CPO Sharkey – Season 1

| May 15, 2015

While I tend to watch newer TV shows or go back and watch stuff from within my lifespan, it is interesting to occasionally go back further and watch TV from an antiquated era.  I enjoy seeing how the world was different even if the world in question is being distorted by situational comedy.  Oddly, I’d never even heard of CPO Sharkey, which tells the story of its titular character (played by legendary comedian Don Rickles) and his misadventures in the U.S. Navy.  Sharkey’s principal purpose is training new recruits, whipping them into shape so they can be effective naval personnel.

Now, a series like this could never be made today.  Too much of the humor centers around racial and gender-based stereotypes, so it’s difficult to see how it would really find an audience that wasn’t offended by it.  I wasn’t offended, but there were definitely some jokes that I was shocked by.  Actually, I found the series to be well ahead of its time in that it presents women and people of color in a way that allows them to stand up for themselves and teach Sharkey that he’s mistaken about certain ingrained beliefs.  The back of the DVD even contains a warning about the series’ colorful subject matter saying, “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.”

The opening credits of CPO Sharkey show Sharkey strutting around a large ship of some kind, and I was prepared to be really impressed with what the show was undertaking by actually being set on an active naval vessel.  I was slightly disappointed then to find out that the majority of the series takes place in the barracks where all the recruits live, or in the office of Sharkey’s commanding officer Captain Quinlan (Elizabeth Allen).  Again, I’m used to modern television which has more of a budget and emphasis on production quality so they’re not as restricted concerning setting.

Another thing I found really interesting about the series, particularly the first episode, was its role as thinly veiled propaganda for the Navy.  The entire first scene does little more than provide exposition about Sharkey and how much he loves the Navy, and about the benefits of enlisting, and even how the Navy is better than having a wife and family.  It was pretty funny, but I don’t think it was intended that way.

All 15 episodes of season 1 are assembled in this set along with a bonus clip of Johnny Carson surprising Don Rickles on set.  Available on DVD from Time Life on May 19.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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