It was the final hours of the Civil War, and incompetent Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry) gave off a sneeze and sent his men in the wrong direction. By sheer luck the enemy was there and forced to retreat, making Parmenter a hero of sorts. His reward was to be placed in command of the frontier outpost Fort Courage. And that’s the set-up for F Troop. In the first season this story was told in the opening credits, but these were cut short for season two and beyond. Westerns have not traditionally been good fodder for co…edy. F Troop is the exception. But what made F Troop funny had little to do with the setting. What gave F Troop is long standing following was the cast of characters and the actors who brilliantly portrayed them. Ken Berry had a natural wit about him that brought him long success even after F Troop. He is most likely better known today for his stint in Mama’s Family. He was originally a dancer, which gave him an uncommon grace in the physical comedy that was so much a mainstay of F Troop. When you think of Forrest Tucker, you don’t necessarily think of comedy. With his run on Gunsmoke, Tucker was best known for his tough guy roles. His intimidating stature made him a natural, and he appeared on such favorites as Wagon Train and Daniel Boone. Still, to many fans he will always be the rough and tumble Sergeant O’Rourke on F Troop. His boisterous voice was instantly recognizable to the show’s legion of fans. The trio of stars is completed with Larry Storch as the naïve Corporal Agarn. The natural chemistry between these three accounted for the vast majority of the show’s success. Let’s face it the writing here was 1940’s vaudeville slapstick translated for television audiences 20 years later.
F Troop has had its fair share of controversy over the years. Fortunately the 1960’s public was not so sensitive to stereotypes, or the show might never have been made. Much has been made of the show’s portrayal of the American Indians, of course today more politically correctly referred to as Native Americans. The characters were bumbling savages with the combined intellect of an insect. One might take offense if not that the American soldiers stationed at Fort Courage were portrayed in exactly the same way. This was never anything more than mindless comedy intended to elicit a laugh or two or thirty. That it did.
Each F Troop episode is presented in its original television full frame format. This is a 40 year old television show, so your expectations need to be somewhat realistic here. With that said, I was impressed with how well the colors held up. The abundant primary colors of the series shine through what is a bit faded and soft in general. The yellows and reds come through far better than we have any right to expect. Certainly the episodes show some inconsistency throughout, and there are quite a few print defects. Black levels are still average with contrast varying to a great degree. Most people don’t retain as much in the visual department after 40 plus years.
We’re talking bare bones Dolby Digital mono here. There’s some harshness to louder tones, particularly the common bugle calls. Mob scenes also get quite broken up in the higher registers. Dialogue’s there, so what are you complaining about?
There is a short retrospective hosted by a Bill Tailman who was the executive director of the Bob Hope USO tour. He mostly sits in front of some AVID screens and reads obviously from a prepared script. We hear also from a few servicemen who talk about the show’s popularity in the service at that time. Ken Berry is the only principal living by the time it was made, so he is the only actor from the show to be seen.
I don’t think F Troop will appeal very much to the people who are too young to have seen the show originally. I was introduced to it through its early 70’s syndication run. It really is quite dated and likely will only be appreciated enough to purchase these sets by the nostalgic crowd. “I don’t know what this younger generation is coming to.”
Special Features List
- Fall In With F Troop