Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series)
|Baa Baa Black Sheep|
Robert Conrad as Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington.
|Created by||Stephen J. Cannell|
|Directed by||Alex Beaton
James Whitmore Jr.
|Narrated by||Robert Conrad|
|Theme music composer||Mike Post
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||37 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Stephen J. Cannell|
|Location(s)||Channel Islands of California|
|Running time||48 min|
|Audio format||Monaural sound|
|Original run||September 21, 1976 – September 1, 1978|
Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is a television series that aired on NBC from 1976 until 1978. Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Pappy Boyington and his World War II "Black Sheep Squadron". The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell. The opening credits read: "In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg 'Pappy' Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep."
Greg "Pappy" Boyington is the commanding officer of VMF-214, a group of fighter pilots based in the Solomon Islands during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. "Pappy" likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions, and owns a Bull Terrier named "Meatball" — which he claims belongs to General Moore in Flying Misfits, but General Moore says "he wouldn't own an ugly mutt like that."
The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as "Pappy" due to his "advanced" age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214.) Boyington, who was a technical adviser for the series, commented that this was "fiction based on reality" and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed. In the documentary film Pappy Boyington Field Robert Conrad shares personal insight about Pappy from their time together during the television series.
Popular character John "Hutch" Hutchinson (Joey Aresco) was killed off in the episode Last One for Hutch and replaced as chief mechanic by GySgt. Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in Devil in the Slot.
There were a few chronological errors in the show. Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore got his second star at the beginning of the second episode of the second series "200 pound gorilla". However, he was seen wearing two stars in the first episode of the second series "Divine Wind". He was also seen wearing only one star in the tenth episode "Ten will get you five.".
- Maj. Gregory/Greg "Pappy" Boyington (Pilot/Commanding Officer VMF-214) (1976–1978). Played by Robert Conrad.
- Capt. James "Jim" Gutterman (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1977). Played by James Whitmore, Jr..
- 1st Lt/Capt. Lawrence "Larry" Casey (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1978). Played by W. K. Stratton. Casey was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Season 2 episode The 200 Pound Gorilla.
- 1st Lt. Jerome "Jerry" Bragg (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Dirk Blocker.
- 1st Lt. Thomas Joseph "T.J." Wiley (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Robert Ginty.
- 2nd Lt. Robert "Bob" Anderson (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by John Larroquette
- 1st Lt. Donald "Don" French (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Jeff MacKay.
- 1st Lt. Robert A. "Bob/Bobby" Boyle (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Larry Manetti.
- 2nd Lt. Jeb Pruitt (Pilot) (1977–1978). Played by Jeb Stuart Adams.
- Master GySgt/Warrant Officer/Capt. Andrew Andy Micklin (Chief Mechanic) (1977–1978). Played by Red West. Micklin was promoted to Warrant Officer at the start of the episode The 200 Pound Gorilla, and was made a temporary Captain by Boyington while sitting in the brig for punching out a major in a bar fight, resulting in his reduction in grade/rank back to Master GySgt. In the season 2 episode Fighting Angels, Micklin's background as a mud marine in China was referenced, and has been described by Boyington as being "part commando, part Indian tracker, and 100 percent mean."
- Sgt. John David "Hutch" Hutchinson (Chief/Asst. Chief Mechanic) (1976–1977). Played by Joey Aresco. Hutch is killed in Season 1, Episode 23 (Last One for Hutch) by an enemy strafing run during an attack on Vella La Cava.
- Col. Thomas A. Lard (Executive Officer, Espritos Marcos) (1976–1978). Played by Dana Elcar. Lard is a strictly-by-the-book staff officer. A highly competent career Marine who has seen action in China, Lard is offended by Boyington's frequent disregard for regulations and policies, and the two men rarely get along personally. However, Lard sees a lot of promise in Boyington, though he doesn't admit it, and he puts aside his opinions to further the mission.
- Brig/Maj. General Thomas Moore (Commanding Officer, Esprito Marcos) (1976–1978). Played by Simon Oakland. Moore is impressed by Boyington's initiative in "stealing" the 214th and then by the results obtained by the Black Sheep, so he keeps Lard in check as much as possible. Moore was promoted to Major General in the second season episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla".
- General Claire Lee Chennault (Commander, AVG) (1976). Played by George Gaynes.
- Admiral Chester Nimitz (1976). Played by Byron Morrow.
- Admiral's Aide (Unnamed) (1976). Played by James Lough.
- Nurse (Unnamed) (1976). Played by Sharon Gless.
- Col. Mathis (1976). Played by Peter Donat.
- Lt. Robert "Bob/Bobby" A. Doyle (1976). Played by Jake Mitchell. Lt. Doyle's character was replaced by actor Larry Manetti during the series.
- Lt. Freddy (1976). Played by Anthony Charnota.
- Huckabee (Flying Tigers Pilot) (1976). Played by Lance LeGault.
- Dr. James "Jim" Reese (1976). Played by John Lawlor.
- Medical Lt. (Unnamed) (1976). Played by James Murtaugh.
- Nurse (Unnamed) (1976). Played by Sandra Kerns.
- Lt. Cmdr. Delmonte (Head Nurse) (1976). Played by Janice Carroll.
Note: the above characters only appeared in the premiere episode, Flying Misfits, which is sometimes broken up into a two-episode viewing, or as a single 90 minute movie.
- Imperial Japanese Navy Capt. Tomio "Tommy" Harachi (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Byron Chung.
- Lard's Secretary (Pamela) (1976–1977). Played by Jill Jaress.
- First Commando/Capt. Ishima/Japanese Officer (1976–1978). Played by Marcus Mucai.
- Maj. Red Buell (Pilot, Former Commanding Officer, VMF-214) (1976–1977). Played by Charles Napier.
- C-47 Pilot (unnamed) (1976–1977). Played by Kin Shriner.
- Japanese Sentry/First Japanese Pilot (1976–1978). Played by Matsuo Uda.
- Japanese Plotter/Second Japanese Pilot (1978). Played by Michael Yama.
- Japanese Guard/First Japanese Lt. (1976–1977). Played by Cory B. Shoizaki.
- Third Commando/Ensign Kira (1977). Played by James Saito.
- Lt. Ted Carter (Pilot) (1976–1977). Played by Frederick Herrick.
- Lt. Cmdr. Gladys Hope (Head Nurse) (1977). Played by Anne Francis.
- Nurse (unnamed) (1977). Played by Sandra Lewlyn.
- Richards/Eddie (1977). Played by Johnny Fain.
- Tall Nurse (unnamed) (1977). Played by Jacquelyn Gaschen.
- Rouva (Coastwatcher)/Looey (1976–1978). Played by Muni Zano.
- Lt. Caroline Holden (Nurse) (1977). Played by Linda Scruggs Bogart.
- Lt. Nancy Gilmore (Nurse) (1977–1978). Played by Nancy Conrad. Nurse Gilmore is often seen in the company of Lt. Boyle.
- Lt. Cmdr. Dottie Dixon (Head Nurse) (1977–1978). Played by Katherine Cannon. Dottie Dixon was killed in action during the season 2 episode Fighting Angels while defending Vella La Cava against an invasion by Japanese forces.
- Lt. Alma Peterson/Pretty Nurse/Lt. Susan Ames (1977–1978). Played by Brianne Leary.
- Unknown Nurse/Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Nurse) (1978). Played by Kathy McCullen. Nurse Kovaks is often seen in the company of Lt./Captain Casey.
- 2nd Commando/Japanese Lt. (1976–1977). Played by Jim Ishida.
- Japanese Mechanic/Japanese Officer (1976). Played by Dale Ishimoto.
- Japanese Capt/Submarine Commander/Japanese Admiral (1976–1977). Played by Lloyd Kino.
- Doc Roberts/Sgt. Dutch Savage (1976–1978). Played by John Durren.
- Sailor/Lt. Davis (1976–1977). Played by Tim Haldeman.
- Navy Lt./Marine Capt. (1976–1977). Played by Curtis Credel.
- Col. Tokura/Lt. Miragochi (1977). Played by Soon-Tek Oh.
- Lt. Samantha Green/Moore (Nurse) (1977–1978). Played by Denise DuBarry. Lt. Green is the daughter of Brig./Maj. General Moore, as established in the season 2 episode Forbidden Fruit.
- Sgt. Daniels/Radio Operator/Cpl. Stan Richards (Mechanic) (1977–1978). Played by Steven Richmond.
The day of the show's debut, The Washington Post called Baa Baa Black Sheep a "war-is-swell series [aimed] at anyone who remembers World War II as a rousing, blowzy, fraternity turkey-shoot." This may have been because the pilot show was just that. However with the second show, the series got down to the serious business of fighting a war. The members of Boyington's unit objected to the show on the grounds that it was not the truth of what occurred in the Pacific Theater.
Although the title Baa Baa Black Sheep comes from a nursery rhyme, the song heard at the beginning of the opening credits is actually the chorus to The Whiffenpoof Song, written in 1909 as a parody of Rudyard Kipling's poem Gentlemen-Rankers.
The name of the island where the real-life Black Sheep were stationed was Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands of the southern Pacific, known as The Slot; this was changed to Vella la Cava in the series for legal reasons. The same was done for the Rear Area Allied Command island of "Espiritu Santo" (Espritos Marcos). The Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California provided an adequate substitute backdrop for flying scenes. Filming of airfield scenes was primarily done at the now-closed Indian Dunes Airport in Valencia, California.
Some air-battle scenes were actually short clips from the 1969 film Battle of Britain (film), and German markings on the planes can clearly be seen.[original research?] Other flying scenes pioneered the technique of mounting cameras on helmets worn by pilots, thus providing a pilot's-eye view never before seen in films featuring single-seat aircraft. Because of reflections from the Plexiglas canopies, many close-ups were shot with the canopies removed.
The Vought F4U Corsair fighter planes were leased to Universal Studios by private owners. Many scenes showing repairs on the aircraft were filmed during actual preventative maintenance. "Japanese" aircraft used in the series were actually American planes, which had been modified to resemble Japanese planes for the film Tora! Tora! Tora! and later purchased by collectors. The Grumman J2F Duck float biplane belonged to legendary stunt pilot Frank Tallman and his Tallmanz Aviation museum in Santa Ana, California. Tallman often stated that this was his all-time favorite plane to fly, with the Corsair in a near-tie. Tallman provided or arranged for most of the aircraft used in the series.
During filming of the series, Gregory Boyington met Masajiro "Mike" Kawato, the one-time Japanese fighter pilot who claimed to have shot him down in 1943. It was later asserted that Kawato's claims were not true. Though Kawato's personnel records show that he had, in fact, been involved in the aerial battle, details that he provided of the action indicated that he had been involved in a different part of the fight.[unreliable source?]
The pilot episode was shown as a stand-alone TV movie Flying Misfits through the 1980s and 1990s.
At an aviation history symposium in 2002, members of the real VMF-214 were asked about the authenticity of the TV series. Retired Colonel Henry A. McCartney said the list of errors was too long to repeat. Boyington himself referred to the series as "... inaccuracies, hogwash, and Hollywood hokum," though he did serve as technical adviser on the show, and had a cameo appearance. A 2001 History Channel documentary depicted some of these differences in greater detail.
|Boxset||DVD release date|
|Region 1||Region 2|
|Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 1||May 24, 2005||September 27, 2005|
|Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 2||July 3, 2007||August 1, 2006|
|Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 3||Unreleased||December 12, 2006|
- Shales, Tom (1976-09-21). "'Black Sheep': Oh, What An Unlovely War". The Washington Post.
-  Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:Indian Dunes Airport (4CA4), Valencia, California
- "Kawato Masajiro: The man who didn't shoot down Pappy Boyington", The Warbird's Forum. (retrieved April 11, 2006)[unreliable source?]
- "CORSAIR!". Dayton Daily News. 2002-09-12. p. Z3-10. Retrieved 2007-06-24. "The Gathering of Corsairs and Legends at the Indianapolis Air Show in Mount Comfort, Ind. ... Numerous Navy and Marine pilots who few Corsairs in combat attended the show, where they participated in a symposium and signed autographs."
- Bates, Tom, "Black Sheep of the South Pacific," SOF's Action Series, Volume II. #6 (Valor), December 1986, Omega Group, Ltd, p.57.
- "2001 History Channel documentary on the differences between the TV show and the real VMF-214"