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Sgt. Ernie Bilko is the ultimate con man. He runs the motor pool at a small Kansas US Army Camp. Colonel Hall, nominally in charge of the base tries to keep Bilko's plans in check. Bilko runs every money making scheme that he thinks he can pull off. Midnight cruises on Landing Craft, Tank Rides, Poker games, and an interesting deal with local service stations for spare parts for jeep tires. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
It is my opinion that THE PHILS SILVERS SHOW (aka YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH) remains the single most underrated sitcom in television history and that Phil Silvers remains the most underrated comedian in that medium. This is really saying something because the series has indeed received great acclaim over the years. Even so, Silvers is just not given his proper due for creating the Bilko character. As for the jewels in the supporting cast--they are simply terrific in this Nat Hiken creation that surely stands shoulder to shoulder with Jackie Gleason's THE HONEYMOONERS as perhaps the greatest sitcom ever on television.
Silvers did not just play Ernie Bilko--he WAS Ernie Bilko! The character of the scheme-driven, gambling-addicted army sergeant forever duping the lovable Col. Hall (Paul Ford) while manipulating his platoon for his personal aggrandizement, is so fast-paced, fresh, and funny that one wonders if BILKO ought not be a stage play.
The supporting cast--can you name a greater one? Buried among Sgt. Bilko's seemingly nondescript platoon lackeys is Herbie Faye. Faye was a friend of Silvers and a walking encyclopedia of burlesque gags and sketches years before BILKO was an idea; he knew every trick of the comedy trade and taught many of them to Silvers. And Doberman (Maurice Gosselton), the baby-faced, childlike man who is a classic as Bilko's all-around simpleton and dupe, is in a category all his own.
Harvey Lembeck and Allan Melvin play Bilko's two platoon confidantes; there is Joey Ross (CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU?) as Sgt. Ritzik, a fine comedian in his own right who just cannot seem to ever get one over on Bilko; and Elizabeth Frazer pops up now and then as Ernie's girlfriend. As for Paul Ford? Was there ever a better foil for the top banana than Colonel Hall? One has to consider Ralph Cramden's Ed Norton (Art Carney) or Eve Arden's Mr. Conklin (Gale Gordon), to come up with one that works as well. Hall is just perfect as the base commander who unwittingly plays into Sgt. Bilko's hands time and time again. What a riot to watch the colonel melt under Bilko's patronizing devotion for Hall only to see the colonel walk straight into Ernie Bilko's net.
But it is Phil Silvers, his facial expressions, his bugle-call barking of orders, his complete manipulation of everyone on the base, and his wild schemes to make money that never seem to get old no matter how much you watch the episodes on video.
Why isn't THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW on TV LAND or the other nostalgia stations? Even the younger set who never saw the show will undoubtedly like it. And those of us who grew up in the 1950's watching it will love it all over again.
Trivia: Phil Silvers appeared in a number of films, including musicals such as COVER GIRL and SUMMER STOCK starring Gene Kelly...He did a lot of work after BILKO (probably best known for his role in THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and for his work in IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD), but he never even remotely approached the greatness of BILKO...Silvers was an addictive gambler and found himself in the midst of a Beverly Hills Fryer's Club card scandal in the 1960's...Silvers appeared in the film version of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO THE FORUM in the 1960's with Zero Mostel, though severely bothered by cataracts...He was also hydrophobic and his daughter Laurie tells the touching story of her dad fighting his terror of water in the backyard pool at night trying to overcome his fears so he could swim in the pool with his four young girls...
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