Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series)

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Baa Baa Black Sheep
Logo from "Baa Baa Black Sheep".jpg
Logo from the Program
Genre Drama
Created by Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by Alex Beaton
Robert Conrad
Larry Doheny
Walter Doniger
Presented by Disney Channel Original
Starring Robert Conrad
Simon Oakland
Dana Elcar
James Whitmore Jr.
Dirk Blocker
W.K. Stratton
Robert Ginty
Joey Aresco
John Larroquette
Jeff MacKay
Larry Manetti
Narrated by Robert Conrad
Theme music composer Mike Post
Pete Carpenter
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 36 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Stephen J. Cannell
Producer(s) Philip DeGuere
Editor(s) Jerry Dronsky
Harvey Stambler
Location(s) Channel Islands of California
Running time 48 min
Production company(s) Stephen J. Cannell Productions
Universal Television
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Monaural sound
Original run September 23, 1976  – April 6, 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 Greg 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."

Plot[edit]

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.

Main characters[edit]

  • MAJ Gregory/Greg "Pappy" Boyington (Pilot/Commanding Officer VMF-214) (1976–1978). Played by Robert Conrad.
Robert Conrad as Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington in 1976
  • CAPT James "Jim" Gutterman (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1977). Played by James Whitmore, Jr..
  • 1LT/CAPT Lawrence "Larry" Casey (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1978). Played by W. K. Stratton. Casey was promoted to the rank of Marine Captain in the Season 2 episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla."
  • 1LT Jerome "Jerry" Bragg (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Dirk Blocker.
  • 1LT Thomas Joseph "T.J." Wiley (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Robert Ginty.
  • 2LT Robert "Bob" Anderson (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by John Larroquette
  • 1LT Donald "Don" French (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Jeff MacKay.
  • 1LT Robert A. "Bob/Bobby" Boyle (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Larry Manetti.
  • 2LT Jeb Pruitt (Pilot) (1977–1978). Played by Jeb Stuart Adams.
  • MGSGT/WO1/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 gunnery sergeant. In the season 2 episode "Fighting Angels," Micklin's background as a mud marine in China was referenced, and he 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 21 (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, modeled on one of the real Boyington's actual superiors, USMC LTCOL Joseph Smoak,[citation needed] 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. (The real Boyington and Smoak were bitter personal enemies, and Boyington never forgave Smoak or made any kind of peace with him.)[citation needed] However, Lard sees a lot of promise in Boyington, though he does not admit it, and he puts aside his opinions to further the mission.
  • BGEN/MGEN 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 from brigadier general to major general in the second season episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla." (The actual general officer who provided the real Boyington with support where needed was named James Moore, and was nicknamed "Nuts." He and the real Boyington had been "drinking buddies.")[citation needed]

Recurring characters[edit]

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 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.
  • Ensign Barret (1978). Played by Ron Roy.
  • Unknown Nurse/Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Nurse) (1978). Played by Kathy McCullen. Nurse Kovaks is often seen in the company of Lt./Captain Casey.
  • Japanese Plotter/Second Japanese Pilot (1978). Played by Michael Yama.
  • 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.

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (1976–77)[edit]

Episode # Title Original Airdate Director Guest Stars Notes
1.00 Flying Misfits Sept. 21, 1976 Russ Mayberry Peter Donat

Sharon Gless

George Gaynes

1.01 Best Three Out of Five Sept. 23, 1976 Lawrence Doheny Charles Napier
1.02 Small War Sept. 28, 1976 Walter Doniger Rene Auberjonois
1.03 High Jinx Oct. 5, 1976 John Peyser Donald Petrie
1.04 Prisoners of War Oct. 12, 1976 Jackie Cooper Clyde Kusatsu
1.05 Presumed Dead Oct. 26, 1976 Lawrence Doheny Kent McCord

James Hong

Norman Burton

1.06 The Meatball Circus Nov. 9, 1976 John Peyser Stewart Moss

Robert Clarke

1.07 Up for Grabs Nov. 16, 1976 Ivan Dixon George Takei

Yuki Shimoda

1.08 Anyone for Suicide? Nov. 23, 1976 Jackie Cooper none
1.09 New Georgia on My Mind Nov. 30, 1976 Jeannot Szwarc James Luisi
1.10 The Cat's Whiskers Dec. 7, 1976 Russ Mayberry Frank Maxwell
1.11 Love and War Dec. 14, 1976 William Wiard Leslie Charleson
1.12 The War Biz Warrior Jan. 4, 1977 Lawrence Doheny James Darren

Ford Rainey

1.13 The Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 1 Jan 11, 1977 Barry Shear Anne Francis First episode with Larroquette, Manetti, and MacKay in the opening credits
1.14 The Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 2 Jan 18, 1977 Barry Shear Anne Francis

Greg Boyington

1.15 Devil in the Slot Jan 25, 1977 Edward Dein Red West
1.16 Five the Hard Way Feb. 1, 1977 Jackie Cooper Kenneth Mars
1.17 The Last Mission Over Sengai Feb. 8, 1977 Jackie Cooper
1.18 Trouble at Fort Apache Feb. 15, 1977 Edward Dein Joel Fabiani

James Keach

Les Lannom

1.19 Poor Little Lambs Feb. 22, 1977 Jackie Cooper Sorrell Booke

Lilyan Chauvin Soon-Teck Oh

1.20 W*A*S*P*S Mar. 1, 1977 Dana Elcar
1.21 Last One for Hutch Mar. 8, 1977 Lawrence Doheny
1.22 The Fastest Gun Mar. 22, 1977 Philip DeGuere

Season 2 (1977–78)[edit]

Episode # Title Original Airdate Director Guest Stars Notes
2.01 Divine Wind Dec. 14, 1977 Lawrence Doheny
2.02 The 200 Pound Gorilla Dec. 21, 1977 Dana Elcar
2.03 The Hawk Flies on Sunday Dec. 29, 1977 Robert Conrad
2.04 Wolves in the Sheep Pen Jan 4, 1978 Edward Dein
2.05 Operation Stand-Down Jan. 11, 1978 Philip DeGuere
2.06 Ten'll Get You Five Jan. 18, 1978 Robert Conrad
2.07 Forbidden Fruit Feb. 22, 1978 Robert Conrad
2.08 Fighting Angels Mar. 1, 1978 Lawrence Doheny
2.09 The Iceman Mar. 8, 1978 Dana Elcar
2.10 Hotshot Mar. 15, 1978 Lawrence Doheny
2.11 The Show Must Go on...Sometimes Mar. 23, 1978 Dana Elcar
2.12 Sheep in the Limelight Mar. 30, 1978 Lawrence Doheny Eleanor Roosevelt
2.13 A Little Bit of England Apr. 6, 1978 Donald P. Bellisario Peter Frampton

Critical response[edit]

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."[1]

Production notes[edit]

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 homage to Rudyard Kipling's poem Gentlemen-Rankers. One of the squadron's real-life members, Paul "Moon" Mullen, adapted "The Whiffenpoof Song" for the squadron's use.

"We are poor little lambs,
Who have lost our way.
Baa, Baa, Baaaaa."

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.[citation needed] 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.[2]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] "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.[citation needed] 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.[3][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.[4] 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,"[5] 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.[6]

DVD releases[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shales, Tom (1976-09-21). "'Black Sheep': Oh, What An Unlovely War". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ [1] Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:Indian Dunes Airport (4CA4), Valencia, California
  3. ^ "Kawato Masajiro: The man who didn't shoot down Pappy Boyington", The Warbird's Forum. (retrieved April 11, 2006)[unreliable source?]
  4. ^ "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." 
  5. ^ Bates, Tom, "Black Sheep of the South Pacific," SOF's Action Series, Volume II. #6 (Valor), December 1986, Omega Group, Ltd, p.57.
  6. ^ "2001 History Channel documentary on the differences between the TV show and the real VMF-214"

External links[edit]