The Light from the TV Shows: This One’s for the Veterans – 20 Military-Set Sitcoms

With Veteran’s Day coming up quickly – it’s on Sunday, Nov. 11, in case you don’t tend toward looking at the calendar – now seems like a perfectly appropriate time to take a look back at some of the many sitcoms set in the world of the military. Granted, not all of these are necessarily what you’d describe as military sitcoms, per se, nor is this intended to be perceived as a comprehensive list, but everything that’s on here does feature the military in a significant capacity. Just call it our little tribute to the men and women who’s fought for our country…and to the ones that made us laugh, too, of course.

The Phil Silvers Show (1955-1959): Otherwise known as the adventures of notorious US Army con-man Ernie Bilko, who regularly pulled the wool over the eyes of the perpetually befuddled Col. Hall while trying to earn a fast buck whenever possible. Although consistently ranked as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Silvers’ show had such an extensive ensemble cast that it was also one of the first series to get the axe not because it didn’t get ratings but because it was simply too expensive to maintain.

Ensign O’Toole (1962-1963): Starring future Disney staple Dean Jones as the title character, who was stationed aboard the U.S.S. Appleby. Although it only lasted for a single season, the series had a heck of a cast, featuring former “Phil Silvers Show” regular Harvey Lembeck as well as Jack Albertson and a very young Beau Bridges.

McHale’s Navy (1962-1966): Kids, if the only version of Lt. Commander Quinton McHale you know is the one played by Tom Arnold, you really don’t know “McHale’s Navy” at all. Head for the nearest wayback machine and check out the original series, starring the recently-departed Ernest Borgnine and the still-alive, still-hilarious Tim Conway. With a supporting cast that includes another future Disney stalwart, Joe Flynn, as well as noted prestidigitator Carl Ballantine, the show has, aside from the occasional – and, given the era, somewhat inevitable – politically-incorrect moments, held up well over the years.

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The Light from the TV Shows: “We’re Back, Baby” – Attempts at Reviving Old TV Series

Tonight marks the return of “Dallas” to the airwaves, with TNT offering viewers a look at the latest generation of Ewings while also giving original cast members Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray an opportunity to get in on the fun. For what it’s worth, I quite enjoyed the pilot, but I’ll freely admit that the only reason that I was interested in revisiting Southfork Ranch in 2012 was because of those original cast members.

No matter how brilliantly or badly they turn out, I’ve always been a sucker for TV series revivals, be it as a “next generation” sort of series like this one or as a reunion movie, so I thought I’d throw together a list of some of my favorites for your reading enjoyment. The only caveats: I’m not counting occasions when a series jumped to the big screen, i.e. the not-very-good theatrical “Get Smart” movie, “The Nude Bomb,” nor am I including animated series in the mix…although if I did, you can bet the animated “Star Trek” series would be at the top of my list.

Okay, let’s roll…

90210 (2008-present)

When The CW first kicked off its return to West Beverly High School, the burning questions from virtually every TV critic who covered the series involved which of the original cast members would be returning. In the end, Jennie Garth (Kelly), Shannen Doherty (Brenda), Tori Spelling (Donna), Ann Gillespie (Jackie Taylor, Kelly’s mom), and Joe E. Tata (Nat, the proprietor of the Peach Pit) all ended up making it back to the familiar zip code for an episode or two, generally proving to be the most entertaining parts of those particular episodes. Since the show’s gone all new-school, though, I can’t be bothered to keep up with it.

Homicide: The Movie (2000)

This feels like a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t so much a revival of an old series as it was an attempt to wrap up plot threads that had been left dangling when “Homicide: Life on the Street” departed the airwaves the year before. With that said, however, it still technically falls within the realm of a reunion film, and it’s one of the best ones you’re likely to find, so that’s why it’s here.

Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees (1997)

I always thought that the concept of this film, which posited that the Monkees continued to live together even after their series was cancelled, was an extremely clever one. I just wish the band’s reunion album, Justus, had been even half as enjoyable.

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