Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - First Season
DVD | Box Set
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This classic TV gem follows the fast-paced antics of Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Phil Silvers) as he attempts to swindle, bluff and flatter his platoon and his fellow comrades at the Ft. Baxter Army Post, in the wilds of Kansas. The camp is supposedly run by Colonel Hall, but it's Bilko that calls the shots! Along with the other sergeants from the mess hall; Signals and Supply, Bilko is continually at war with Colonel Hall, who is desperately trying to put a stop to the gambling Bilko is running.
The Phil Silvers Show, originally titled You'll Never Get Rich, ranks as one of television's greatest comedies, and more than 50 years later it still passes inspection, thanks to masterful writing, a platoon of great character actors, and the commanding presence of Phil Silvers as major schemer and private fixer Sgt. Ernest Bilko. In movies, Silvers, a vaudeville veteran, was a scene-stealing Top Banana. On TV, his Emmy Award-winning performance as Bilko promoted him to Top Cat (the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character inspired by his iconic role). Bilko is the best motor pool NCO that Ft. Baxter in Kansas has ever had. He is also "a gambler, a sharpster, a promoter," observes the base chaplain in the first episode, "everything I'm here to prevent soldiers from becoming. Tell me, why do I like you?" We like him because Bilko, always looking for an angle, usually ends up outsmarting himself, as in the episode "Doberman's Sister," in which he cons himself into arranging a blind date with the sibling of the platoon's lovable slob, convincing himself she must be a beauty. We also like him because he uses his unique talents for good, as in "The Con Men," when he turns the tables on a trio who bilk Doberman (Maurice Gosfield) out of $500. Silvers's Bilko is a quick-thinking, sharp-witted, double-talking weapon of mass distraction. "You didn't tell me your daughter was visiting," he flatters the matronly wife of Col. Hall (Paul Ford). The genius of Bilko is that he more or less gets away with everything even though he isn't fooling anybody. The entire layout of the post, Col. Hall reveals at one point, has been reorganized "so that no rookie even by accident could ever get near Bilko." Special commendations are due to the ensemble, including such familiar faces as Ned Glass, Joe E. Ross (Car 54, Where Are You?), and Allan Melvin (Barney Heffner on All in the Family and Sam the butcher on The Brady Bunch) and Harvey "Baron von Zipper" Lembeck as Bilko's partners in chicanery. Two of this set's special features--the never-broadcast live audition show and the show's original opening titles--are re-enlisted from the 50th Anniversary Edition. Also included is an episode of The Lucy Show featuring Silvers as an efficiency expert. But this first season, an Emmy winner for Best Comedy Series, stands on its own. For new recruits especially, it's great to see this classic character in action, and thanks to DVD, you have a grandstand seat. --Donald Liebenson
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Top customer reviews
Of all the TV comedies I ever saw, this one has to be the best. Not even Lucy or The Honeymooners, the two other great series from the golden age of US sitcom, came anywhere near it. Maybe it hit me at an impressionable age; maybe I missed some other great series; maybe they showed only the best episodes here (Melbourne, Australia, the early 1960s). But the pleasure that I've had from watching this long-awaited set of the first season has proven to me at least that Sgt Bilko really is the best. For anyone who wants proof of the genius of Phil Silvers, I'd suggest they try the episode where Bilko goes to bring back a Hungarian private who's gone AWOL. The story is practically non-existent and the dialogue is forgettable, but from the moment when Bilko enters the house of the celebrating Hungarians, the laughs just keep on coming. Phil Silvers was an amazing performer.
One question though. Is there anyone out there under the age of 40 who enjoys Bilko? I'd hate to think he has no young fans.
Now, I'm watching the shows and I finally know what my dad and brother were raving about. What fabulous entertainment! Great writing, wonderful situations, excellent acting by all the cast, and the genius of Phil Silvers are jam-packed into every show. All the right ingredients came together at just the right time in the right place. There was a lot of integrity, sincerity and love put into those shows--a big difference from the assembly-line stuff of today's shows.
Sgt. Bilko always knew which strings or tricks to pull to make something happen. We could sure use him now to light a fire under CBS and get them to release Season 2 in a timely manner!
Bilko is pre-eminent to anyting that tv has offered in the last 40 years or so except maybe "Malcom in the Middle" and "The Simpsons".
Bilko is the ultimate BS artist, and in every show he shines through with some scheme that just comes off the top of his head invariably to make money. Eddie Murphy must surely be one of his disciples when it comes to BS. Bilko is the master. Anyone wanting lessons in reverse psychology should absolutly watch these shows.
He usually starts out as a shark, but invariably turns out to be an old softy with real heart and compassion, but woe to anyone who tries to hurt his men or friends.
This set is worth every penny and more. It's good fun and lots of laughs.