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CPOSharkeycoverGrade: B/B-
Entire family: No
1976-77, 374 min. (15 episodes), Color
Not rated (would be PG-13 for rude/racial humor)
Time Life
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Bonus features: B+
Amazon link

Stand-up comedian Don Rickles made a career out of insult humor and politically incorrect jokes aimed at all races. So what better sitcom for him to star in than one that has him playing a Chief Petty Officer at a U.S. Naval training facility in San Diego, where he gets to go off on recruits—especially when those recruits include a Polish American, a Jewish American, an Italian American, and a Puerto Rican?

Call it Sgt. Bilko revisited, because Rickles is surprisingly good at playing a tough, acerbic CPO with a warm heart. The show lasted only two seasons, but it’s not because the sitcom isn’t funny or because the cast isn’t likeable. My guess is that it was another case of bad timing. The public already had one sitcom with politically incorrect humor, and did America really want or need another Archie Bunker?

That’s not fair, though, because Bunker was racist without knowing or admitting it. He tolerated black neighbors but wasn’t really friends with them. Sharkey is best buddies with fellow CPO Dave Robinson (Harrison Page), an African American with whom he feels comfortable enough to make racial jokes. Notice I said “racial,” not “racist.” There’s a difference, and in today’s hyper-politically correct world that difference isn’t acknowledged—hence the warning on the back of this DVD: “Some of the jokes and ethnic references heard in these episodes would most likely not be allowed on network TV today and reflect the tenor of the times.” Because of that racial humor, CPO Sharkey will only be for families with children old enough to realize that such jokes can’t be made today, no matter how fond you are of a person.   More

Don Rickles sitcom C.P.O. SHARKEY debuts on DVD May 19

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CPO SharkeyThe ’70s sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey, starring acerbic comedian Don Rickles, comes to DVD for the first time on May 19 when Time Life releases The Complete First Season.

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.

SharkeyscreenFifteen 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.