Thanks (but no thanks) to Full Metal Jacket
, the name of "Gomer Pyle" is associated with a demented, suicidal screw-up. That's not the Gomer (Jim Nabors) we know and love! Sure, our Gomer may be, in the mentoring words of his bellowing Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton), a "lunkhead," "yo-yo," "knucklehead," and "meatball," who invariably "pulls some beauts." But his heart is always in the right place, as in the episode "PFC Gomer Pyle," in which the newly promoted Private First Class unwittingly cancels Carter's Hawaiian furlough thinking it is a request for a permanent transfer. Our Gomer is unfailingly honest. In "Gomer and the Phone Company," he is arrested for trying to put back ill-gotten money he received from a malfunctioning pay phone. And, our Gomer is forthright, as in "Gomer and the Beast," in which he stands up to a feared, abusive sergeant (guest star Michael Conrad) who takes his waitress girlfriend for granted.
Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., a spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show, was one of the "surprise, surprise, surprise" hits of its day. In this second season (its first in color), it ranked second to Bonanza in the Nielsen ratings. That Nabors and Sutton were never even nominated for Emmys is a TV Land injustice. Nabors, especially, finds new music in what could have been a one-note bumpkin character (he even demonstrates his unexpected baritone singing voice in "Arrivederci, Gomer"). Providing expert support are Ted Bessell (That Girl) and Ronnie Schell (who demonstrates his standup comedy chops in "Duke Slater, Nightclub Comic") as Gomer's Marine buddies. Look sharp for two future M*A*S*H stars, Jamie Farr in "Gomer Pyle, P.O.W." and, in a couple of episodes, William Christopher. Making welcome visits from Mayberry are George Lindsay in the mistaken-identity episode, "A Visit from Cousin Goober," and Ron Howard in "Opie Joins the Marines," in which Carter bonds with the runaway Opie and, movingly, hints at a less than nurturing relationship with his own father. "The world has changed a lot since I was a kid," he remarks when Andy (Andy Griffith) arrives to retrieve his son, and puts a reassuring arm around the boy's shoulder. Television has changed, too, in the more than 40 years since these still funny episodes were first broadcast. Prime time could use another Gomer, with his boundless optimism, unwavering character and try, try again attitude. --Donald Liebenson
All 30 episodes from season two (the series's first in color)--including "PFC Gomer Pyle,""Gomer Untrains a Dog,""Gomer Pyle, POW,""A Star Is Born," and "Gomer, The Would-Be Hero"--are collected in a five-disc set. 12 2/3 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono. **30 episodes on 5 discs. 12 2/3 hrs.**