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Did They Actually PAINT Someone?: F-Troop

I was so excited when I saw that the show F-Troop had finally been released on DVD. I remember watching it on Nick @ Nite with my grandparents, and in my memory it was a hilarious show. Why, I wondered, had it taken this long to get released? Why wasn't it still being shown on TVland or late at night on the Western Channel or something?

I ordered it from Netflix and anxiously awaited my chance to reconnect with something from my childhood.

Then, the DVD arrived, and I suddenly realized why the show had all but disappeared.

The show is about a western fort sometime during the civil war era. The commanding officer is typically clueless, and his underlings get up to all sorts of shenanagins under his nose. Nothing wrong with that, right? The first indication of a problem comes during the theme song (an infectious little ditty, written in the days when shows had theme songs that actually provided information about the show.)


The end of the Civil War was near,
When quite accidentally,
A hero who sneezed, abruptly seized
Retreat and reversed it to victory.
His medal of honor pleased and thrilled
His proud little family group.
While pinning it on, some blood was spilled,
And so it was planned he'd command...F-Troop!
Where Indian fights are colorful sights
And nobody takes a lickin',
Where paleface and redskin
Both turn chicken.

Oops...redskin? I am pretty sure they're not referring to the football team here. And once the "redskins" arrive on screen, it's apparent why this show is rarely shown: every single Native American character is a painted white guy. The first episode on the DVD featured Don Rickles painted brown, running around and screaming about scalping people. Although the Hakawi tribe are stereotypical in some ways, they often seem to get the better of their stupid white comrades at Fort Courage. However, while it may have been okay in 1965 to paint men brown and stick feathers on their heads to play Native Americans, it's pretty uncomfortable today.

The strange thing is that except for the parts involving the Heckawis, the show is still pretty funny in that slap-sticky 60s sitcom kind of way. Ken Berry's portrayal of Captain Parmenter (who was cheerful but totally oblivious and invariably clumsy) is fantastic, and Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch nail their roles as the slick Sargeant O'Roake and his bumbling sidekick Corporal Agarn. Storch in particular is hilarious--his generation's rubber-faced version of Jim Carrey, only with less screaming. Unfortunately, I just couldn't enjoy it as I used to because the Heckawi issue made me so uncomfortable. I'm not usually a person who is much concerned with political correctness and am often the one pointing out that you have to take things in their context or remember that it's only a show, but even after telling myself that it was made in the 1960s before people knew any better, it was still just a little too gross.

Very disappointing over all--I didn't even finish out the episodes on the disk.

I am going to hope that some of the other shows I remember fondly from my days watching Nick @ Nite hold up better.

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