C.P.O. Sharkey

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C.P.O. Sharkey
Don Rickles CPO Sharkey 1977.JPG
Sharkey winds up in a Tijuana jail after trying to bail out his men.
Starring Don Rickles
Peter Isacksen
Elizabeth Allen
Harrison Page
Richard X. Slattery
Country of origin USA
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 37
Running time approx. 0:30 (per episode)
Original channel NBC
Original release December 1, 1976 – July 28, 1978

C.P.O. Sharkey is an American sitcom which aired from 1976 to 1978 on NBC.


The series starred Don Rickles as U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, an abrasive, sharp-tongued veteran in charge of a company of new seaman recruits on a San Diego naval base. Rickles (who in real-life served in the Navy during World War II) is famous for his jokes about various ethnicities, and the program provided him with a vehicle for his politically incorrect humor. However, Sharkey was really a nice guy beneath his harsh exterior and often went to extreme measures to help his recruits with their problems.

The young company consisted of Daniels, an African-American; Kowalski, a Polish-American; Skolnick, a Jewish-American; Mignone, an Italian-American; and Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican. Sharkey's best friend on the base was Chief Dave Robinson (Harrison Page), who was African-American. Sharkey's assistant, Seaman Lester Pruitt (Peter Isacksen), was a 6' 7" Southerner who shared his simple-minded homilies to the uninterested C.P.O. Sharkey's immediate superior was the smug and buck-toothed Lt. Whipple (Jonathan Daly). The base commander in the first season was the female Capt. Quinlan (Elizabeth Allen), whom Sharkey never insulted to her face. In the second season, Capt. Quinlan was replaced by Capt. Buck Buckner (Richard X. Slattery), a by-the-book former submarine captain.

The series featured an early American prime time TV depiction of punk rock, with San Fernando Valley punk rock band, The Dickies, making a guest appearance.[1]

Coincidentally, Rickles portrayed a different C.P.O. in the 1961 episode "Professional Sailor" of the CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey, starring Jackie Cooper.

Running gags[edit]

  • The 6' 7" Pruitt would often stand right next to the 5' 6" Sharkey to speak to him. Sharkey would find it difficult to speak to Pruitt this way and would make a snide remark about Pruitt's height. Pruitt's girlfriend was Evelyn (Rhonda Bates), a 6' 2" Southerner with the same mannerisms, especially their laughter.
  • Lt. Whipple would often lecture Sharkey. When he left the room, Sharkey would look in the camera and imitate Whipple's buck-teeth.
  • In the second season, Buckner would yell orders in a tirade directly in Sharkey's face making the usually verbose Sharkey speechless.

The cigarette box incident[edit]

The series is often remembered for an incident that occurred on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during December 1976. Rickles appeared on The Tonight Show, speaking with guest host Bob Newhart. During the segment, Rickles slammed down the cigarette box Carson kept on his desk while joking with Newhart, and accidentally broke the box. When Carson returned the following night to the show and discovered the broken box, he took a camera crew to the adjacent studio where Sharkey was being taped. Carson disrupted the taping in order to tease Rickles about it, to the delight of the studio audiences of both shows. Carson imitated Rickles' insult comedy style by calling him a "big dummy" and teasing Harrison Page by speaking to him in an exaggerated jive accent. As Carson prepared to exit the stage, Rickles looked at the audience and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Carson!" With mock disdain Carson glared at Rickles and said, "They know who I am!"

The incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the show, and the incident was also featured in the documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.


Reruns aired on Comedy Central in the early 1990s.[2]

DVD release[edit]

On May 19, 2015, Time Life will release C.P.O. Sharkey - The Complete Season 1 on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[3]


External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Brooks, Tim; Earl Marsh (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.