Customer Review

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF CIVILIZATION, and a Darn Good Sitcom, too!, 11 Aug 2014
This review is from: Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show - Complete Collection (20 disc set) [DVD] (DVD)
I almost cried when I saw this was being released. More to the point, my faith in humanity was restored! The PHIL SILVERS SHOW (also known as YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH; also also known as SGT. BILKO, or just plain BILKO to fans) was voted the greatest sitcom of all time by the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy in 2003, and no less an authority than Larry David (creator of SEINFELD and HBO's CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM) declared it his favorite television show ever.

BILKO ran for 4 glorious seasons (from 1955 to 1959), garnered 3 consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Series, and had a healthy life in syndication for decades. It transformed Phil Silvers and Nat Hiken into household names and TV icons, and made overnight celebrities of Paul Ford, Joe E. Ross and Maurice Gosfield to boot. It showcased American sports legends like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Red Barber, and was one of television's very first shows to feature an integrated, multi-racial cast. Among the stellar writing staff were Leonard Stern, whose impressive TV credits include The JACKIE GLEASON SHOW and GET SMART, and a certain promising future playwright named Neil Simon. BILKO gave TV audiences their first taste of up-and-coming performers like Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, Harvey Lembeck, Allan Melvin, Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, Charlotte Rae, Dody Goodman, Julie Newmar, Tina Louise, Alan Alda, Bea Arthur, Bill Dana, Larry Storch, Morey Amsterdam, Irwin Corey, Bob Hastings and George Kennedy. (A pre-famous James Earl Jones can be clearly seen in the episode "Operation: Love" from 1958, five years before his 1963 movie debut in DR. STRANGELOVE. An uncredited Robert Morse can be glimpsed as one of the Schmill University linemen in "Bilko Goes to College," long before his breakout roles in The LOVED ONE and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS, and Dick Cavett appears fleetingly as an extra in "Bilko's Godson.") It also served as inspiration for a host of copycat shows, from TOP CAT (aka BOSS CAT in the UK) to McHALE'S NAVY. President Eisenhower numbered himself among the millions of fans who never missed an episode. (Ike reportedly had prints of BILKO delivered from the studio to the White House whenever pressing national business deprived him of catching the broadcast!) In its heyday it was a merchandising bonanza in the US: Bilko's famous dimpled smile adorned comic books, LP records, board games, joke books, coloring books, slide puzzles, holster sets and more, and spawned a truly memorable series of print ads for the show's American sponsors, Camel cigarettes and Amana refrigerators. It was a very big deal, indeed.

There are two long-standing myths concerning this series that really need to be put to bed. First, there seems to be a consensus across the pond that BILKO is forgotten in America and only appreciated elsewhere, particularly in the UK. That's not completely true, however; certainly not among us culturally literate-type Yanks. (We also love vintage Brit classics like The GOON SHOW and STEPTOE & SON!) There may be a few dullards with short memories (and even shorter attention spans) who turn up their noses at it, and many young people have either never seen it or are more familiar with the sorry 1996 Steve Martin rehash. But I've never heard any knowledgeable person deny its status as a classic, occupying the same Golden Age pantheon as Sid Caesar's YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, The JACK BENNY PROGRAM, The HONEYMOONERS and I LOVE LUCY. BILKO has even returned to local airwaves recently, most notably on MeTV, and Silvers has always been revered as a legendary Burlesque and Broadway star. Not to be judgmental, but he was certainly treated better at home than the shoddy way Benny Hill was in his final years. Silvers' iconic voice and mannerisms are still imitated in animated cartoons to this day. (Silvers was well aware of his popularity in the UK and took great pride in the fact, according to his daughters. As a tip-of-the-hat to his British fans, he would occasionally ad-lib little "Britishisms" into Bilko's dialogue. A self-described Anglophile, Silvers was reportedly delighted that his official Appreciation Society was based in the UK.)

Also, according to popular legend, The PHIL SILVERS SHOW supposedly jumped the shark in the 3rd and 4th Seasons when Nat Hiken left the series for health reasons (and to create CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?) and the platoon relocated from Kansas to California. This is rubbish, however. I just rewatched the later seasons, back-to-back and in sequence. It's true there's an illogical character arc/role-reversal concerning Cpl. Henshaw, but that's virtually the ONLY misstep in an otherwise sure-footed and outstanding series. The show remained to the end as sharp and fast-paced as ever, with MANY classic episodes characterizing its final years.

Personally, I've been waiting for this one for a long time. (My own favorite episode is #44, a gem from Season 2 called "Doberman's Sister." Fair warning: you'll never forget the ending - no matter how hard you try!) Thank you, Mediumrare Entertainment and Shout! Factory, for making this permanently available to longtime fans, and to a whole new generation to discover and savor. There IS hope for Mankind after all!
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Aug 2014 16:07:25 BDT
Mike, I concur with everything you say and as for the episode Doberman's Sister well not just the funniest Bilko but also one of the funniest endings to any sitcom ever. I love almost every darn minute of this show especially episodes like The Twitch , another roll on the floor laugh ending. Also love the episode ( but can't recall the title ) which has superbly funny ending with Colonel Hall doing his farmyard impressions and Captain Barker outwitting Bilko in a cry with laughter last line.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Aug 2014 22:57:58 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Aug 2014 15:51:22 BDT
@D.J. Williams:
It sounds like you're thinking of The REST CURE (or BILKO'S REST CURE) from the first season. I think Col. Hall does his barnyard imitations in that one (in front of some psychiatric evaluation brass, whom Bilko leads him to believe are army talent scouts - ha ha!)

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Aug 2014 13:42:35 BDT
Mike, Thanks, yes that is the one. Hilarious, love that episode so much. Gem of a show and to have the entire collection will be a dream come true.

Posted on 22 Aug 2014 21:55:18 BDT
This set is advertised in the current Radio Times for less than £100, to be published on 22 September 2014

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Aug 2014 23:41:46 BDT
R. Shore says:
Does anyone know why the BBC dropped it?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Aug 2014 07:58:21 BDT
The rights expired and they were too tight to renew them I am afraid.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Aug 2014 18:58:19 BDT
R. Shore says:
Shame. I always enjoyed the night showings.

Roger Shore
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