TV Guide, as if that’s ever been a magazine you should be proud to read, came out a few years ago and named Hogan’s Heroes the second worst television show in the history of the medium. Really? Are we that politically correct now? Do people really think this show is in such bad taste that it spirals ahead of Mama’s Family and Small Wonder on the dreck landscape?
Let’s get one piece of nonsense out of the way quickly. It did not take place in a concentration camp. It took place in a World War II Prisoner of War Camp.
Now, as a young Jewish boy (not that this really affected how I viewed the show much) I loved Hogan’s Heroes. I used to literally sing out the cast member’s names as they came on the screen. Remember LeBeau sneaking out of that Doberman’s dog house! OK, I had issues, but who doesn’t?
Watch it again sometime. The show was funny, clever, and almost unique among sitcoms in its addition of fairly exciting action. Yeah, they blew a lot of stuff up!
Bob Crane, if you can forget the ugliness of Paul Schrader’s overly dark and inaccurate Autofocus, was a tremendously charismatic leading man. Col. Robert Hogan was heroic, smart, empathetic, brave, suave, and funny. Cool under fire, he was a great personification of the truly unique American character.
Hogan’s company additionally showed amazing cooperation between men of both different nationalities and different races. Show me another sitcom in the '60s to have a major Black character in its cast. In fact, as a character Ivan Dixon’s Kinch was treated with dignity and respect at all times. He was seen as an intelligent, brave equal in 1965.
Of course, the real question at hand is the following: Is there anything funny about the Nazis or the Holocaust? I went to a Jewish Sunday School until I was 17 (truth be told I was late a lot) and I basically learned 1000 times as much about the Holocaust as I did about the Jewish religion. I’m not really sure if I’m supposed to believe that a messiah is still coming, but I can tell you all about Kristallnacht.
One day Robert Clary, who played the short Frenchman, LeBeau, came to talk to one of our classes. Clary was actually a survivor of a concentration camp and lost most of his 13 siblings to the Holocaust. Somewhat buying the hype at that point, I almost asked Clary how he could do Hogan’s Heroes after being in a concentration camp, but decided that the question would be too rude. If I had the chance again, I’d tell him how much I loved the show and ask him to discuss the misguided criticism of it.