Rickles, a stand-up comic nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” because of his politically incorrect insult humor, plays U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, a sharp-tongued veteran in charge of a company of new seaman recruits on a San Diego naval base. C.P.O. Sharkey was a satirical look at Navy life and the perfect vehicle for the abrasive Rickles, who served in the Navy during WWII. The cast of “recruits” includes an African American (Jeff Hollis), a Jew (David Landsberg), an Italian American (Barry Pearl), a Puerto Rican (Richard Beauchamp), and a Pole (Tom Ruben). Though the men of Company 144 were bunglers and blockheads, they were his bunglers and blockheads, and if you looked past the insults Sharkey was a softie who’d do anything for his men.
Fifteen Season 1 episodes are included, and this season Sharkey quells a boot camp mutiny, serves as marriage counselor for a disruptive new recruit, and goes to Tijuana to bail out his guys (who were thrown in jail for cheering the bull at a bullfight). Total runtime is 374 minutes and the DVD has an SRP of $29.99—though it’s currently selling at Amazon for $26.98.
Will Rickles humor work for a new generation? That’s hard to say. The series only ran for two seasons, but it was written and produced by Aaron Ruben, who had previously worked on The Andy Griffith Show, Sanford and Son, and Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C. Could it have been a case of bad timing? Possibly. America’s involvement in the Vietnam War had ended just three years before Season 1 of C.P.O. Sharkey debuted on NBC. Maybe the public had had enough of all things military.
Aside from the uncut episodes, the DVD will include a special bonus feature: a legendary ’70s clip from The Tonight Show featuring Johnny Carson storming the C.P.O. Sharkey set during filming, in retaliation for Rickles accidentally breaking Carson’s cigarette box while a guest on the show several days earlier.