The show has had possibly the greatest influence in the world of the comedy sitcom. Indeed, Sergeant Bilko seems to have spawned quite a few imitations of himself over the years; Del Trotter and Arthur Daley to name but two. The scripts were incredible, and probably twice the length of any other American half-hour sitcom, so densely packed were the words and ideas. The writers of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm have obviously taken note of the quality. In Britain, only Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses could rival the clever, intricate writing. Indeed, the scripts for Only Fools and Horses got so big that eventually even the mighty British Broadcasting Corporation had to concede defeat and make it a fifty minute comedy instead of a thirty minute one.........Great comedy scriptwriters were obviously influenced by the Bilko show, below are just a few examples that I have noticed over the years.
Jimmy Perry and David Croft on their Dads Army show entitled Shooting Pains (1968)
Circus performer, Laura La Plaz, is persuaded by Spiv, Joe Walker, to shoot for the platoon on the rifle range. (Played by Barbara Windsor). In the show called Bilko's Sharpshooter - Crackshot, Polly Porter, is recruited by Ernie Bilko to fire for him on the rifle range......
Jimmy Perry and David Croft on their Dads Army show entitled The Face on the Poster (1975)
The face of Corporal Jones is picked to represent the platoon on a poster for a recruitment drive. But a print shop mix-up lands the unit in trouble. In the show called The Face on the Recruiting Poster - After a testiing calamity, Duane Doberman is accidently picked to be the face of the US Army.
Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais on their Porridge show entitled Men Without Women (1974)
Norman Stanley Fletcher is given to writing love letters for the inmates of Slade prison. Here he is penning the same letter for four different people for a snout a go! In the show called Bilko's Prize Poodle - Ernie writes love letters for members of the platoon. In this scene he pens one for Mullen for $1!
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson on their Steptoe and Son show entitled Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard (1974)
Clairvoyant Madame Fontana (Patricia Routledge) at Albert's request holds a seance at the Steptoes. Her aim is to fleece the pair of course! In the show called Bilko and the Medium - Rupert and Emma Ritzik go to visit the medium, Madame Zaboda. Who just happens to be a money grabber.
John Sullivan on his Only Fools and Horses show entitled The Lucky Winner is..... (1989)
Del is going through a stage of entering competitions when he suddenly wins a painting competition in Rodneys name, a trip for three to Spain. Rodney and Cassandra are well impressed until the truth comes out when they land at the Spanish airport. The holiday is for two parents and a fourteen year old boy! In the show called Bilko's Honeymoon - Dino Paparelli has a huge appetite for entering competitions. He then wins a trip to Florida in a top hotel all expenses paid. The catch is that the prize is for a married couple! Ernie Bilko has a brainwave and decides to go, with Dinah Paparelli (Dino in drag) as his wife!
Some other Fools shows have also been influenced by Bilko. The ending of the show Healthy Competition is basically the same as the Bilko show called Empty Store - except instead of buying a load more empty stores, like Rocco Barbella did, Rodney Trotter buys a load more broken lawn mower engines!
The show called Miami Twice resembles Bilko's Double Life - Del Boy Trotter goes away to America and gets mistaken for his Doppelgänger, Mafia boss Vincenzo Ochetti. Whereas Ernie goes away, to New York and is mistaken for the millionaire, Herbert Penfield III. Both men fill the roles of their double, initially without knowing they are doing so.
In the classic BBC show called The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin, there is a character called CJ who regularly blurts out the catchphrase "I didn't get where I am today..." - Yet this phrase was first mentioned by a character in the Bilko show. 'Meathead' Morgan, a World War II comrade of Ernie's, says it in the episode callled Reunion - Some twenty years before CJ, uttered his immortal lines.
Jimmy Perry, David Croft, Dick Clement, Ian Le Frenais, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson, John Sullivan and David Nobbs are perhaps Britain's best ever scriptwriters. Over the years, they have produced some of the best comedy on television. I like to think they were all inspired by the Phil Silvers Show and I cannot fault them!
NB: No copyright is inferred as it was all done by, as Bilko would say, 'Osmosis'.