Pop Culture

Celebrating Beloved Bilko's Shenanigans

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Actor Phil Silvers in 1958, dressed for his role as television's Sergeant Bilko.

Actor Phil Silvers in 1958, as television's crafty but lovable Sergeant Bilko. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Fifty years ago, American television viewers fell in love with Sergeant Bilko, a sneaky character who cheated his fellow noncommissioned officers, roiled the brass and conned his underlings at Fort Baxter in Kansas.

The Phil Silvers Show — originally titled You'll Never Get Rich but commonly referred to as "Sergeant Bilko" — ran on CBS from 1955 to 1959. Its star was Silvers, a middle-aged, balding, loud comedian with thick glasses.

The show won Emmy Awards for best comedy series, best actor, best comedian, best comedy writing and best director in 1956.

Paul Brownstein has produced a 3-DVD collection of The Phil Silvers Show that is being released this week. He talks to Robert Siegel about the conniving but beloved character and the show, which is remembered still for the quality of its writing and acting.

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