Hogan's Heroes


Hogan's Heroes
Set in a prisoner of war camp during World War II, Hogan's Heroes is lightly based on the play/film, "Stalag 17." Hogan's Heroes focuses on the exploits of five main prisoners of war (Hogan, LeBeau, Newkirk, Carter & Kinchloe (replaced by Baker in the last season) who while "under the cover" of being typical prisoners of war are really secretly doing their utmost to sabotage the German war effort through whatever means necessary. They communicate regularly with the outside (Allied HQ, underground movement); easily move throughout the camp and outside to town by using one of their numerous tunnels and; have all the munitions and uniforms to do pretty much as they please. While the enemy is often gullible, easily fooled or downright incompetent – the real strength of Hogan's men are the elaborate ruses and sometimes dangerous lengths they will go to – to complete their mission. These missions included "regular" assignments such as sabotage, helping prisoners escape and aiding the underground opposition (against the Germans). The more elaborate tasks include immobilizing battalions, confusing the German general staff, kidnapping important scientists and so forth. And in fulfilling the gullible and easily fooled roles of Stalag 13 are the head Sergeant (Schultz) and the camp Commandant (Klink). Hogan's Heroes is one of the few comedies where the lead characters are actually called upon to perform soldier duties in a hostile and war environment – where they must kill or maim (as it's a 60s series, it mostly takes place off-screen or is bloodless) but it is still quite an accomplishment to mix laughter with real war situations. For those who only know the show peripherally, it is dismissed as in poor taste because of the horrors of WWII but this show takes place in a Prisoner-of-War camp run by the Luftwaffe (The German version of the Air Corp (a.k.a. today's Air Force)) and not the SS or Gestapo. And while obviously being in a POW camp is no picnic, the exploits of Hogan's Heroes were often based on real POW stories from WWII. Without going into great detail, Hogan's Heroes is really just a lighter, more sitcomy version of two highly acclaimed films, "Stalag 17," and "The Great Escape." Apparently some light-hearted WWII humor is acceptable to these same critics who dismiss Hogan's Heroes . And what is to like about Hogan's Heroes ? It is really a "caper" show. Instead of watching a group of mastermind criminals plot the perfect crime, here we get a 30-minute caper each week of most of the allies of WWII working together and right under the noses of the German's to cause mischief, havoc and serve your country. Who wouldn't want to be part of that? Another reason to watch? The diverse acting abilities of the lead actors! Nearly every week, each of the main actor is called upon to wear a disguise, sing or generally become at least one other character: mild mannered Carter transforms instantly to a raving Hitler; LeBeau becomes a gypsy; Kinchloe becomes an African prince; Newkirk is an old woman and; Hogan – well, he gets to kiss somebody new every week. And in addition to the brilliant and perfect comic timing of John Banner as Schultz and Werner Klemperer as the vainglorious Klink – the guest stars each week bring well-honed skills in pratfalls and comedy including long-serving characters: Leon Askin as General Burkhalter (63 appearances); Howard Caine as Gestapo Officer Major Hochstetter (37 appearances plus two previous appearances as different characters); as well as eight appearances by Bernard Fox as British Colonel Crittendon. Need another reason to watch – even a noble reason? It was really one of the most progressive shows of the 1960s, especially for a comedy. Kinchloe/Baker was not just a token African-American character standing in the background. As someone who has seen every episode (probably at least 5 times), Kinchloe/Baker was always considered an equal. If they had to vote, his vote counted as much as anyone's. When Hogan had a real difficult situation, he almost always turned to Kinchloe first to see what he had to say. Kinchloe could fix most equipment and he was never asked to do anything that others would not do and most amazingly, Kinchloe got a lead in one or two episodes a year. 35+ years later, that may not seem like much but did a black person even visit Mayberry or any of the CBS rural comedies? And, yet, the show that critics dismiss as in poor taste - on the same network - here was a show that had a couple episodes a year where it centered around an African American POW! Hogan's Heroes might be the most under-rated sitcom of all time – it's everything listed above and funny. It's a caper show with vaudeville, acting, explosions, babes, scams, action-packed, and pratfalls all wrapped up in perfect comic timing. What more could you ask for?

Genre: Comedy

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