In one of those good news-bad news scenarios, the real Sergeant Bilko - the original Phil Silvers Show - has finally made it onto DVD in time for its 50th anniversary, but Paramount have definitely erred on the side of caution with the treatment.
Not that Sergeant Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition isn't a bad presentation: it is, with more extras than you could realistically expect from a show this old, including the unseen 33-minute pilot episode when the show was still going to be called You'll Never Get Rich, vintage interviews, audio commentaries (including one by George Kennedy, who began his screen career as the army's advisor and sometime extra on the show) and much, much more. But rather than opting for a season-by-season release, Paramount have gone for a 'Best of' three-disc set. With a show as strong as Bilko, that ensures that a lot of great episodes are missing (including one of the greatest, The Empty Store, as well as Mardi Gras, Hollywood, The Rest Cure, Bilko and the Beast, The Song of the Motor Pool and Bilko's Perfect Day), and, even worse, it also means that this is probably all we'll ever get. And boycotting this release will only drive sales figures down even further until the chance of a full release is even more remote.
It's a good overview of the show from first to last episode, and some of the episdes are 100%-proof classics, like The Twitch (where Bilko runs a nationwide book on how many times a lecturer brought in to stop the men from gambling will compulsively twitch), The Court Martial (the one where a chimp on rollerskates is inducted into the army as Private Harry Speakup, coming third in the intelligence test in the process!) and The Eating Contest. But it just ain't nearly enough for a show with such a consistent standard of great writing, outrageously anarchic satire and some brilliant improvisation from Phil Silvers... More, please, and soon - that's an order!