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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Spin-off > Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. – The Complete First Season

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. – The Complete First Season


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



Out of syndication for many years, many actually know and only know Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. from its darkly humorous position as referenced in the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s classic Full Metal Jacket (1987, see the HD-DVD review elsewhere on this site) as the nickname of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character.  However, it is also the name a one of the biggest hit TV spin-offs of all time, coming from The Andy Griffith Show.  Debuting in 1964 (!) as part of a cycle of military comedies that included The Phil Silvers Show, McHale’s Navy and Hogan’s Heroes, it put Jim Nabors on the map and become a TV classic.


Before it became the broad situation comedy it is best known for being today, The Complete First Season reminds us that the show was a quieter drama with more character development and closer to the show it came form than the show it became.  More underrated is Frank Sutton, who played Sgt. Carter, who cannot believe the inept oaf Pyle is capable of being, but is determined to drill discipline and order into Pyle if it is the last thing he ever does.


All 30 shows from this debut season fill five DVDs (in nice slender cases) and is the first time these particular shows have been seen in many, many years, give or take limited VHS release.  It’s funny to see the show trying to find its way and its identity.  It is also more conservative at first about its comedy, trying to be funny without being subversive.  That is a trick the show never totally managed by the end of its run, along with noting that the entire show’s run happened as Vietnam kicked in and during what would be the final years of the classical period of the military draft.


That meant any young man watching could be where Pyle is, making it darkly funny at the time in a way it could never be again, even if the draft were reinstated.  Nabors and Sutton have great chemistry together and though some would actually consider this politically incorrect (and some extreme Right Wingers might dub it Left Wing Hollywood propaganda), the show is still very well written and the kind of good quality TV that is sadly lacking today.


Creator Aaron Ruben was from Griffith’s show and had worked on Silver’s show, so he was more than ready to run with the show.  It is certainly worth revisiting for all kinds of reasons and if DVD had been around a few decades ago, would have been out already.


The 1.33 X 1 black and white image varies from show to show and is not the best we have seen for TV DVDs, but is fine for this set.  The camerawork is not as bright and flashy as the color years, which will come as a surprise to fans that only saw those later shows in syndication when it was thought monochrome offered fewer ratings.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also just fine for the shows and better on the newly-recorded materials, which is simple stereo at best.


Fans will be surprised and happy with the extras on this set, including funny audio intros to each show by Nabors himself, the pilot from The Andy Griffith Show, Nabors on The David Frost Show, Jim Nabors Hour clip, audio commentary Nabors on the first show, by Ronnie Schell on the eighth and a great cameo from a funny later color Lucy Show (where are those box sets Paramount?) called Lucy Gets Caught In The Draft with a Nabors/Pyle cameo comically placed.


That is the way to do classic TV on DVD.  We look forward to the next four sets, especially when the color shows arrive.  Now everyone can see what all the fuss is about.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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