10 Shows That Should Inspire the New FOX Comedy ‘Enlisted’

Military-themed comedies were once a staple of network TV and FOX will try to revive the genre this fall with Enlisted, premiering Friday, November 8. The show stars Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell and Parker Young as three brothers serving together in the same platoon at a small Florida Army base.

Early clips suggest a show with a debt to Stripes: Stults is charged with shaping up  Rear Detachment unit, portrayed as a crew of misfits that happens to include his two brothers. There’s an exasperated commanding officer, played by the great Keith David (Platoon).

By our count, it’s been at least twenty years since the networks tried this kind of thing and almost forty since military comedies were a regular viewing option. So we made a list of ten shows that the Enlisted crew can use either as inspiration or as cautionary tales about how terribly things might go wrong.

There are a few show you might think are missing from the list, so let’s explain why we left them out.

  • M*A*S*H is sort of a category unto itself and it’s not really about enlisted men and women. That doesn’t mean it’s not great.
  • Hogan’s Heroes is also funny but it’s set in a POW camp.
  • F Troop is set in the 19th century and doesn’t really fit with the modern training theme of most of these shows.

So, here are ten military-themed shows that could provide a roadmap for Enlisted. The first three are all great role models and the rest offer some cautionary tales for the show.

1. The Phil Silvers Show (a/k/a Sgt. Bilko): This is the gold standard, one of the greatest comedies in history of television and ran for four seasons from 1955–1959. Silvers stars as Army Sgt. Earnest Bilko, who runs the motor pool at Fort Baxter in Roseville, KS (Both the name and location were inspired by an actual Civil War post). Bilko ran an endless series of get-rich-quick scams and schemes designed to reduce his workload. The series featured a huge number of future stars: George Kennedy, Fred Gwynne, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde all made guest appearances. Even though the show ran in seemingly constant reruns until the late ‘70s, it’s not available to stream anywhere these days. You can buy the first season on DVD and there’s a ton of bootleg episodes on YouTube.

2. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: This spinoff from The Andy Griffith Show ran five seasons from 1964–1969 and starred Jim Nabors as a goofy Marine who’s always in conflict with Drill Sgt. Carter, played by Frank Sutton. Though the series aired during the height of the Vietnam War and was partially filmed at Camp Pendleton, the series focused on antics in the barracks and stayed away from the political controversies that war inspired. Hugely popular during its run and also a big hit in reruns, the show succeeded largely because of the ccomic hemistry between Nabors and Sutton. Not available for legal streaming, but you can buy the entire series on DVD or watch a ton of bootleg episodes on YouTube.

3. McHale’s Navy: Sort of like a Navy version of Sgt. Bilko and airing for four seasons between 1962–1966, the show was set on a remote Pacific island during WWII. Ernest Borgnine played Lt. Cmdr. Quentin McHale and commanded a small group of men who survived a Japanese air attack on their base. Cut off from the rest of the Navy, the men go native and set up their own rules while engaging with the local culture. When a straight-laced officer parachutes onto the island to deal with the situation, hilarity ensues. This show was popular in syndication for years, even getting colorized in the ‘80s (remember that bad idea?) It also inspired a terrible 1997 movie starring Tom Arnold. Make sure you don’t watch that by accident. You can stream all episodes on Hulu, buy DVDs of individual seasons or check out bootleg episodes on YouTube.

4. C.P.O. Sharkey:

This show ran for two seasons from 1976–1978 and cast insult comic Don Rickles as a Chief Petty Officer on a Southern California Navy base. Even though Rickles himself served in the Navy during WWII, the series was more about his insult jokes than an attempt to portray the camaraderie of military life.  The episode embedded above is pretty much the only evidence we can find: no streaming, no DVD and no more episodes on YouTube.

5. The Wackiest Ship in the Army:

Based on a popular movie starring Jack Lemmon and Ricky Nelson, the series ran for one season between 1965–1966 and featured Jack Warden and Gary Collins. The WWII-set series was about a schooner whose mission was to place spies behind Japanese lines. This hour-long show sticks out from the rest because, despite the promised wackiness, the series tried to find a mix between comedy and drama. America wasn’t really buying. There’s no proper streaming and no DVD release, but you can find a few episodes on YouTube.

6. Private Benjamin: Right after getting an Oscar nomination for her role as Captain Doreen Lewis in the movie, Eileen Brennan recreated her role in a TV series inspired by the movie. Even thought Brennan won an Emmy, the show struggled to find an audience and was cancelled shortly after Brennan had to leave the show after being struck by a car. Again, no legit streaming and no DVD  and, aside from the other half of the episode embedded above, there’s not much on YouTube.

7. No Time for Sergeants: This series didn’t launch until 1964, six years after the classic movie starring Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. Starring a virtually unknown actor named Sammy Jackson, the series shared little beside a title with the movie and novel. No one watched and it disappeared without much fanfare. Aside from the clip embedded above, not much to see out there: no DVD or streaming available.

8. Operation Petticoat: This show, based on the 1959 hit movie, ran for parts of two seasons from 1977–1979 and originally featured John Astin (The Addams Family) in the Cary Grant role and a young Jamie Lee Curtis getting a career break (maybe because her dad Tony had been in the original movie). Astin’s performance was more Gomez Addams than Cary Grant and most of the cast was replaced for season two. The additional of ‘70s teen heartthrob Randolph Mantooth didn’t do much for ratings and the show was quickly cancelled. This show is also pretty much MIA these days. You can see the opening from the revamped second season on YouTube but there’s no complete episode streaming or DVD release.

9. Major Dad: Even though it’s more about the Gerald McRaney’s battle-of-the-sexes marriage than it is about day-to-day military life, the show was a huge success when it ran for four seasons between 1989–1993. It’s hard to believe it’s the most recent military comedy we could think of and it’s been off the air for twenty years. Even though it’s not on DVD and not really bootlegged on YouTube, you can watch the entire series on Hulu.

atease

10. At Ease: Jimmie  Dy-No-Mite Walker starred alongside David Naughton (from An American Werewolf in London and those Dr. Pepper “Be a Pepper” commercials) and Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen) in a Sgt. Bilko-inspired show about shenanigans on an Army base in Texas. It ran for a handful of episodes on ABC in 1983 and there’s no video evidence and barely any photos online. Was it funny? Who knows?

Enlisted_epPilot_sc5pt_1223

Did we forget any great comedies about the military? Are you looking forward to Enlisted? Does America need a network comedy about military life? Let us know in the comments.

Tags:

27 Comments

  1. wtpworrier says:

    Screw everything that is FAUX. Fools making fun of our Military.….And no, we don’t need a comedy about the military, soldier dying defending this Nation is not funny.

    • Retired AF NCO says:

      Get a friggin grip on your sense of humor (if you have one!). I spent 20 years in the Air Force and, trust me, there is plenty of funny stuff going on. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves to keep from going off the deep end. Try it wtpworrier. Life is not as grim as you make it out to be. People die every day, in uniform and out.

    • DOC Lee USN (RET) says:

      from “Stripes” Lighten up Francis”.

    • DocWheels says:

      M*A*S*H is one of the greatest shows of all time and it was a military comedy

    • Charlie says:

      I agree that disrespect for the military is a huge no-no. However, my father was in the South Pacific during WWII and absolutely loved Sgt. Bilko and Hogan’s Heroes. He often said it’s nice to see humor in such a carnage oriented business.…

  2. Retaliate says:

    At a time of serious matters the thought of a show like this shouldn’t even be entertained. It makes our country look weak and as if we don’t take our military serious enough. I am sure they could of kept the comedic genre of the show while keeping out some things such as, the overweight cast in uniform, the untidy uniforms and lack of respect to superiors. Those are just some of the key items that other countries watching see the Military as. Looking weak, un-prepared and interested in finances in entertainment..

    This is something that should of been aired at a different time. Right now is no time for comedic gestures displayed publicly. I sure wish a good amount of funds from this show would be put into the DoD. Apparently these idiots don’t read about budget cuts such as, DoD employees on Furlough, units unable to train as efficiently and often due to cuts.

    Media such as this makes me sick. That’s all, I’ve said my peace for now.

    • DOC LEE USN (RET) says:

      BS– during Vietnam shows like Gomer Pyle, MASH, and even McHale’s Navy were very popular, I served 20 years and I am not the least bit offended by the attempt this show will make.

      Get over your selves

  3. CJ2 says:

    That looks like complete garbage. It won’t last more than the first episode.

  4. Ruby says:

    I’m going to take the opposite stance here. This COULD work, if they consult actual recent Veterans or people currently serving so they get a real feel for enlisted life. For starters, the actors need real Army haircuts. As long as the humor points out the absurdity of bureaucracy and does not make total buffoons of the soldiers, this show could serve a good purpose. There is no shortage of comedy in the military! I can think of a dozen episodes off the top of my head from language training, then Fort Drum and two deployments to Iraq — weird bed check tales, practical jokes gone very wrong, how not to do a safety briefing in Arabic, Magic 8 Ball consultations and other military intelligence procedures, top 10 stupidest re-enlistment incentives, why you should never never accept courier orders, the importance of light discipline on romantic Commo Hill overlooking Baghdad, so MUCH material. You have to laugh or the bureaucracy will crush your soul.

    Those old military comedies you listed would have been a hit of nostalgia for the audience, many many of whom had served in uniform. Today’s audience largely has NOT served in the military, so a show could be a way to bridge that gap. The humor could humanize the military experience for a civilian audience. Civilians so often think only of rigid boot camp life and combat scenes when they think of the military. They don’t know the first thing about the friendships, the unit level training, the daily and weekly work routines, the different specialties in the military, the protocol between different ranks and the reasons for all the rules, and how those rules get bent so creatively by junior enlisted. Not everything has to be a joke in a comedy either, they could address things like readjustment from deployment and the importance of military cameraderie/loyalty with a light touch that gets the point across better than preachiness, but isn’t disrespectful.

    Not saying all that WILL likely happen, but there’s potential. Got my fingers crossed.

  5. O'dell says:

    Television? Black Sheep Squadron. Combat. You forgot those two at least of importance that brings a person to want to be in the military. Comedies of the military tend to not allow the new to be of what really is that they are going to do. It might bring me a few laughs. Maybe it will ease some of the pain I have from my experience.….. and that is without combat.

  6. Ralph says:

    I guess the military has it funny moments, but when it comes down to protecting our country the funnies moments are over. The fighting and dying starts and that’s when the funny stops and prayer and fear take over. To me these shows are a joke but what do you expect from fox.

  7. SgtGreen says:

    As long as it doesn’t get political I’m OK. Don’t need some liberal assclown writer making jabs at the only party to support the military and the military itself. MASH was a political statement made during a war and shouldn’t be considered as an example. “No time for Sergeants” in My opinion is the best of the list.

  8. matt says:

    At least have them dress appropriately. Every single cast member is in violation of 670–1. I know it’s fake but at least make it relatable to people who actually know how the uniform is supposed to be worn.

  9. Lee says:

    These guys are doing nothing but giving the Army a bad rep. None of these cast members know anything about the military, and if putting a Combat Infantryman Badge or a Ranger tab on an actor makes him seem like a badass, go ahead and do it. I don’t care. Just keep in mind that the men who actually went out and earned the right to wear that on their uniforms won’t think this show funny at all.

    Also, this show depicts how it is to be an undisciplined shitbag in our Army, by the looks of it. Have your laughs, America.

  10. Marine Sergeant says:

    I’m offended by that nasty little Private with his blouse unbuttoned and his hands in his pockets.

  11. ColdWarVet75 says:

    What a farce. How about getting a freaking haircut? I have seen some movies where the Marine Security Guards at Embasseys had longer hair than these guys. At least make them look like they are military.

  12. Capt.Danger says:

    I’m all for military-themed shows, if they are done right. This one looks like crap. Go back and come up with something better.

  13. Liam Babington says:

    if you can not laugh at yourself & laugh at what you do or were doing, then what is the point of doing what you do or did. Give the program a chance.

  14. Mark Brown says:

    Please answer this when you join the military
    Do you go through boot camp first or can
    You report for duty first?

  15. Greg B says:

    All, love the comments posted here, good and bad. Full disclosure, I’m a retired Soldier (3rs ago after 21yrs of service) and my company consults on this show.…no, we did NOT work on the pilot (the trailer is 100% from the pilot). I can guarantee you will see dramatic improvements in grooming and uniform standards as well as the story lines…they’ll get much closer to the authentic Soldier experience than the pilot did. When we were asked to work on the show, we reviewed the pilot…we felt pretty much the same as you guys do. But, we also knew we could help, and we are. The second episode and subsequent episodes will be much different. I can’t tell you how specifically, outside the fact that basic standards will be maintained (within the context of a TV comedy show)…but I can tell you that you’ll see some berets fairly early in the season and they look pretty darn good.…are they all perfect, nope…but they’ll look better than any Rear-Detatchment in the Army does in reality. Bottom line, anyone who’s served in the Army knows while our mission was serious, it was a pretty fun place to work…and in reality, Soldiers are damn funny. The producers/cast/crew all have their hearts in the right place…I wouldn’t work on this show if they didn’t. Give the show a chance…at least the pilot +1. I think you’ll like it and the overall themes it covers.

  16. milspouse says:

    Sorry, I refuse to even watch the first episode after watching the preview. My husband is a 20-year enlisted soldier. This is not about “not taking yourself too seriously.” It makes enlisted soldiers look stupid and worthless. This is just outrageous and insulting.

  17. Nate says:

    Everyone the main cast members went through a week of actual boot camp and they did have help from the military on a lot of things. Check out the videos on Fox. I am hoping with 2 star cast members that this show can work.

  18. End_Wage_Slavery says:

    This show looks like crap. Does the U.S., clearly the nation that fawns over its military more than any other on the planet, really need another militarization of daily life? Can we go a day without the U.S. military in some way insinuating itself into our lives? Can I drive down main street in town without seeing an American flag flapping on everything from a Pizza Hut to a bank to a homeless shelter to a sex toy shop? Enough already. I’d like to be able to go down the street without it looking like a Nuremburg rally but I guess that’s too much to ask.

    America needs to take a step back and really examine its culture. Not everything has to be a “salute to the troops”. Not everyone who drove a fork lift in Kuwait deserves to get a free meal every time they step out. Such a show like M*A*S*H, a wonderful show by the way, wouldn’t stand a chance today. The Republican Party would go berserk if there was some left winger like Alan Alda poking fun at how ultraconservative and right-wing America is and how its answer to everything is to go to war. The creators of such a show nowadays would be strung up and never work again in the industry because they’ve insulted our precious thin-skinned military or (gasp!) Heaven forbid, said something mildly critical of America itself. The United States is moving in reverse, it’s regressing instead of progressing. And that’s pretty sad. America, take a lesson from Canada. The Canadians know how to laugh at themselves and they have something in abundance that I’ve found in very short supply in America: humility.

    So I say cancel the show if for no other reason than this: people in the U.S. who have any taste or class whatsoever have long since grown pretty tired of having the military shoved down their throats 24–7. Enough is enough. Give it a rest America.