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Vintage comedy in `Bilko,' `That Girl'

May 21, 2006|Susan King

Sgt. Bilko -- The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition

(Paramount, $40)

ALONG with "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners," Phil Silvers' sitcom is one of the quintessential comedy series of the 1950s. The Emmy-winning show, which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1959, made a TV superstar out of Silvers, who had worked in vaudeville, in features and on Broadway before turning to the small screen. He was perfectly cast as the ultimate hustler -- Sgt. Ernie Bilko, who ran a motor pool at the mythical Army station of Fort Baxter in Roseville, Kan.

Bilko was always coming up with ingenious con games to make money for himself, including poker games and various gambling competitions. Loud, brash and the fastest talker this side of the Mississippi, Bilko relished pulling the wool over the eyes of his superior Commander Hall (the great Paul Ford).

The series originally was titled "You'll Never Get Rich" but was quickly renamed "The Phil Silvers Show." It was best known, though, simply as "Sgt. Bilko."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 27, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
'Sgt. Bilko': A story in last Sunday's Calendar about the release of "Sgt. Bilko -- The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition" on DVD said the set consists of six discs. It is a three-disc set.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 04, 2006 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 0 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
"Sgt. Bilko" actor: The On DVD column May 21 misspelled cast member Maurice Gosfield's last name as Gosfiel.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday June 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 22 words Type of Material: Correction
"Bilko" actor: The On DVD column in the May 21 Calendar misspelled "Sgt. Bilko" cast member Maurice Gosfield's last name as Gosfiel.

Though "Bilko" was Silvers' show, he surrounded himself with a remarkable supporting cast that included Harvey Lembeck as Cpl. Rocco Barbella, Maurice Gosfiel as Pvt. Duane Doberman, Allan Melvin as Cpl. Henshaw and Mickey Freeman as Pvt. Zimmerman. Dick Van Dyke was one of the up-and-comers who appeared on the show.

This six-disc set includes several episodes from each year of the series, introduced by Melvin.

Extras: The "lost" audition show -- a pilot that was shot live and featured Jack Warden as one of Bilko's cronies -- the original opening titles, promos, commercials, excerpts from the Emmy Awards in 1956 and '57, Dick Cavett interviewing Silvers and Jack Benny in the early 1970s, and a promo for the short-lived 1963 CBS series, "The New Phil Silvers Show." There's also an excerpt from the CBS special "Phil Silvers on Broadway," which features a "Bilko" sketch; a sequence from "The Ed Sullivan Show," which previews the series with a special sketch; Silvers' final TV appearance, with Sonny Fox, from the early 1980s; promos that aired on Nick at Nite for the poorly received 1996 "Sgt. Bilko" feature with Steve Martin; and a commentary track with Freeman and Larry Storch (who had guest starred on the show)


That Girl -- Season One

(Shout Factory, $40)

The CBS 1970 sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" featured a thirtysomething single heroine, Mary Richards, who decided to break up with her boyfriend of four years and start life anew in Minneapolis. But Mary wasn't the first contemporary single career woman on TV.

Four years before Mary managed to "turn the world on with her smile," ABC premiered "That Girl." Marlo Thomas starred as Ann Marie, a college graduate who leaves home to seek fame and fortune in New York City as an actress. Though she had a boyfriend -- the practical Donald (Ted Bessell) -- she wasn't eager to get married and put her acting career on the back burner. Ann also had to deal with her loving but overprotective parents (radiantly brought to life by Lew Parker and Rosemary DeCamp). The series, created by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, ran until 1971.

Extras: The five-disc set includes the original pilot episode, which featured Harold Gould as Ann's father and Bessell as her boyfriend along with agent Donald Blue Sky (his father was a native American). In addition, there's a sweet "making of" featurette with Thomas, original promos, outtakes from when the series shot exteriors in New York City with commentary with Thomas and Persky, and their pleasant commentary on an early episode.

-- Susan King

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