The teaming of Nat Hiken and Phil Silvers proved to be one of the most fortuitous combinations in television comedy. So, let's not forget this unique partnership and try to bring back the fun that was the Bilko show!
"I always felt that Ernie Bilko was equal parts Nat Hiken and Phil Silvers," said Leonard Stern, one of the Bilko writers. "Phil brought, from his burlesque days and from his nightclub act, the fast-talking man, with all that energy and a very distinctive style. Nat brought a literacy to it, an intelligence, that was in the subtext. Much of what Ernie says is witty. It's guised in this staccato tempo, but it's there."
As much as Nat admired Phil's superlative talent, he knew that the Bilko show needed strong characters around him to drive him to even more outlandishness. Two of Nat's most remarkable qualities came to fruition here: 1. His marvellously wacky imagination and 2. His way of using an unorthodox cast. He was just as likely to cast a middleweight boxer's manager as he was a burlesque comedian. Easily the most distinctive face, belonged to the spectacularly homely Maurice Gosfield, who, despite an inability to remember lines or perform easy stage business, became the hilarious Private Duane Doberman.
Even today, over 50 years after their original broadcast, the Bilko episodes project a fresh, distinctive style. More important, they're still funny.
Indeed, in 2003 the show topped the 20 greatest sitcoms in a new edition of the Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy. The guide’s author, TV historian Mark Lewisohn said: "Sgt Bilko is sitcom’s high-water mark. In 2005 it’ll be 50 years old and yet it’s still hilarious – with great scripts and magnificent performances week after week by Phil Silvers. “The crazy thing is, the show has been buried and forgotten in America, while in Britain it is still revered."
I believe that The Phil Silvers Show deserves to be back on our television screens. Come with me in requesting the return of the entire series of The Phil Silvers Show, shown from start to finish, to primetime television!