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The Phil Silvers Show
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TV Series
    (September 20, 1955-September 11, 1959)
    Aired on CBS
    Phil Silvers as Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko
    Paul Ford as Col. John T. Hall
    Harvey Lembeck as Cpl. Rocco Barbella
    Allan Melvin as Cpl. Steve Henshaw
    Herbie Faye as Cpl. Sam Fender
    Maurice Gosfield as Pvt. Duane Doberman
    Premise: Sgt. Bilko, while nominally running the motor pool at fictional Fort Baxter, spends most of his time on get-rich-quick schemes
    Alternate titles: ‘You’ll Never Get Rich’ and ‘Sgt. Bilko’
    Due to sitcom status quo, Bilko usually ended up more or less where he started financially, no matter how his schemes went.
    Similarly, Bilko would be promoted to lieutenant or busted to corporal only to return to being a sergeant again.
    At the start of the fourth season, a mass transfer sent the entire platoon to Camp Fremont in California, to make it more plausible for Hollywood stars to make guest appearances.
    A film adaptation with Steve Martin as Bilko flopped (1996).
    A British tourist visiting Tibet wearing a Sgt. Bilko t-shirt was harassed by Chinese soldiers who though the shirt depicted the Dalai Lama (1987).
    It won two Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series (1956,1958) and one for Best Series, Half Hour or Less (1957).
    The show included a black actor as a regular cast member (Terry Carter as Pvt. Sugarman) at a time when most TV shows had segregated casts.
    The series became very popular in the UK, thanks to frequent reruns on the BBC and the British fondness for ‘lovable rogue’ characters.
    Hanna-Barbera blatantly ripped it off in creating ‘Top Cat.’
    ’Radio Times’ named it the best sitcom of all time, beating out Fawlty Towers and Seinfeld (2003).

Credit: C. Fishel


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