Synopsis of TV Show
“The end of the Civ-il War was near when quite ac-ci-den-tal-ly,
A he-ro who sneezed ab-rupt-ly seized retreat and re-versed it to vic-to-ry,
His med-al of hon-or pleased and thrilled his proud lit-tle fam'ly group,
While pin-ning it on some blood was spilled and so it was planned he'd com-mand,
Westerns had been popular on television since the early ‘50’s but they didn’t get their own parody until 1965. It arrived in the form of F Troop, and it was worth the wait. Wacky and often surreal, it paved the way for later ‘anything goes’ genre satires like Police Squad! and Sledge Hammer!
F Troop’s setting was Fort Courage, a military installation near the Missouri River. The show’s events took place shortly after the Civil War and focused on Captain Wilton Parmenter, an officer who won the command of the post after accidentally winning a battle for the Union (his sneeze was misconstrued by the men around him as a call to charge forwards).
The honest but inept Parmenter found himself in a strange situation where bumblers and con artists coexisted on both sides in peaceful harmony. Sergeant O’Rourke was a schemer who had secretly negotiated a treaty with the Hekawi tribe that included an ‘exclusive license’ to sell Hekawi souvenirs. Corporal Agarn was O’Rourke’s loyal but dim assistant, and Corporal Vanderbilt was the lookout who happened to have lousy eyesight. Wrangler Jane was the cowgirl who ran the General Store and dreamed of marrying Parmenter.
In addition to the Hekawi, there was a non-peaceful Indian tribe known as the Shugs, who frequently made trouble for the soldiers at Fort Courage. The most notable of these war-making Native Americans was Chief Wild Eagle, but several famous comedians made guest appearances: Milton Berle played Wise Owl, Don Rickles played Bald Eagle, and Phil Harris played Flaming Arrow. Comedians also showed up in cameo roles on the Cavalry side: Henry Gibson played Wrongo Starr and Paul Lynde played singing Mountie (!) Sgt. Ramsden.
F Troop’s storylines not only lampooned Western genre conventions, but took on other genres as well: horror films were satirized in ‘V Is For Vampire,’ an episode with guest star Vincent Price, and ‘Spy Counterspy, Counter Counterspy’ parodied James Bond films via a character know as ‘Agent B. Wise.’ Even rock and roll itself was sent up in an episode called ‘That’s Showbiz,’ in which Corporal Agarn temporarily quit the Army to manage a band called ‘The Bedbugs.’ The constant mixing of genres and incorporation of anachronisms (i.e. ‘That’s Showbiz’ had the Bedbugs playing electric guitars in the pre-electricity Old South) gave the show a surreal quality that kept the viewer off-balance and feeling like anything could happen at any time.
However, the storylines were kept grounded by the unique characters and their many running gags. For instance, whenever Wrangler Jane would come on to Parmenter, he always said "Please, Jane, not in front of the men." Whenever any character gave directions to Fort Courage, the directions inevitably began with the line "Make a left at the rock that looks like a bear, then a right at the bear that looks like a rock." The most beloved running joke among the show’s fans came when O’Rourke would say to Agarn "I don’t know why everybody says you’re so dumb": after several minutes, Agarn would inevitably ask "Who says I’m dumb?" in an unrelated moment.
F Troop was a relatively short-lived show, ending its run in August of 1967 after two seasons on ABC. However, it quickly became a much-loved cult favorite in syndication. The warped style and the sheer ambition it drew upon to get its laughs insure that F Troop will be remembered as one of television’s most unusual and innovative sitcoms.
Release History of Prime Time Show9/14/65 - 8/31/67 ABC
TV Sub Categoriescomedy
Television StudioWarner Bros TV
TV CastCapt. Wilton Parmenter Ken Berry
Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke Forrest Tucker
Cpl. Randolph Agarn Larry Storch
Wrangler Jane Melody Patterson
Chief Wild Eagle Frank DeKova
Crazy Cat Don Diamond
Hannibal Dobbs James Hampton
Trooper Duffy Bob Steele
Trooper Vanderbilt Joe Brooks