Entertainment

'F Troop': ABC's Short-Lived, 1860s-Era Western Comedy

Actor Larry Storch blows up a comic storm in character on July 1, 1965, during an episode of ìF Troop,î making its TV debut in September on ABC-TV. Storch plays the part of Corporal Randolph Agarn in the new weekly series dealing with the addled adventures of a comic cavalry troop on the Western frontier. (AP Photo)

Though ABC aired just 65 episodes of F Troop across two seasons (September 14, 1965 -April 6, 1967), the sitcom send-up of the old cowboys and Indians trope is one of those retro TV shows that's seemingly always part of some cable network's rerun rotation.

Across two seasons (the first season in black and white and the second season in color), viewers get to know the comedic cowards of Fort Courage: Captain Wilton Parmenter (Mayberry RFD and Mama's Family star Ken Berry), Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke (veteran actor Forrest Tucker), Corporal Randolph Agarn (the show's true comedic star, Larry Storch) and Parmenter's love interest, Wrangler Jane Angelica Thrift (Melody Patterson).

Patterson and her mother lied about the future Wrangler Jane's age to land the role. Patterson was 15 at the time of her audition, 16 when filming began for season one and just 10 days shy of turning 18 when the last episode aired.

Bugler Private Hannibal Shirley Dobbs (James Hampton), Trooper Vanderbilt (Joe Brooks) and Trooper Duffy (Bob Steele) round out woebegone regulars from a U.S. Army outpost that, as composers Irving Taylor and William Lava's theme song lays out, is set out West near the end of the Civil War.

The Hekawi Indian tribe, led by Chief Wild Eagle (Italian character actor Frank de Kova) and Crazy Cat (first generation Russian-American Don Diamond) are just as clueless in a Wild West comedy often built around Sergeant O'Rourke and his sidekick Corporal Agarn's get-rich-quick schemes as O'Rourke Enterprises. Native Americans played by white actors comes across horribly in the 21st century, but keep in mind that it was an old Hollywood practice, not something started by a short-lived tv series (which doesn't get the show off the hook for not doing its part to end such an ugly trend).

Read More: Love 'It's A Wonderful Life'? Visit the New York Town That's Known as the Real Bedford Falls

Characters such as Roaring Chicken and a soldier named Wrongo Starr make up a military comedy that's basically a period piece equivalent of contemporary comedy series McHale's Navy and Gomer Pyle USMC.

Standout episodes include "V is For Vampire," which co-starred horror film icon Vincent Price. In an even neater piece of trivia, Little Feat member Lowell George also appears in the series, with his prior band The Factory performing as fictitious group the Bedbugs.

Despite decent ratings, the show got cancelled, with the common theory being that Warner Bros.' new owners didn't want to devote so much time and space on Warner Ranch to a half-hour comedy.

Now Watch: Stroll Through the Real Mayberry from 'The Andy Griffith Show'

recommended for you

'F Troop': ABC's Short-Lived, 1860s-Era Western Comedy