Friday, March 4, 2016

What Might've Been: No Time For Sergeants (1964)

Mac Hyman's book, No Time For Sergeants, released in 1954, had been adapted for television for The United States Steel Hour, for Broadway, and for a feature film, all starring Andy Griffith. What Warner Bros. sought to do by putting Sergeants back on television, 10 years after the book's initial release, was take dead aim at the audience who'd tuned to Andy's self-titled CBS sitcom. Even Will Stockdale would have told the studio brass that this move didn't make the least bit of sense.

Sammy Jackson, who had a small role in the movie, meriting one line, earned a promotion of sorts by being cast as Stockdale in the series version, which was being co-produced by WB with George Burns' production company. Burns was starring in another ABC series, Wendy & Me, with Connie Stevens, at the same time, so the two were coupled together on Mondays opposite Griffith. Ballgame over. No Time For Sergeants lasted one season, as viewers undoubtedly saw Jackson as a poor man's Griffith filling the big shoes.

Where ABC went wrong was putting Sergeants on Mondays when it could've been coupled with the network's other service comedy, McHale's Navy, which was entering its 3rd season. However, there must've been some sort of arrangement between Burns, ABC, & WB to enable this scheduling blunder.

Edit, 4/3/18: I had to change the video to a different sample episode, one prominently featuring comedy legend Andy Clyde:

Associate producer William P. D'Angelo later was a writer-producer on The Love Boat after a run of producing shows for children for NBC in the 70's. While Sergeants, set on an Air Force base, could've also stood to be coupled with the Quinn Martin drama 12 0'Clock High, Warner Bros. tried again with a service comedy the next year, going further back in time to the post-Civil War years. Yep, I refer to F-Troop, which essentially replaced Sergeants on the ABC schedule and lasted two years.

No rating.


Hal Horn said...

Weird coincidence involving NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS and F TROOP. The two shows had the exact same ranking in the season ending Nielsens for the three seasons covering 1964-67.

NO TIME was the highest ranked cancellation of the 1964-65 season, ranking 40th with a 29.5 share. Up against ANDY GRIFFITH, that was very respectable, and NO TIME in fact was expected to be renewed for 1965-66 but ended up being a surprise cancellation. It was second in the time slot.

F TROOP was in the top 30 for much of that next season despite competition from RED SKELTON, ending up 40th out of 119 shows just like NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS had the year before, but with a much better "share", of 31.0. In its second season, F TROOP maintained the same ranking, 40th out of 113 shows. The share improved to a 31.3 on Thursday nights, but F TROOP was a surprise cancellation. Not because of ABC, but rather Warner Brothers pulled the plug due to "high production costs", per William T. Orr.

Sammy Jackson got the role in part based on his performance in the MAVERICK episode "Trooper Maverick" for Warners in 1959.

hobbyfan said...

Wait a sec, Hal.

Orr, I thought, was gone by season 2 of F-Troop, as Hy Averback replaced him as executive producer, and Orr's name was no longer in the credits. Funny how it took Jackson 5 years after his Maverick appearance to land the starring role in "Sergeants", though.

Hal Horn said...

You are correct: Orr was indeed gone before F TROOP's second season, but was interviewed for the oral history book "The Box" and mentioned that Benny Kalmenson (the same man who had Orr demoted during the 1965-66 season) had F TROOP killed because it was $3,000 over budget for the 1966-67 season.

Granted, there might have been some sour grapes on Orr's part contributing to this observation, but it does seem clear in hindsight that Kalmenson was no fan of TV and was doing everything he could to let the studio's TV department wither and die before the Seven Arts merger in 1967. THE F.B.I. only survived because it was a joint production with Quinn Martin.

I covered the sad saga in more detail at my blog here:

Jackson had heard that Warner Brothers was going to make NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS into a series and wrote to Jack Warner to ask for an audition, and referred Warner to the MAVERICK episode from several years earlier, in which he had played a go-getter Army private opposite Jack Kelly's Bart. It worked; it got Jackson the audition, and eventually the part.

Hal Horn said...

Source for the Sammy Jackson story is the April 4, 1964 Hedda Hopper column:

Jackson also repeated the story to Richard Lamparski for an edition of "Whatever Became Of...", the sixth edition if memory serves.

hobbyfan said...

I'll have to look into all that when I visit The Horn Section next time, Hal.