Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Garrison's Gorillas

I've probably mentioned before that I was a big fan of the TV series COMBAT!  That, along with numerous issues of comic books such as OUR ARMY AT WAR (with Sgt. Rock) and OUR FIGHTING FORCES (with Gunner and Sarge) made me a fan of World War II fiction.  So it's not surprising that I was a faithful viewer of GARRISON'S GORILLAS, a 1967–'68 World War II TV series that was a spin-off from COMBAT!, as well as being heavily influenced by the success of the novel and film versions of THE DIRTY DOZEN.

It uses the same basic set-up of a group of convicts being recruited for highly dangerous commando missions behind the lines, although there's only four of them instead of a dozen.  And they're led by the usual stalwart American officer, in this case Lt. Craig Garrison, played by Ron Harper.  The four convicts, who are known by their nicknames, are Actor (Cesare Danova, who usually played gangsters), Goniff (Christopher Cary), Casino (Rudy Solari), and Chief (Brendon Boone).  I remember Danova and vaguely remember Ron Harper, but the others not at all.

I liked the show well enough that I bought and read the tie-in novel, which was written by Jack Pearl.  I don't remember anything about it except that I read it while I was a freshman in high school.  In addition, there was a juvenile tie-in novel, GARRISON'S GORILLAS AND THE FEAR FORMULA, published by Whitman and also written by Jack Pearl.  I never read the Whitman book and don't recall ever seeing it, or I probably would have.  It shows you how much things have changed in the tie-in market when a fairly unsuccessful series that lasted only a year could spawn two novels back in those days.

I was surprised to see that quite a few episodes of GARRISON'S GORILLAS are available to watch on YouTube.  I don't think it's ever been released on DVD.  It must have been at least somewhat enjoyable to me, because I think I watched the entire season when it was new, but I didn't like it as much as COMBAT!  I haven't tried watching any of the episodes again to see how they hold up.  I ought to do that.


Anonymous said...

One of Danova's more memorable later roles was as sleazy Mayor Carmine DePasto in ANIMAL HOUSE.

"I don't need to drunken riots in my town!"

He died in 1992.

Jeff M.

Randy Johnson said...

I have that Whitman, but never heard of the other book.

I too sometimes hesitate to watch old shows for fear my pleasant memories from my youth might change.

pattinase (abbott) said...

These were the shows my brother liked as I tried to wrestle the TV away from him for THAT GIRL

Todd Mason said...

And, as you no doubt know professionally, James, it's better to take the chance you've got a hit on your hands (if you're Dell or Whitman) than to have to negotiate for more money later on (for the studio, though not usually for the tie-in writer)...even a few appearances of a series (and few were cancelled in less than 13 episodes through the '60s) meant a built-in audience difficult for most other paperbacks to challenge.

James Reasoner said...

I had forgotten that Danova was in ANIMAL HOUSE.

I watched THAT GIRL, too. I'd watch anything done by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. Even then I was already paying attention to the writers.

Yes, it's true that nearly every show got at least half a season back in those days, and most got a full year, so if you timed your paperback tie-in release to hit early in a show's run you were assured of some audience. Now a series has to be a success for several years before a publisher will take a chance on licensing the property.

Charles Gramlich said...

I remember Combat very fondly. Used to play my own version around the farm. I also remember a great book I read about Merrill's Marauders. Garrison's Gorillas may have been taken from that name, I'd guess.

Todd Mason said...

Indeed...my entire comment should've been in the past tense. A market much emaciated by the early '80s...

Cap'n Bob said...

I was watching COMBAT one evening when a friend dropped by. Since he'd gone off to join the Air Force two weeks earlier I was surprised to see him. He explained the AF wouldn't take him and he planned to join the Army instead, and would I care to go along. Filled with the visions of Sgt. Saunders, Little John, Caje, and Doc, I said sure. And that's why I went into the goddamn Army.
I think there was a GG playset. I didn't see the show because I was in the Army when it was aired.

Walker Martin said...

Cap'n Bob mentioned the "goddamn army" and it sure was. Later, when I was an office manager, some women employees would tell me about hoping the army would make a man out of their son. I always responded the army will teach them to curse, drink, and hang out with loose women, not to mention maybe getting their ass shot off. I didn't even bring up the drug problem.

But this was back in the late 1960's. I'm sure the army is completely different now(:

RJR said...

A WWII series I liked at that time was Jericho, with Don Francks. Lasted 16 episodes. Francks later played a recurring role on La Femme Nakita.


James Reasoner said...

I've heard of JERICHO, but I don't recall ever watching it. It must have been on against something else that I liked.

Creature said...

Hello James:
I'll have to check it out. I've heard of the show but don't remember having seen it. I do, however, remember watching many episodes of "Combat!"
I to liked War comics and bought "Sgt. Rock," "G. I. Combat," and "Weird War Tales" (who can forget "The Creature Commandos?!?). I also bought Marvel's "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos" and "Capt. Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders."
My favorite, however, was Star Spangled War Stories with the War That Time Forgot, Enemy Ace, and the Unknown Soldier. I recently lucked into some old Sgt Fury's (about five of them)and some Unknown Soldiers (about ten of them0. I snatched them up and added them to my collection.
Have a Great Day!!!
John (aka, The "Creature")

Anonymous said...

Mr. Danova also did a Charlie's Angels. Brendan Boone did an episode of Gunsmoke. I did not like Dirty Dozen at all. The tie-in from that and broadcasting G G in the "family " time slot is what killed G G. Sad fact. I loved Rudi Solari in Wackiest Ship in the Army so I watched the first episode and got hooked.! It is a shame that the show only lasted one year. It has been out on Video and I have it on DVD. It holds up well.