Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series)
|Baa Baa Black Sheep|
Logo from the program
|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||36 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Stephen J. Cannell|
|Location(s)||Channel Islands of California|
|Running time||48 min|
|Production company(s)||Stephen J. Cannell Productions
|Audio format||Monaural sound|
|Original release||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."
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 master sergeant Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in Devil in the Slot.
- 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..
- 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, 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.) 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.")
- General Claire Lee Chennault (Commander, AVG) (1976). Played by George Gaynes.
- Admiral Chester Nimitz (1976). Played by Byron Morrow.
- Col. Mathis (1976). Played by Peter Donat.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Richards/Eddie (1977). Played by Johnny Fain.
- 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.
- Lt. Cmdr. Dottie Dixon (Head Nurse) (1977–1978). Played by Katherine Cannon. 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.
- Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Nurse) (1978). Played by Kathy McCullen.
- Doc Roberts/Sgt. Dutch Savage (1976–1978). Played by John Durren.
- 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.
- Lt. Robert A. Doyle (1976). Played by Jake Mitchell, and later by Larry Manetti.
Season 1 (1976–77)
|Episode #||Title||Original Airdate||Director||Guest Stars||Notes|
|1.00||Flying Misfits||Sept. 21, 1976||Russ Mayberry||Peter Donat
|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
|1.06||The Meatball Circus||Nov. 9, 1976||John Peyser||Stewart Moss
|1.07||Up for Grabs||Nov. 16, 1976||Ivan Dixon||George Takei
|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
|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
|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
|1.19||Poor Little Lambs||Feb. 22, 1977||Jackie Cooper||Sorrell Booke
|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)
|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||Greg Boyington|
|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|
|2.13||A Little Bit of England||Apr. 6, 1978||Donald P. Bellisario||Peter Frampton|
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." The series was cancelled after 2 seasons, consisting of 36 episodes.
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. 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, 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 and FG-1 Corsair fighter planes (BuNos 17799, 92132, 92433, 92436, 92629, 97359 and 133714) 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 North American T-6 Texan World War 2 trainer 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.
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," although 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.
This was the first show that TV producer/writer/creator Donald P. Bellisario ever regularly wrote for.
|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
- "Corsair Registry". Warbird Registry. Warbird Resource Group. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- "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"