Review: Sgt. Bilko Phil Silvers Show Season 1 DVD

STUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Al De Caprio, others | CAST: Phil Silvers, Allan Melvin, Harvey Lembeck, Paul Ford, Maurice Gosfield
RELEASE DATE: 7/27/10 | PRICE: DVD $39.98
BONUSES: the lost “audition” show, vintage commercials with cast, original network opening, Lucy Show episode with guest Phil Silvers, Allan Melvin audio commentary
SPECS: NR | 882 min. | Television comedy | 1.33:1 fullscreen | Dolby Digital mono

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Aficionados of classic TV comedy have been waiting for a complete DVD release of Sgt. Bilko, which hasn’t been seen on the nostalgia TV networks for several years now. This collection includes all 34 episodes from the first season of the television series, which premiered in 1955 and was called alternately The Phil Silvers Show and You’ll Never Get Rich but came to be known as Sgt. Bilko in reruns.

The special features are very entertaining, especially the audition pilot, which defines all the characters and includes a young Jack Warden in the sidekick role later filled by Allan Melvin. It should be noted, however, that all of these extras — with the exception of a 1966 Lucy Show episode featuring Silvers — were included in the three-DVD Sgt. Bilko 50th Anniversary Edition that was released by Paramount in 2006.

Nevertheless, the episodes are the main attraction with this new set. Bilko is singular in TV history, in that it introduced to TV comedy the notion of placing an antihero, a cardshark con artist, at its center. As such, its influence has been considerable in the last few generations of sitcoms featuring likeable but abrasive protagonists. For an illustration of the show’s enduring appeal, one need go no further than an interview Ricky Gervais conducted with Larry David (find it on YouTube), wherein both men state their solid admiration for the show.

One hopes, as with all of these valuable TV on DVD releases, that the remaining three seasons of Bilko will be released by Paramount in the months to come.


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