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.
Genre Comedy
Created by Aaron Ruben
Starring Don Rickles
Peter Isacksen
Elizabeth Allen
Harrison Page
Richard X. Slattery
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 37
Executive producer(s) Aaron Ruben
Producer(s) Aaron Ruben
Gene Marcione
Running time approx. 0:30 (per episode)
Original channel NBC
Original release December 1, 1976 (1976-12-01) – April 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)

C.P.O. Sharkey was an American comedy television series created by Aaron Ruben, which aired from December 1, 1976, to April 28, 1978, on NBC. The series starred Don Rickles in the title role, Peter Isacksen, Elizabeth Allen, Harrison Page and Richard X. Slattery.


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. Sharkey, however, 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 exasperation, Carson glared at Rickles and stated, "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 released C.P.O. Sharkey - The Complete Season 1 on DVD in Region 1 for the first time.[3]


Season 1 (1976-77)[edit]

No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 1 "Oh Captain! My Captain" December 1, 1976 (1976-12-01)
The chauvinistic chief must adjust to the fact that his new commanding officer is a woman.
2 2 "Shimokawa Ships Out" December 8, 1976 (1976-12-08)
An enlisted man thinks Sharkey is discriminating against him because he's Japenese.
3 3 "The Dear John Letter" December 22, 1976 (1976-12-22)
Chief Robinson suspects that Sharkey is a real ladies man when he accidentally sees a "Dear Jane" letter in the typewriter.
4 4 "Goodbye Dolly" December 29, 1976 (1976-12-29)
The men try to hide an inflatable female doll in the barracks without Sharkey's knowledge.
5 5 "Skolnick in Love" January 12, 1977 (1977-01-12)
Shy recruit Skolnick decides to marry a cocktail waitress after a two-day courtship, much to everyone's surprise.
6 6 "Mignone's Mutiny" January 19, 1977 (1977-01-19)
Recruit Mignone's unhappiness with the rigors of boot camp spreads to the other men.
7 7 "Kowalski, the Somnamulist" January 26, 1977 (1977-01-26)
Recruit Kowalski experiences repeated bouts of sleepwalking, which Sharkey desperately tries to find a cure for, or the young man may face a medical discharge.
7 7 "Sunday in Tijuana" February 9, 1977 (1977-02-09)
Sharkey's romantic plans with Natalie are wrecked when his recruits get arrested in Tijuana, Mexico.
8 8 "Sunday in Tijuana" February 9, 1977 (1977-02-09)
Sharkey's romantic plans with Natalie are wrecked when his recruits get arrested in Tijuana, Mexico.
9 9 "Rodriguez and His Mamacita" February 16, 1977 (1977-02-16)
Recruit Rodriguez is just one of the sailors who get in trouble with Sharkey and the top brass for sneaking women into the barracks.
10 10 "Sharkey Boogies on Down" February 23, 1977 (1977-02-23)
Chief Robinson takes Sharkey to a disco to celebrate his 45th birthday.
11 11 "Sharkey Finds Peace and Quiet" March 2, 1977 (1977-03-02)
The chaos of barracks life leads Sharkey to dream of moving off-base to his own apartment.
12 12 "Sharkey the Marriage Counselor" March 9, 1977 (1977-03-09)
Sharkey attempts to help a fellow sailor with his marital problems.
13 13 "Sharkey's Secret Life" March 16, 1977 (1977-03-16)
The recruits are convinced Sharkey is gay after his clandestine meeting with an effeminate toupee salesman.
14 14 "The Pizza Party" March 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Pruitt plans a pizza party to celebrate the end of boot camp, but does not consult Sharkey.
15 15 "A Wino is Loose" March 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Sharkey must remove a wino who spent the night in the barracks right before a major inspection.

Season 2 (1977-78)[edit]

No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 16 "The New Captain" October 21, 1977 (1977-10-21)
The new captain proposes to shape up "the chief with the biggest beer belly," a pretty fair description of the outraged Sharkey.
2 17 "Operation Frisco" November 4, 1977 (1977-11-04)
Being assigned to submarine duty interferes with Sharkey's plans to have fun in San Francisco.
3 18 "Sharkey Flies over the Cuckoo's Nest" November 11, 1977 (1977-11-11)
A case of mistaken identity ensues when Sharkey reports to the base hospital for his routine physical and is mistaken for a mental patient.
4 19 "Don't Make Waves" November 18, 1977 (1977-11-18)
Comic chaos ensues as Sharkey's barracks is chosen for an experiment in coed Navy living.
5 20 "Natalie's Ultimatum" December 2, 1977 (1977-12-02)
Sharkey' long time girlfriend, Natalie, tires of waiting and gives him an ultimatum about marriage in their relationship.
6 21 "Sharkey the Actor" December 9, 1977 (1977-12-09)
Sharkey lands the lead in a Navy training film.
7 22 "Barracks Baby" December 30, 1977 (1977-12-30)
Sharkey must hide a pregnant Mexican woman from INS officials in this Christmas themed episode.
8 23 "Seven-Eleven Sharkey" January 6, 1978 (1978-01-06)
Sharkey turns to the dice to help recruit Kowalski win back the money for his Mother's trip to Poland that the young man had lost in a craps game.
9 24 "Forget Pearl Harbor" January 13, 1978 (1978-01-13)
The behavior of a visiting CPO from the Japanese Navy causes Sharkey to think that he may be a spy.
10 25 "Close Encounters of the Worst Kind" January 27, 1978 (1978-01-27)
Sharkey's girlfriend, Natalie, accuses him of being insensitive.
11 26 "Pruitt's Paradise" February 10, 1978 (1978-02-10)
Pruitt has been showing signs of lethargy and Sharkey suspects it is due to a wild night life.
12 27 "Sharkey Meets Pruitt's Sister" February 17, 1978 (1978-02-17)
Sharkey and the men try to scrounge up a woman to represent their barracks in the Navy's Miss Topside beauty contest.
13 28 "Sharkey's Back Problem" February 17, 1978 (1978-02-17)
Sudden back pains lead Sharkey to worry that he will be ineligable for the "CPO of the Year" competition.
14 29 "It Happened One Night" March 3, 1978 (1978-03-03)
A bomb scare in the female recruits barracks forces them to be housed in Sharkey's building.
15 30 "Tell It to the Marines" March 10, 1978 (1978-03-10)
Visiting Marines cause havoc at the training base as their behavior tests the patience of Sharkey and the other sailors.
16 31 "Sharkey and the South American Way" March 17, 1978 (1978-03-17)
Sharkey must instruct a visiting South American sailor in the ways of the United States Navy.
17 32 "Punk Rock Sharkey" March 24, 1978 (1978-03-24)
Sharkey ventures into a punk-rock night spot to stop a fight, and comes out with a loose filling and the affections of a teen-age runaway.
18 33 "Pruitt, the Russian Flu-Carrier" March 31, 1978 (1978-03-31)
Pruitt infects Sharkey and most of the recruit company with Russian flu and Sharkey is overwhelmed by home-spun remedies.
19 34 "Captain's Right Hand Man" April 7, 1978 (1978-04-07)
Much to both of their chagrins, Captain Buckner is forced to make Sharkey his personal aide.
20 35 "Fear of Flying" April 14, 1978 (1978-04-14)
Sharkey reveals that he has a fear of flying and is terrifed at an upcoming flight he is required to take because of Navy business.
21 36 "The Even Couple" April 21, 1978 (1978-04-21)
Sharkey moves off-base into an apartment in order to spice up his social life. His plan backfires when the recruits all show up just before a "last chance" date with Natalie yelling loud enough about problems that Sharkey gets tossed by his landlord.
22 37 "The Used-Car Caper" April 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)
Sharkey must come to the rescue when his recruits are swindled by a sleazy car salesman into buying a lemon.


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.