The Phil Silvers show was one of the funniest comedies ever on TV and deserves a season-by-season release. The show originally ran from 1955-59, only four years, but had a whopping 143 episodes! A few years ago, Paramount released a 50th Anniversary Edition of the show (sometimes titled “Bilko” and sometimes “The Phil Silvers Show,” though Wikipedia states the original title was “You’ll Never Get Rich”). That earlier dvd collection only included 18 episodes selected from all 4 seasons, with most from the first season.
Most fans have wanted a season-by-season collection, and this release of Season One is a good step in that direction. (It would have been nice, as others have noted, if the manufacturer had included a “play all” viewing choice, but the picture quality is crisp.)
Please note: Ten episodes from this Season One set do overlap with the Sgt. Bilko – 50th Anniversary Edition (The Phil Silvers Show) earlier set, including the episodes New Recruits, The WAC, The Horse, The Eating Contest, Bivouac, the Twitch, the Investigation, The Revolutionary War, The Court Martial, and The Con Men. However, you’re still getting 24 other episodes NOT on that earlier set, including the very funny The Empty Store, and others. It’s worth buying the new set, though the Anniversary edition has more special features.
Here is a per disc list of contents:
New Recruits (commentary by Allan Melvin)
The Empty Store
Special Feature: The Lost Audition Show – never aired
The Eating Contest
The Singing Contest
Special Feature: Original Opening & Cast commercials
The Rich Kid
Kids in the Trailer
The Revolutionary War
The Rest Cure
Dinner at Sowici’s
The Court Martial (commentary by George Kennedy)
Furlough in New York
The Big Uranium Strike
Bilko and the Beast
The Con Men
Bilko on Wall Street
Special Feature: “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert”
This Phil Silvers show was well written and well acted, with some very funny improvised moments. (The series creator Nat Hiken should be given a lot of credit for creating a quality show that just wasn’t the same after he left.)
In this first season you have the episode titled “The Court Martial.” Normally, that would sound like a serious subject. Not for Bilko. It seems the army wants to improve their timing and efficiency in processing new recruits. Unfortunately, one of the new recruits is a monkey. This is an episode that can’t be described, but must be seen. And if you can get through it without laughing uncontrollably, then you need to see a doctor to see if your sense of humor was removed without your consent.
What is great about the Phil Silvers show is that even when the situations get insane, the humor never talks down to the audience. And Bilko, despite all his schemes, can never finally let his men down. (Except perhaps in the fourth season, done without Hiken, which is not the best.) This is also a show that had an integrated cast–a rarity then–and early TV appearances of Dick Van Dyke and others. The show started the career of actor George Kennedy.
Buy this set and encourage the manufacturer to put out the other 3 seasons on dvd. This show is unbelievably funny, with humor that isn’t dated, and deserves to be enjoyed for generations. Silvers was a comedy genius.
Was this review helpful to you?
This set has English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. As someone with bad hearing, I find that information vital whenever I buy a DVD these days.
Of all the TV comedies I ever saw, this one has to be the best. Not even Lucy or The Honeymooners, the two other great series from the golden age of US sitcom, came anywhere near it. Maybe it hit me at an impressionable age; maybe I missed some other great series; maybe they showed only the best episodes here (Melbourne, Australia, the early 1960s). But the pleasure that I’ve had from watching this long-awaited set of the first season has proven to me at least that Sgt Bilko really is the best. For anyone who wants proof of the genius of Phil Silvers, I’d suggest they try the episode where Bilko goes to bring back a Hungarian private who’s gone AWOL. The story is practically non-existent and the dialogue is forgettable, but from the moment when Bilko enters the house of the celebrating Hungarians, the laughs just keep on coming. Phil Silvers was an amazing performer.
One question though. Is there anyone out there under the age of 40 who enjoys Bilko? I’d hate to think he has no young fans.
Two things that never go out of fashion are honesty and class, and honestly this show is class, real class. Its popularity has been especially enduring in Britain, where it is still shown occasionally by the BBC. The series was rerun on late Sunday nights around the early 80′s, just before BBC1′s signoff; despite this, the viewing audience was as large as 8 million.
I purchased the 50th anniversary edition and I will still purchase this.
Phil Silvers is a master of comic timing, all those years in vaudeville show through in his marvellous comic creation, Master Sergeant Earnest Bilko.
34 classic episodes on 5 discs, and bearing in mind the age of this show I’m amazed they managed to find a lot of extras too.
Ten episodes from this season are also on the 50th Annivesary Edition!
BUT- twenty four are not! bargain.
Trivia:- There were four seasons of Bilko, 1955-59, 143 episodes in total.
After season three they moved from Fort Baxter, Kansas to Camp Fremont, California.
Production did move from New York to California.
Creator Nat Hiken left when they moved it from New York, two years later he created, “Car 54 where are you?”.
In the 1980′s a British tourist was nearly arrested when a Chinese soldier thought the man depicted on her Sgt. Bilko T-shirt was the Dalai Lama.
I think Bilko would have liked that.