7 fascinating tidbits about F Troop
Salute the genius of Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker and learn how the 1960s sitcom links to Spock, rock and the Ghostbusters.
F Troop was only around for two seasons, kicking off just over 50 years ago in September of 1965. Yet the series shines like a bright neon sign above the wooden fort of 1960s television. There has never been a show quite like this slapstick historical farce, and there never will be again.
Though it had a brief life, the Warner Bros. production cranked out 65 episodes — half in black & white, half in color — of broad comedy and subtle satire. It squeezed laughter from an unlikely premise, as it chronicled the laid-back life of characters in and around an Army outpost on the frontier at the end of the Civil War.
Despite its setting, the series played fast and loose with history, as that was often the point. Rock & roll blasted from Native American villages. Samurai warriors and Canadian mounties passed through Fort Courage. Few shows better encapsulate the zany spirit of LBJ-era TV. Watch and keep an eye peeled for cameos by Don Rickles, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Milton Berle, Julie Newmar, Vincent Price, Harvey Korman and many more swinging stars.
Here are six more facts that make F Troop a fascinating watch.
1. Forest Tucker and Larry Storch went on to become The Ghost Busters.
Not those Ghostbusters. In 1975, the two F Troop leads created a live action children's comedy for CBS about two bumbling detectives (and a gorilla) investigating the paranormal. Fifteen episodes were made. If that premise sounds familiar to Gen Xers, that would be because a cartoon version, Ghostbusters, arrived in 1986 complete with Tracy the ape. This led to the animated iteration of the Ivan Reitman film being titled The Real Ghostbusters. Still, Tucker and Storch were first.
2. Melody Patterson was 15 when she auditioned for the show.
Patterson, the female lead, played Wrangler Jane, owner of the local trading post and post office. The actress reportedly lied about her age when auditioning for the role, as she was only 15 at the time. By the time cameras started rolling, the California girl had turned 16. Because of her youth, producers held off on developing her character's romance with the naive Captain Parmenter until the second season, though by the time the series wrapped, she was still just 18. Patterson passed away in August 2015.
3. Storch coached Sammy Davis, Jr. on the art of imitation.
At the age of 17, Storch made his professional debut sharing a bill with Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theatre in New York City. His skill as a mimic quickly grew, to the point where he was dubbed "The Greatest Ear in the Business." In 1947, he spent a few days in Las Vegas teaching Sammy Davis the finer arts of imitation. Storch came up with the classic line "Judy, Judy, Judy" in an impersonation of Cary Grant. Grant himself did not originate it!
4. Larry Storch played five characters in one single episode.
Storch was known for his chameleon-like abilities with impressions and voices. In one episode alone, "El Diablo," the comedic actor portrayed five characters — his regular Cpl. Agarn, as well as Granny Agarn, Gaylord Agarn, Carmen and El Diablo. His wild character hopping gave the show an air of theater and touch of Monty Python.
5. Lowell George of Little Feat appeared as the lead singer of The Bedbugs.
Son of a chinchilla farmer and Hollywood furrier, Lowell George formed a rock group The Factory in 1965. Frank Zappa produced some recordings. The band dressed up as a sort of Beatles of the Wild West in the episode "That's Show Biz." Wearing black suits and red ties, the quartet dubbed The Bedbugs rips through "Camptown Races" in garage fashion. George and drummer Richie Hayward would go on to form Little Feat. In an earlier episode, "The Tomahawk Trio" bashes out some surf rock at "The Playbrave Club."
6. Ken Berry served under Sgt. Leonard Nimoy in the Army.
Star Trek is a bit like the Kevin Bacon of 1960s television — everything links to it in some way. In this case, it is a most curious trail from Spock to Fort Courage. Before becoming Parmenter, Berry served in the Army under the command of Leonard Nimoy. Berry placed third in an Army talent competition looking for guests for Ed Sullivan. Check out more fascinating facts about Ken Berry.
7. The Hekawi tribe was originally called the Fugawi.
The name of the local tribe is a silly pun, The Hakawi, based on the punchline to a joke, "Where the heck are we?" Originally, the writers used a moniker a little more blue, and tried to push "Fugawi" past the censors. The censors got the joke. Today, the History Channel runs a series entitled "We're the Fugawis." How the times change.