Sunday, July 31, 2005


It always seemed (at least since the early-eighties) like some kinda classic tee-vee snobbery was in full swing when I'd hear the same people who were singing the praises of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (especially the Barney Fife-era b&w episodes) up nose when it came to GOMER PYLE USMC. I dunno about you, but yeah, I like ANDY GRIFFITH just as much as the next old-timey tee-vee viewer (and I even swear allegiance to the color ones as much as the original b&ws which is yet another no-no), but I gotta say that I rank this GRIFFITH show spinoff just as highly and at times even higher not only to get those selfsame purists all mad, but because PYLE had a strangely L7-yet-guffaw-inducing quality about it that continues to work on that same sainted plateau of blissed-out nada that OZZIE AND HARRIET and Bushmiller-period NANCY comics do. I must admit it's pretty creepy finding out that amongst fans of earlier television trends there's such a strong distaste for the series, because I hold GOMER PYLE in such high regards, in fact have such an esteem for this unjustly-maligned program that I'd even consider it one of the all-time tee-vee classics especially when it comes to late-sixties programming, which except for syndicated reruns and a few precious network classics weren't exactly banner years for high-energy television viewing!

Anyway, here's a no-order list of my ten fave GOMER PYLE episodes, and if some of you PYLE fans (or not) have any you wanna add or delete feel free ta do so! All I gotta say is, it's gonna be a hard task to decide which are the best given the show's no-holds-barred high-quality over its four or five-year (I forget if they're including the summer reruns or not) lifespan:

1) Gomer loses the Colonel's wild daughter in a discoteque where the Frank Zappa-produced Factory (with Lowell George and other Little Feat) are playing tracks from their unreleased until the late-eighties album! Great gag where Carter mistakes a long-haired guy for the teenage gal!

2) Opie runs away from home after getting a stern licking and hides out at Camp Pendleton (probably best known for the heart-felt and serious speech that Sgt. Carter gives to a wrecked Andy Taylor at the end of the episode).

3) Sgt. Carter, Gomer and longtime character actor Keith Larsen appear on an all-marine special episode of WIN A DATE (a thinly-veiled spoof of THE DATING GAME) and Gomer gets picked by the swinging blonde despite (or perhaps because of) his flat cornball answers! (This is the episode where Gomer exclaims, after seeing good-looking Larsen enter into the "green room," the immortal line "He's even handsomer than Rock Hudson"!!!!) This one is also good because once again Frank Sutton (as Carter) gets to do his extremely funny schtick where he tries to be overly-masculine/sexy in order to impress the lass and comes off looking like a total boob in the process!

4) Gomer's part of a quilting bee with some old ladies and because he doesn't want to get "ribbed" by his fellow marines he's rather tight-lipped about his whereabouts, only telling them that he's spending Saturday afternoons with "the girls." Meanwhile, the editors of some men's magazine take photos of Gomer in various poses and airbrush in snaps of bikini-clad beauties posing alongsides him for a "marine has fun at the beach" layout. Carter sees the photos and thinks that the young femme frolickers are "the girls" Gomer has been seeing every Saturday and begs Gomer to take him along despite Gomer's protestations to the contrary. BEST PART: the look on Carter's face when the door to the house opens and he sees the old biddies Gomer's been spending his time with! (An aside, during my high school days when PYLE repeats were airing in the afternoon, this particular episode caused all of the horny boys in school to speculate that the girls in the pics were actually nude and that they only had bikinis on in order to pass the censors! I mean, I was told by some of the more, er, erotically inclined amongst my peers that sure, those curvaceous cuties had "clothes" on, but they were really buck naked! You figure that one out!)

5) Gomer eats Welsh Rarebit (which he is warned might give him nightmares) and chews out Sgt. Carter while walking in his sleep! Carter then eats some and acts all docile while walking in his sleep, a perfectly comic role reversal gag that works better than most.

6) Gomer keeps sinking the inflatable raft (either by jumping through it, firing his rifle or jabbing it with his bayonet) during navy exercises.

7) Gomer and Carter go to Las Vegas and Gomer (who wants to visit the Hoover Dam and the rocks and minerals museum while Carter anxiously awaits all the gambling and high living) gives Carter's huge winnings to the Salvation Army! (I remember this ending really upsetting a gambling-inclined peer of mine who probably couldn't sleep that night seeing Carter's jackpot being dumped into a kettle! Boy was he mad and he sure let me know it!!!)

8) Gomer and his platoon are appearing in some film and Carter keeps blowing his single line "Let's hear it for Henshaw!"

9) Carter decides to play a trick on watermelon-growing Gomer by injecting vodka into the melons (by cutting a hole in the rind, sticking the neck of an open bottle into the flesh and letting the alcohol spread throughout), only Gomer gives the tainted fruit to the Colonel's wife for her bridge party!

10) The one where Gomer and Carter are bound and gagged by criminals, hide out in the trunk of the crooks' car, and get all soaking when the trunk opens in the middle of a car wash!

Hey, if you wanna add to the list, you know where to go! (Another good one; lost Japanese boy who only speaks his native tongue has Gomer and Carter take him all over Washington DC, ultimately giving himself away during a ballgame by yelling some choice English-language epithets at the umpire...strangest scene is where the boy is returned to his residence and is greeted at the door by his sexy older sister with the two latently gay soldiers [that is, if you believe all the stories and ascribe a Batman/Robin relationship to the pair!] all of a sudden acting super-hetero before getting the door shut in their faces! Another goodie...two crooks rent out an empty lunch counter next door to a bank in order to cut a hole through the wall and break in, only thanks to Gomer's help the restaurant actually becomes a legit business! And then again I like the one where, during war games, Gomer and his not too bright partner accidently capture Sgt. Carter who angrily mutters "I am the enemy Pyle, I AM the enemy!!!!" before getting ready to kill!!! This is the one where Pyle's partner sings "Hound Dog" (as a ruse) a decade after it was a hit, making me wonder if this was some old script written a long time back adapted for the show...sorta like I always thought that the "Sunset Strip" episode of THE LUCY SHOW was really an old beatnik-era script given a few changes in order to keep up with the times!)


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I didn't watch this show much as a kid, partly I think because the military context was super drab compared to the blissed out atmosphere of That Girl and The Brady Bunch. Later, I came to realize that this show is pretty damn funny, though I haven't gotten to see it much.

The perception is probably that there were a lot of good actors and actresses on Andy Griffith. I wonder if the guy who played Carter is looked at more as a bit of a hack? I don't know. Seems to me (though, again, I haven't seen it much since I was a kid) that he's actually really good on this show - very expressive actor.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I didn't watch this show much as a kid, partly I think because the military context was super drab compared to the blissed out atmosphere of That Girl and The Brady Bunch. Later, I came to realize that this show is pretty damn funny, though I haven't gotten to see it much.

The perception is probably that there were a lot of good actors and actresses on Andy Griffith. I wonder if the guy who played Carter is looked at more as a bit of a hack? I don't know. Seems to me (though, again, I haven't seen it much since I was a kid) that he's actually really good on this show - a very expressive actor.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Frank Sutton was actually a rather developed actor with an impressive pre-PYLE history (TWILIGHT ZONE, NAKED CITY, DECOY...I even saw him in an episode of THE GOLDBERGS as a flipped-out escaped convict who naturally was paired with the more rational con trying to convince Molly that the two were actually college students being initiated into a fraternity!). I always felt that Sutton's style was really necessary especially in the days of method acting and over-emotion...down to earth and gritty much like his looks which added a certain dimension to his characters...very realistic with the right amt. of anger, pathos etc. in the right spots, like when an angry and embittered Andy Taylor met up with him after Opie ran away to join the marines and Carter gave him that beautifully heartfelt talk. And I remember Bill Shute telling me how much he liked Sutton's final role in a made-for-TV movie as a drunk who decides to be a hero for once in his life and dies rescuing people from a burning apartment building!

I liked THE BRADY BUNCH just as much as the next brat, but THAT GIRL??? That show was always too sophisticated and just plain unfunny for me...I've always wondered how it could have lasted so long (I remember my mother being a faithful viewer of the show, though she ignored it in reruns after Marlo Thomas went feminist and married Phil Donahue, and my mom's no conservative either!!!) I guess next to GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and THE MUNSTERS that show was Tiffany's! The only funny line I recall from it was when Donald and some friends were playing STRATEGO, the Milton Bradley game where each player is a nation trying to caputure parts of Europe for themselves...Donald said that he didn't want to be Italy this time, because he has to keep surrendering fifteen minutes into the game!

Anonymous said...

I always thought it was funny considering the years Gomer Pyle was on that Vietnam was never mentioned once on the show.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Yeah, the producers got letters asking when Gomer was going to get shipped over all the time!!! Gomer and Carter going to Vietnam would have been a hoot, though the writers probably thought such a move to be controversial...I mean, what if PEACE broke out???

Anonymous said...

I wasn't even saying they should have been shipped out on the show. I meant that there was never a single reference to it on the show - even if someone had made a joke about it......

Christopher Stigliano said...

True, but given the mindset I'm sure the writers had, something like even a mention of the war might have been too much for their audience. And, you gotta remember, before CBS became a more hip and controversial network thanks to Norman Lear and his imitators, CBS was known as the Country Broadcasting Service because of the rural/down home and old-styled programming it was offering. Of course that was before demographics pretty much forced CBS to axe all of their "old-time" (Gleason, Skelton...) and "rural" (GREEN ACRES, HEE HAW, JIM NABORS SHOW...) programs in search of the tie-dye bucks. Strangely enough, GUNSMOKE survived the purge probably because it was so big, though the series had lost its steam years earlier and I don't think anyone would have noticed if it was missing from the network schedule given how boring it was esp. compared with those episodes Sam Peckingpah wrote in the late-fifties.

Maybe if the show stayed on a few years there would have been a few Vietnam mentions tossed in here or there...the subject of hippies had been used a few times so why not something else "hip"??? It's strange, but other than THE TWILIGHT ZONE (the Jack Klugman/Billy Mumy episode), the only mention of Vietnam on television that I remember was from THE MUNSTERS!

BEETLE BAILEY seemed to skirt the Vietnam issue at first, but by the early seventies I recall the Paris Peace Talks being mentioned! (And of course the appearance of Lt. Flap sure stirred things up a bit!)

Christopher Stigliano said...

Of course, the next to last paragraph should read "the only mention of Vietnam on early/mid-sixties television..." By the early-seventies you couldn't escape the topic!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this. It was my father who got me hooked on this show. I discovered "Andy" many years later because I lived near where it took place, and reruns have never not been on the CBS affiliate daily since then.

May I offer some corrections?

2. Opie hadn't been punished. he was afraid he was going to be.

6. Gomer shot off his flare gun, not his rifle.

Christopher Stigliano said...

Yeah...I found MANY errors I made while watching the GOMER DVD collection!!!

Anonymous said...

i also think gomer was one of the best shows ever. the one where he sings the impossible dream comes to mind. or actually anytime when he transforms into a great singer from a total hick. he is brilliant . im talkin bout jim nabors

Ross Walker said...

Come Blow Your Top (Sgt Carter has to hold his temper for a whole day) and Beautiful Dreamer (Sgt Carter tries to stop Gomer from dreaming that Carter will get married) are also very funny. All the episodes written by Rick Mittleman are excellent.

Unknown said...

what episide was it where Pyle though Carter was dying, and was drfiving carter to distraction by tryig to be extra helpful? Carter was being bothered by a persistent stomach pain also. towards the end, Carer and Boyle figure out what is up with Pyle, and play a tgrick on him, by making Pyle think Careter is on his deathbed, with his boots on too, like a good marine. Pyle runs out looking for help, Carter and Boyle are laughing it up at their joke, when all of a sudden carter is doubled over with major stomach pain....Pyle meanwhile has summoned medics who take Carter to the hospital where he is found to have appendicitis. ....ok, WHAT EPISODE WASW THAT?

Unknown said...

These episodes are also among my favorites. Jim Nabors and Frank Sutton were two superb actors, and I find myself watching the show in part because Gomer is such a tremendous role model for living the good life. I also find it interesting how Gomer has so much love and admiration for his sergeant, while Carter seems to easily forget the lessons that Gomer implicitly teaches him from episode to episode. Here are five more episodes that Ialways look forward to upon reviewing the entire series on DVD. I've selected on for each season.

1. Gomer and the Dragon Lady. A bar maid, played by Barbara Stuart, is known for sending guys flying into the wall when they get fresh with her. So Carter tells Gomer that it's a tradition for someone in the platoon to go up and kiss her on their first weekend liberty from the base. Of course, the gag backfires on Carter in a big way.

2. The Grudge Fight. Carter and the platoon are on a Navy vessel, and he challenges the chief officer to a boxing match. Realizing that Carter might get himself killed, Duke, Gomer, and the boys set up a fake training camp so as to throw a scare into the Chief.

3. ShowM Me the Way Home. Gomer helps a drunk to his apartment, and gets in trouble with the man's wife. Great performance by Keenan Wynn who played the drunk Harry Purcell.

4. And a Child Shall Lead Them. While in Washington D.C. Gomer and Carter try to help a lost Japanese boy find his way home. The boy gives them different addresses that lead to an amusement park, recreational lake, and baseball stadium, making Carter late for his "hot date".

5. Flower Power. While camouflaging a communications truck with paint out in the woods, Gomer meets some hippies who help him with the pain job . Afterwards, the truck looks more like a hippie wagon. I love the part where Gomer joins them in a touching rendition of "Blowin in the Wind".

Al said...

you covered a number of my favorites--the one where the Factory are playing, the Welsh rarebit one, the one where the Japanese kid takes Gomer and Carter all over DC.

there was one where Gomer was supposedly in a car accident with a woman and the irate husband was played by Al Lewis. When she was in the car and complained she was hot, he said "fan yourself"... "I don't have a fan!" "Use your lip..."

Unknown said...

I like the one where The LT needs Carter to pick a man to drive to L. A to pick up the General from the airport. The LT suggest Carter pick Pyle. It’s a 2 hour drive but Carter knowing Pyle wants to play it extra safe so he gives Pyle 7 hours. One way or another Pyle gets sidetracked helping old lady and Boy Scout groups. He barely makes it to airport then delivers a baby. General deems him a hero . Great episode

StellaBlue said...

Love the entire show to this day. Frank Sutton was the funniest second banana on television. The episode with the Japanese kid was among my favorites along with the episode with the cat as "CONTRABAND" on the ship.

One important question for the community: Has anyone an idea which episode had Gomer calling Sgt. Carter"Kirk Douglas"?