Written by Hombre Divertido
Whether it was because CBS was canceling all its rural comedies, or because the simple fish-out-of-water premise that served as the basis for Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. had run its course, the fifth season was the last for this classic series. All 30 episodes of the final season, which ran until September 1970, are available on a four-disc set. Though the episodes look and sound great, and the chemistry between Gomer (Jim Nabors) and Sgt.Vince Carter (Frank Sutton) still plays well, some of the stories are tired and appear to be retreads of previous efforts.
There are some wonderful guest appearances by Carol Burnett, Rob Reiner, and Ellen Corby in this season, but considering that our stars took a trip to Hollywood, which was a very common practice for sit-coms of that era, we certainly should have expected some cameos. Unfortunately there is little star-power in the four-part trip to Hollywood. It’s fun to spot a young Jamie Farr and Barry Williams, and the legendary George Fenneman and Sheldon Leonard, but considering that our Marines were in Hollywood to shoot a movie and most of the four episodes took place at a movie studio, one would certainly be justified in asking where all the stars were.
The fifth season also marks the return of Ronnie Schell as Duke Slater. Duke, who had formerly been a member of the platoon and a good friend of Gomer’s, returns as the company’s new corporal. Though the return of Schell certainly added energy to the show, the lack of growth in our characters was showing by the fifth season and it ended with little fanfare. A thirty-minute episode with a few flashbacks, serves as the ending of the series, but more importantly shows us the Sergeant Carter does indeed care about Gomer, as he arranges to keep him right where he is. Though heartfelt, the writers might have been better suited to promote Gomer long before the end of the series, than to leave him where he was. There were no longer any regulars amongst the platoon for Gomer to play off of as there had been in pervious years, and thus the stories had to rest solely on the shoulders of our two stars. As talented as they were, some growth would have helped.
Allan Melvin made regular appearances as Sergeant Hacker, and though his character will always be appreciated, it forced the stories to be more about his competition with Sergeant Carter, and how Gomer was the pawn, rather than Gomer being at the forefront of the stories.
Sure, this was a show with a simple premise, but five seasons and 150 episodes is an accomplishment for any show. Casting was the key to the success here. Though the loss of Gomer to The Andy Griffith Show was certainly felt, both faired well after the departure.
Recommendation: Perhaps not the best season of the series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. – The Final Season is certainly still worth owning. Nabors and Sutton continue to give a lesson in comedic teaming and timing that makes the show worth watching for comedy fans of all ages. Some bonus material certainly would have made this set more attractive, but it remains a solid addition to any collection.