7 great TV shows about the United States Marine Corps

Before he went sci-fi, Gene Roddenberry was Semper Fi.

Originally known as the Continental Marines, the U.S.M.C. was founded on November 10, 1775. Happy 242nd birthday, Marines! 

Television has long honored this branch of our military — with drama and comedy. Let's look back at some memorable series featuring the Corps.

1. Men of Annapolis

1957–58

The only show to have been filmed at the U.S. Navy Academy in Maryland, The Men of Annapolis marched for 41 episodes in syndication. The anthology series focused on fictitious midshipmen, and featured guests stars such as Robert Blake and Fred Astaire.

2. The Blue Angels

1960–61

"Four men… welded together in a united team to conquer the unexplored reaches of the heaven," the opening proclaimed. This Sixties aerial adventure centered around the world-famous flying squadron, featuring aviators from the Navy and Marine Corps. Like Men of Annapolis, the series ran in syndication, and featured rising stars like Burt Reynolds and Ernest Borgnine.

Image: San Diego Air and Space Museum / YouTube

3. McHale's Navy

1962–66

Borgnine, who served in the Navy aboard an antisubmarine ship in World War II, was obviously well-suited for playing military men. Like The Blue Angels, the focus was, as the title implies, clearly on the Navy, though Marines played a significant part in the stories, especially the pilot episode. Clay Tanner played a Marine guard who appeared in about a dozen episodes.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. The Lieutenant

1963

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's first TV series, The Lieutenant ran for just one season, but it made an impact. Debuting in 1963, the military drama spurred the career of future Trek actors Leonard Nimoy and Walter Koenig. Majel Barrett, the future Mrs. Barrett-Roddenberry, was also cast. Perhaps the most notable (if unseen) cast inclusion, however, was Nichelle Nichols, who appeared alongside Don Marshall in an episode that confronted America's racism. Fearing controversy, the network refused to air it or pay for it.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

1964–69

The hit Andy Griffith Show spin-off made "Private" Jim Nabors a major star. That's Corporal Gomer Pyle, now, though. To honor Gomer, the Marine Corps promoted the character to lance corporal in 2001 and again to corporal in 2007, thanking him for his contributions to the public image of the Marines. Additionally, in 2001, Nabors was made an honorary member of the U.S.M.C.

6. Baa Baa Black Sheep / Black Sheep Squadron

1976–78

An early creation of '80s action king Stephen J. Cannell, Baa Baa Black Sheep (later retitled Black Sheep Squadron in syndication) was based on the real-life heroism and service of air ace Pappy Boyington. Robert Conrad, the cool cowboy secret agent of The Wild Wild West, starred as Boyington, who was a technical advisor on the series.

7. Major Dad

1989–93

Initially set at the fictitious Camp Singleton, based on Camp Pendleton in Souther California, injected humor and levity into the Corp as Gomer Pyle did decades earlier. Gerald McRaney headlined as the military man, who falls in love with liberal journalist and mother of three girls.  

Image: The Everett Collection

SEE ALSO: THESE 'GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.' FACTS WILL MAKE YOU SAY "SHAZAM!"

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