TV classics: aka Sgt. Bilko
USA 1955-59, four seasons, 143 episodes, approximately 30 minutes each, CBS, black & white. Cast: Phil Silvers, Paul Ford, Allan Melvin, Harvey Lembeck, Mauriece Gosfield, Joe E. Ross, Billy Sands, Herbie Faye, Mickey Freeman, Bernard Fein, Maurice Brenner, Jack Healy, Terry Carter, Karl Lukas
Plot summary: Hold on to your wallet when Sgt. Bilko is in command.
Review: Military-themed shows have been around since the early days of television, but unlike NCIS, JAG or Army Wives, The Phil Silvers Show did not focus on country and honor, it rather dealt with a cheeky Sergeant Bilko and his men at a small fort in heartland America. Bilko, always protective of his subordinates and oddly paternal, was the perfect conman. Although untalented for making money, he didn’t miss a chance to invest plenty of it in obscure schemes and poker games and, as a reliable loser, wasn’t able to return any of his men’s (in)voluntary investments. He wasn’t hated though but rather liked – a charming character played by Phil Silvers with a perfect blend of quirk and charm. He was supported by an ensemble cast of formidable chums, Allan Melvin and Harvey Lembeck as his partners in crime, as well as Paul Ford as Colonel Hall. A large recurring group of guest stars topped off each episode with hilarity and exaggeration, a perfect treat for anyone who enjoys classic comedy and has a heart for a dazzler who’s too clumsy to run away with your savings.
The first season of The Phil Silvers Show (aka Sgt. Bilko) is available on DVD. To refresh your memories of this hilarious show, you can check out the pilot here.