These are the adventures of the misfit crew of PT-73 during World War II. They're one of the best fighting crews in the Navy, but break regulations when it suits them. Their commander, LCDR McHale, is at times as roguish as his crew, but he puts his foot down when things go too far. They are assigned an XO, Ensign Parker, who is by-the-book, but too much of a klutz to command too much respect. They have a house-boy Fuji, who deserted the Japanese Navy, who wears a POW outfit just in case he's caught so he won't be shot at. Their nemesis is CAPT Binghamton and his aide LT Carpenter. They're initially stationed in the South Pacific, but move to Italy in the last season. Written by
Borgnine's show, but Flynn & Conway were the real stars
I know this was Ernest Borgnine's show, and though he played it too broadly sometimes, he was still pretty good in it. However, the main reason I watched the show was for Joe Flynn's Captain Binghamton and Tim Conway's Ensign Parker. Binghamton was always trying to nail McHale and his crew (he kept calling them "you and your pirates") and some of his schemes to get rid of them were hilarious, especially when, as usual, they blew up in his face. Conway's eager but almost totally incompetent Ensign Parker was a a joy to watch, due to Conway's comic genius. It was side-splitting to watch him squirm, stutter and completely fall apart whenever he was given any kind of responsibility at all; he'd try to do a good job, and it usually worked out in the end, but what happened in between was always good for a lot of laughs. I especially enjoyed watching him totally dissolve whenever Claudine Longet put the moves on him. Conway was one of TV's great clowns, as shown by his work on "The Carol Burnett Show," and he's at the top of his form; he had the amazing ability to move his body in three or four different directions at the same time--he would look like a marionette with the strings tangled--and that combined with his twitches, facial expressions and look of total incomprehension was a riot. Another actor I really enjoyed was Bob Hastings, who played Binghamton's loyal, long-suffering and abused underling, Lt. Carpenter. Carpenter was the ultimate company man, so eager to please his boss that he gladly entered into whatever lame-brained scheme Binghamton cooked up to discredit McHale ("Oh, good-o, sir, that's brilliant!"), which usually wound up with Binghamton's shifting the blame to him whenever it went wrong--which Carpenter, of course, always readily accepted ("I'm sorry, sir, of course it was all my fault"). Carl Ballantine's scheming Gruber, always on the lookout to make a (usually dishonest) buck, was a lot of fun, too.
I think the series lost a bit of steam when the location was moved from the South Pacific to Italy, and some of the supporting cast was somewhat weak (Gavin McLeod's Happy was especially annoying), but overall it was a very funny, enjoyable show, with some great byplay between Flynn and Conway.
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