F Troop
Ken Berry, Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Melody Patterson
6 DVDs
34 half hour shows
Black and white
Warner Brothers Television 1965
Warner Home Entertainment 2006

F Troop is an early television comedy set shortly after the Civil War. Ken Berry plays newly minted Captain Wilton Parmenter whose sneeze ended the war and earned him the nickname the Scourge of the West. He is assigned to Fort Courage, home of F Troop, a bunch of slacker soldiers that is really run by two schemers: Sgt. Morgan O’Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Cpl. Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch). The captain is, in reality a bumbling but well-meaning guy who constantly has the wool pulled over his eyes by the two schemers, hence the comedy in F Troop The Complete First Season of a two-season sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1967.

The real stars of F Troop are Forrest Tucker (who will remind many of the Captain on Gilligan’s Island) and Larry Storch who would go on to bit roles in just about every television show ever made. They are two very successful schemers who have a deal with the local Indian tribe, the Hekawis, that rakes in the bucks for everybody. One of their past schemes involved selling kerosene as hair tonic, “You couldn’t light a match near a bald-headed man for over a month.”

Still, Ken Berry holds his own on F Troop as Captain Parmenter. He has a great talent for physical comedy and gets to use it a lot. Parmenter is a buy the book kind of guy only because he has to read the manual each time a new situation comes up. Parmenter also has a talent for being the hero without quite knowing it such as when he scares off a bunch of Indians attacking the fort just by his reputation as scourge of the west. The back story to this episode is Tucker and Storch had arranged for the Hekawis to attack but were beat to the punch by another tribe who was unaware of the souvenir deal the former and F Troop have going. Also pretty good in F Troop The Complete First Season is Frank DeKova as Chief Wild Eagle. A modern, politically correct audience will probably be uncomfortable with some of the clichés and all the red skin talk in this series but Wild Eagle and the Hekawis are more than your usual cliché western Indians.

There are quite a few running gags in F Troop The Complete First Season. One is the ongoing struggles of Dobbs, the company bugler, to learn to play his instrument. Another is the firing of the fort’s cannon that usually leads to the destruction of something in the fort. Often, it is of the exact same lookout tower with the exact same soldier falling to the ground but it is still a fun gag.

Things do get a little more serious in episode 8 of the first season when Parmenter comes back from officer’s school a new man who makes life difficult for the F Troop slackers. An added gag is that in this episode the captain recovers elegantly from his pratfalls. This wreacks havoc with O’Rourke and Agarn’s mail-order bride business. Another good show is episode 33 where both F Troop and the Hekawis are under pressure from their respective war ministers to go to war. This, of course, is arranged by O’Rourke and Agarn.

Of course, no sitcom’s season can avoid a few dud episodes. In F Troop The Complete First Season there are a few lesser episodes such as episode 11 A Gift From The Chief or episode 16 Iron Horse Go Home where the Hekawis move into Fort Courage for a while. Go For Broke, episode 20, is not particulary great either but the character of the way ahead of his time inventor, played by George Goebel, is definitely fun and makes up for a rather circular and mundane story.

Eagle-eyed (no pun intended) viewers will recognize Paul Lynde (of Hollywood Squares fame) in an early episode as well as comedy great Don Rickles as Bald Eagle in episode 5 of F Troop The Complete First Season.

Finally, most of the 34 episodes of F Troop The Complete First Season are crisp and show no signs of age. The obvious exception is Play, Gypsy Play, episode 24 with Zsa Zsa Gabor where there seems to be quite a bit of dust particles on the print, so much so you almost think it is snowing at Fort Courage.


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