FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (13)
May 13, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Sixties (in our periodization: 1964–1973).
HOGAN’S HEROES | 1965–1971
I was crazy about Hogan’s Heroes when I was a kid. I’ve rarely watched it since then, just late nights here and there, but I’ve retained fond memories of the show… even while suspecting that it was probably best left as a recollection. So it was with some trepidation that I recently ventured back to Stalag 13 via the show’s pilot episode.
The first episode is in black-and-white, which used to be a thing; if the pilot was picked up, they’d upgrade to color. It’s a great episode, one that reminded me of why the show was so charming to my child-self. There’s a sprawling underground operation beneath the prison camp, one which includes a counterfeiting operation, a machine shop that turns out Luger cigarette lighters, a barbershop, even a steam room (for thinning out suspiciously plump POWs) and a manicurist. The operation is accessed though a false bottom in the guard-doghouse, the dogs having been won over by our heroes. At its core, the show is a pulling-a-fast-one-on the grownups fantasy. Only the grownups are Nazis.
The Germans are as bumbling as I remembered — but there are repeated moments when the show is about to stretch our credulity a little too far. Nazis, after all, aren’t suitable for pie-in-the-face levels of silliness. Whenever this sort of thing happens there is a pivot where the complicity of the Germans in their own debasement is acknowledged. With Sgt. Schultz it’s often explicit: “Listen Schultzie, you don’t want the prisoner count to be off and we don’t want the prisoner count to be off, so how about you come back later and we’ll make sure it’s right.” With Col. Klink, it’s more often a matter of shifts in tone and body language — as Klink is silently persuaded that something that seemed ridiculous a moment ago is actually entirely sensible. In either case, the Germans understand that, whether through incompetence or having allowing themselves to be charmed by the glib prisoners, although spoiling Hogan’s plans (e.g., to ferry French Resistance members to safety, or sneak Carter out of camp so he could drive back in as Hitler) might be the end of Hogan, it would also be the end of their plum assignments.
This mechanism allowed kids like me to enjoy the show while kicking down the road — episode after episode — the whole question of whether it’s OK to enjoy the bumbling Nazis. Because who wants to deal with that?
Plus: Richard Dawson doing a cockney accent! He wanted to do a Liverpudlian accent, according to legend, but no one could understand a word he was saying.
FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on DARK SHADOWS (1966–1971) | Mark Kingwell on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on I DREAM OF JEANNIE (1965–1970) | Luc Sante on SECRET AGENT/DANGER MAN (1964–1968 seasons) | Erin M. Routson on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (1963–1966 run) | Gordon Dahlquist on HAWAII FIVE-O (1968–1973 seasons) | Annie Nocenti on GET SMART (1965–1970) | Sara Driver on THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1964–1966) | Carlo Rotella on MANNIX (1967–1973 seasons) | Adam McGovern on JULIA (1968–1971) | Mimi Lipson on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970–1973 seasons) | Josh Glenn on BATMAN (1966–1968) | Tom Nealon on HOGAN’S HEROES (1965–1971) | Miranda Mellis on THE ODD COUPLE (1970–1973 seasons) | Peggy Nelson on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1964–1967) | Susan Roe on THE BRADY BUNCH (1969–1973 seasons) | Michael Grasso on UFO (1970–1973) | Richard McKenna on DOOMWATCH (1970–1972) | Adrienne Crew on BEWITCHED (1964–1972) | Michael Lewy on STAR TREK (1966–1969) | Greg Rowland on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (1970–1973 seasons) | David Smay on THE MONKEES (1966–1968) | Vijay Parthasarathy on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW (1964–1966 seasons) | Carl Wilson on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967–1973 seasons) | Jessamyn West on EMERGENCY! (1972–1973 seasons).
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