Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Military > Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show (aka You’ll Never Get Rich): 50th Anniversary Edition

Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show (aka You’ll Never Get Rich): 50th Anniversary Edition


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Episodes: B



Though it was a huge hit in its time, You’ll Never Get Rich/The Phil Silvers Show never had the phenomenal syndicated TV rerun success of the other 1950s classics it shared the Golden Age of Television with.  In recent years, however, a new wave of appreciation has begun to take hold.  The great Steve Martin tried to take over the lead role Silvers made legendary in the 1996 feature film revival Sgt. Bilko that never worked.  More ironic though is that the show’s get rich quick schemes did surface in Hanna Barbera’s 1960s animated classic that was the equal of The Flintstones and The Jetsons any day of the week, was a transplant of Sgt. Bilko and their best animal comedy of that decade: Top Cat.  Now, in their continuing series of classic TV on DVD releases, Paramount/CBS has issued Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: 50th Anniversary Edition with a 3 DVD set.


Starting with the first episode, the set tracks the series’ four season by offering 18 key episodes from the 143 shows made and shown from 1955 to 1959.  The show holds up well, though one wonders why it was never syndicated.  Having a leader like Bilko and his underlings being lazy, never volunteering for anything, trying to make money by any means and being wacky did not match what was going on in Vietnam and that likely killed later immediate success.  Nat Hiken created the show and much of it is still funny, even if you are not on the floor in pain from laughing.


Other key cast members you might recognize from their later work includes Harvey Lembeck, Herbie Fay, Paul Ford, Maurice Gosfield (who did the voice of Benny The Ball on Top Cat), Billy Sands, comic legend Joe E. Brown and the great comic character actor Allan Melvin.  Melvin went on to other memorable supporting actor roles in TV classics like Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Brady Bunch, All In The Family and did many animated cartoon & live-action children’s show voices himself.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in black and white film, and once again, we have another classic CBS TV series (like I Love Lucy, Twilight Zone and Have Gun Will Travel) in exceptional condition and despite some grain, look amazing for their age.  The shows have not been seen much, so the materials being left alone and preserved properly for the most part have yielded this fine quality playback.  William J. Miller was the cinematographer throughout and the fine work speaks for itself.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also very clean and clear for its age, shaming monophonic films from the same time period into the 1970s for fidelity.


Extras are many, including opening comments on each show by Allan Melvin himself, the late Phil Hartman’s Nick @ Nite network intros, Hartman joining with Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd reflecting on the show as their feature revival arrives in theaters, the entire 16mm kinescope version of the pilot that never airedArtmanHa and is strikingly similar to the final filmed version, a clip of the cast being introduced on The Ed Sullivan Show, the hat trick of Emmy wins for the show in 1956 in a montage clip,  a Jack Benny/Phil Silvers join appearance on The Dick Cavett Show (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that is not on the Cavett Comic Legends set where Silvers explains that they were cancelled at their height for monetary reasons and should be released in its entirety sometime, audio of Silvers roasting Humphrey Bogart in 1955, select audio commentaries by name actors you likely do know, original opening for the show, original commercials, gag still, stills section, Tony Randall & jack Klugman on TV Land commenting on camera about the show, 1957 Emmy clip, Silvers on Broadway clip, 1959 Pontiac commercial, Bilko Growl audio clip, 1963 promo clip for The New Phil Silvers Show and Phil’s TV last interview.


That is a nice selection of extras that will stun fans and gives a great appreciation of just how successful it really was.  More hit military comedies followed like Hogan’s Heroes (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and the still-to-be-released-on-DVD Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and all on CBS.  However, Pyle was a syndicated hit that has mysteriously disappeared.  Some people never found military comedies funny, but these were smart enough to be hits and Sgt. Bilko was ahead of its time for better and maybe a little worse.  However, Sgt. Bilko is a rich show thanks to some amazing writing and launched many of the medium’s key talents.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com