials, Silvers’ Emmy victories at the 1956 version of that TV award show and the obligatory talking heads from today.
Whether you remember the shows from their initial airings, or grew up with scattered reruns as I did or are brand new to Bilko, this DVD set will, like Phil Silvers, not disappoint.
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This should have been the first season of Sgt. Bilko (not the Steve Martin movie) show starring Phil Silvers. But the folks at Paramount got cold feet about releasing Bilko with season sets. So what we’re left with as an introduction is a sampler of 21 episodes from the four seasons (there were 142 episodes made). Seeing how you rarely catch Phil Silvers on TV anymore, it’s still important to have in the collection next to the Hogan’s Heroes boxsets. Although you could also put this next to the Beach Party films since it features that man who would go on to become Eric Von Zipper. And don’t forget Phil’s animated tribute “Top Cat.”
the bonus elements do have me excited.
Ed Sullivan Show (scene from episode on show a week before premiere of series)
Emmy Awards (some of them, not all – 56/57) acceptance speeches
Dick Cavet Show with Jack Benny
Promos for Sgt Bilko movie on Nick @ Night
Phil Hartman does his intros for Nick @ Night
Friar’s Stag Roast for Humphry Bogart (by Phil Silvers)
Commentary from Allan Melvin (Henshaw)
Episode intros by Allan Melvin
Commentary by Dick Van Dyke
Commentary George Kennedy (army technical advisor)
2 Commentary tracks with Larry Storch (guest star) and Mickey Freeman (Zimmerman) together
Tony Randall and Jack Klugman remember Bilko on TV land promo
Original Network Opening (Camel cigarettes presents), as well as cigarette commercials with cast
Cast on Phil Silvers special “Phil Silvers on Broadway”
Promo for “The New Phil Silvers Show”
Phil’s final TV interview with Sonny Fox
Bilko Growl – Phil’s last record (single song)
Lost Bilko audition film
I guess if you’re a fan of old black & white TV shows you’re gonna have to go through this, but “You’ll Never Get Rich” was one of the biggest TV hits of the 50s, every bit as big as “the Honeymooners” or “I Love Lucy”, but the owners of the show (I guess that’s CBS video) don’t feel secure in offering a complete run without first putting out this sampler to see how Sgt. Bilko will sell.
I think as far as it goes, it’s a great set; but even as a sampler there aren’t enough episodes–only 18. The selections are uniformly good–every show on here is a gem, but I think there should have been at least 30-36 programs offered in this, as a “best of” set.
The extras are also neat. My biggest complaint is that my two all time favorite episodes ain’t here: the one with THE BEAST, featuring the famous HARVEY from the Honeymooners as a brash bully who comes new to Ft. Baxter and pushes his way into Bilko’s enterprises; and the episode where Col. Hall hires a professional card shark to masquerade as an ordinary soldier and beat Bilko at his own game (with hilarious consequences). Hopefully these will be in the next “sample” set, or, better yet, CBS will com e out with a complete season-by-season Bilko.
In the mean time, this is the best we have and it ain’t bad. I would also encourage all Bilko fans to buy it as this may show CBS that a complete Bilko would be a profitable offering. The idea that F-Troop, an amusing show, but a second-rate knock-off of Bilko, is being offered complete, but Bilko ain’t, is a travesty.