This series chronicled the adventures, in the air and on the ground, of the men of the 918th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. First commanded by irascible General Frank ...
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Thomas Carpenter, a pilot who washed out of flight training and was subsequently dishonorably discharged from the service for insubordination, finds his way to England as a civilian and proceeds to ...
Combat!, a one-hour World War II drama series on television, followed a frontline American infantry squad as they battled their way across Europe. With mud-splattered realism, the show ... See full summary »
This series chronicled the adventures, in the air and on the ground, of the men of the 918th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. First commanded by irascible General Frank Savage, and later by Colonel Joe Gallagher, the son of a Pentagon General. The group is stationed in England, and flies long-range bombing missions into German-held Europe.Written by
Marg Baskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'Twelve O'Clock High', the television version of Gregory Peck's classic war film, was a remarkable achievement when it debuted, in 1964. While utilizing stock war footage for bombardment and dogfight scenes, the story lines addressed the timeless issues of warfare (heroism and cowardice, integrity, loyalty) on an intimate scale that 'the big screen' couldn't match. It also made a star of Robert Lansing, the rugged, pensive actor who had previously garnered rave reviews in the series, '87th Precinct'. His 'Frank Savage' was a man of courage and a conscience, and he lifted each episode far above the 'typical' TV war show of the era.
With a soaring, beautiful theme (by the versatile Dominic Frontiere), the strong production values of Quinn Martin, and a veteran supporting cast including Frank Overton and John Larkin, the series garnered rave reviews, and was poised for a long, award-winning 'life' on the small screen.
Unfortunately, ABC stepped in, however, and decided to 'improve' the series...
The network produced figures that indicated that younger audiences weren't watching in big enough numbers, and that the show didn't provide enough 'action' for fans craving battle scenes. Lansing wasn't 'pretty' enough to attract female viewers, and there were no 'hunky' co-stars to fill the gap. As for offering a 'Message'? Sure, that was okay...as long as it didn't interfere with the bullets flying, the plane crashes, and the mostly happy endings.
So the program was retooled for the second season. Robert Lansing was killed off, shot down over Europe, and Paul Burke was brought in as his replacement. Best known from the cop show, 'Naked City', Burke was actually two years older than Lansing, but he had a more 'classic' leading man 'look', and had gotten a lot of female fan mail during the run of the earlier show. Most of the older cast also got the ax, and young Chris Robinson was brought in, as another potential 'heartthrob'.
The result of the changes was a diluted show, with less 'heart', if more 'glamor' and 'action'. While Burke tried to provide Lansing's subtlety and depth, he simply wasn't as good an actor, and the series lost the very qualities that had made it, initially, so memorable.
When 'Twelve O'Clock High' was canceled, after struggling through two seasons with the new cast, ABC downplayed the event, choosing to ignore the fact that the series had begun so promisingly, and that they had 'killed' it.
But for those of us who remember that first season with fondness, it is a reminder that creative minds make 'Classic TV', not network demographics!
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