Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ship Shows

"By arrangement with the U.S. Navy's international distributor, EURPAC, Shout! Factory has also created a specially-packaged edition of McHale's Navy exclusively for Naval bases worldwide."

Now, I'm sure McHale's Navy is very popular with the U.S. Navy; it is to them what Sergeant Bilko was to the Army and Gomer Pyle to the Marines. But we're talking about a special, officially-approved edition of a television series that seems to convey the following message: You can be a layabout, a con man, or in Ernest Borgnine's physical condition, and you'll still win every battle.

I don't know if they've thought this through, is all.

Speaking of McHale's Navy, one of the writers, Danny Arnold (Barney Miller, Bewitched, That Girl) went on to create a series based on the movie The Wackiest Ship in the Army, about the crew of a creaky old schooner that somehow winds up being given an important assignment during WWII. Wackiest Ship, however, was an hour-long show instead of a half-hour, and Arnold sort of made it a precusor to what would later be called dramedy, with a mix of McHale's-ish comedy and more serious war material than McHale's usually did. It only lasted one season, but I wish someone would re-run it.

1 comment:

J Lee said...

It's interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of the paths taken by McHale's Navy and M*A*S*H, which debuted a decade apart, and are part of two different views in the general public at the times they aired of the military in general. Though it's hard to believe now, the first two seasons of each show weren't all that far apart, and the direction both shows took showed the difference between mid-60s shows, which tended to veer towards slapstick, and early 70s sitcoms, which moved more in the dramedy direction as they became successful.

TV Party has a page on the original McHale's Navy pilot which was written as a drama and then converted into a lower keyed navy version of Bilko for its first season. But as ABC found audiences liked the slapstick interplay of the Tim Conway-Joe Flynn relationship more, the story lines moved more and more towards pure physical comedy by the middle of Season 2.

They even did a Season 1 episode featuring the efforts to shoot down "Washing Machine Charlie", an inept Japanese bomber, that Gene Reynolds borrowed and reworked as "Five O'Clock Charlie" for the second-season opener of M*A*S*H. But the spin is different -- in the former, set in World War II and coming after Korea, Parker eventually sabotages the flights by being mistaken for Charlie (don't ask). In the latter, set in Korea but coming after eight-plus years of Vietnam, Hawkeye and Trapper use Charlie to blow up an ammo dump that was placed near the camp and is the cause of the bombing raids (though it's actually Frank who blows the dump up).

Both series ended up taking things too far in one direction -- "McHale" was almost aimed directly at pre-teens and children by its final season, while M*A*S*H sanctimonious lecturing make the final four seasons all but unwatchable in re-runs. But it is interesting to see how a near-fotgotten show and one that's still ubiquetous on cable TV in the U.S. were pretty close cousins when they first began.