Neil Simon robbed Sgt. Bilko

"Weekend Colonel"

April 20, 2011

Dear Mr. Simon:

I'm writing to protest your 1959 script for the series finale of The Phil Silvers Show, "Weekend Colonel."  You and credited co-author Terry Ryan really cheated Sgt. Bilko, and I must object.  I know it's been over 50 years, but I was not yet born when this injustice against my future hero was perpetrated.

Now the main point of the denouement was excellent and perfect.  After some 145 episodes of fast talking chicanery and brazen disregard for The Law, it was a great move to end up with Bilko in jail.  It was a good logical conclusion that eventually his scheming would get him busted.  I particularly appreciate the freakiness of ending your sitcom with the protagonist in jail for who knows how long.

I do wish that you had been more specific about what Bilko and the boys were facing.  Was Col Hall really going to have them prosecuted and sent to prison for decades, like he theoretically could?  Watching them in jail on closed circuit TV, Col Hall says something like "As long as I'm the sponsor, they'll never be cancelled."  But how long would he really care to sponsor this show?  The thought of poor Bilko rotting in prison bothers me.  But then again maybe that's good artistic effect or maybe it's just a sign that I need to get a life.

Also, I must give praise for the nicely drawn scene at Col Hall's home between the fake Colonel, the real Colonel, his wife and Bilko.  You wrang the possibilities for that situation out sharply.  That was well done.

But I object most vociferously to the portrayal throughout this episode of Sgt. Bilko.  From the beginning of this episode, you had Bilko doing absolutely unbelievably suicidally stupid things that could not possibly work.  I understand that it's a sitcom, and I'm not expecting everything to be particularly "realistic."  But basically every single thing Bilko did here was 100% actively impossibly stupid, coming from a character who was generally smarter than the average bear. 

For starters, the basic premise was to have the imposter Colonel order the removal of all the closed-circuit cameras from the base that were gumming up Bilko's gambling racket.  How was that supposed to work?  The real Col Hall comes back Monday and says what?  Oh, Bilko walked an imposter in to change my orders. Okey, dokey!  How could that possibly have worked out?

Then on top of that, you have Bilko using the imposter to authorize and sponsor Monte Carlo Night at the officer's club.  I mean, come on now.  That's not even Bilko just pushing his luck, cause there's no kind of luck could have possibly made that work out any way good for him.  Did you mean to set him up as trying to get himself caught, like Richard Nixon?  That's the only way I can make any sense out of this.

Col Hall and Charlie the short order cook

Then there is the final bust at the diner, which 100% makes not a bit of sense.  Bilko had mistaken the real Col Hall for Charlie the cook just a few hours ago, and barely got away.  When the real Col Hall shows up again at the diner - in full uniform and addressing them as himself, how could Bilko have not gotten that it was really him and then absolutely elicit the explanations and confessions from his men?  How could he make the exact same BIG mistake twice in a few hours? 

In short, you went out disrespecting Sgt. Bilko's basic intelligence and natural cunning.  I mean, you're something like the biggest Broadway playwright of your generation, and you couldn't manage to give Bilko any better props than that?  That's bogus, man.  You should, like, go to Phil Silvers grave and apologize.



Al Barger


Sgt. Bilko in jail at the end of The Phil Silvers Show series finale

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