He’ll Never Get Rich: The Phil Silvers Show

In which I confess my love for a finagling master sergeant.

Vulpes Libris

Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko with Paul Ford as Col. Hall. Via Wikipedia Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko with Paul Ford as Col. Hall. Via Wikipedia

I first saw an episode of The Phil Silvers Show, Nat Hiken’s 1950s army comedy, twenty years ago when it was still shown regularly on BBC Two. The episode was Cherokee Ernie, in which Phil Silvers’ scheming Sgt. Bilko sets out to play poker in Tulsa and ends up in a legal stramash of such magnitude that Oklahoma is very nearly returned to the Native Americans. I don’t need to tell you that it’s a difficult episode in lots of ways. But it was the start of a love affair that’s still going. I watched the rest of Bilko just as the BBC intended—in the wrong order and on a loop—and then on VHS, with a great box of tapes which I lugged with me to University and back. And then the BBC stopped showing…

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