Top Cat

TV classics: Top Cat

USA 1961-62, one season, 30 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC, color. Production Company: Hanna-Barbera. Voice Talents: Arnold Stang, Allen Jenkins, Maurice Gosfield, Leo DeLyon, Marvin Kaplan, John Stephenson

Plot summary: He’s the boss. He’s the VIP . He’s a championship. He’s the most tip top – Top Cat.

Top CatReview: In 1961, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera brought a cat to life who was one of a kind. Top Cat and his gang, Benny the Ball, Brain, Choo Choo, Fancy Pants, and Spook. Set in Manhattan, the animated show felt like a mixture of The Phil Silvers Show and The East End Kids, a series of B pictures from the 1940s. TC (as Top Cat was called by his friends) was the perfect con-man. He always knew how to get the best for himself and his fellow alley cats. Charlie Dibble was their harmless enemy, a local policeman whose wit was no praise for the NYPD.

Like most Hanna-Barbera productions, Top Cat was not only directed at children and their parents but also at a general audience who loves to laugh. Following into the footsteps of The Flintstones, the show used pop culture references and adult topics in a fantastic world that followed its own rules. Unlike its predecessor, however, Top Cat only got a chance to shine for one full season. Since its cancellation in 1962, the show has lived on in comic books and reruns around the world, especially in the United Kingdom where the program is most commonly known as Boss Cat. Today, TV’s coolest cat is available on DVD. A wonderful treat for animation fans and geeks, or anyone else who enjoys the style and humor of TV’s Golden Age.

The Phil Silvers Show

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.