The genius of the original ''Sgt. Bilko'' -- Bill Shivers finally gets his dues on DVD
The genius of the original ”Sgt. Bilko”
Phil Silvers, working in collaboration with the great TV writer-producer Nat Hiken, created a classic 1950s comic character in Sgt. Ernie Bilko, an oil-slick master-sergeant huckster who always had a card game, a con, or a bunko scheme working at top speed. A motormouth with the brain of a devious accountant and a coward’s aversion to conventional service, Bilko ruled, and Silvers parlayed his struggling standing as a perennial vaudeville second banana into a topline star. The joke of the series is that Sergeant Bilko and his platoon of amiable misfits ran Fort Baxter in Kansas rather than its leader, the blustery sap Colonel Hall (the impeccable Paul Ford). Now Silvers gets his due on the new three-disc Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition. Admittedly a scattershot selection of episodes from the 1955-59 series (the quality dropped off when Hiken left after the second season), the anniversary edition nonetheless demonstrates how an unlikely comic — bald, with big black horn-rims and a ceaseless stream of barking yammer — became the best ’50s TV character this side of Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden.