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
Composer(s) Peter Matz
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 37
Production
Executive producer(s) Aaron Ruben
Producer(s) Aaron Ruben
Gene Marcione
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) R&R Productions
Release
Original network NBC
Original release December 1, 1976 (1976-12-01) – April 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)

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

Rickles, who actually served in the Navy during World War II, was already well known for his indiscriminate insult comedy which he used in his stand-up routines and in guest appearances on other TV shows and specials; C.P.O. Sharkey was the third TV series that provided him with a regular vehicle for his coarse humor. (Two previous series in which he starred, both eponymously titled The Don Rickles Show—one a 1968 variety show, the other a 1972 sitcom; each aired for one season.) Coincidentally, Rickles portrayed a different C.P.O. in the 1961 episode "Professional Sailor" of the CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey, starring Jackie Cooper.

Premise[edit]

Don Rickles is U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, an abrasive career Navy man stationed at a San Diego naval base in charge of Company 144, a group of seaman recruits. Sharkey initially comes off as callous, sarcastic and insulting to everyone around him, but underneath his harsh exterior Sharkey genuinely cared for his men and often went to great measures to help with their problems.

Members of Company 144 were a motley mix of ethnicities, including:

  • Seaman Lester Pruitt (Peter Isacksen), Sharkey's assistant, a tall, lunkheaded Southerner who often shared his homespun homilies with the disinterested Sharkey.
  • Daniels (Jeff Hollis), an African-American
  • Kowalski (Tom Ruben), who was Polish
  • Skolnick (David Landsberg), a Jewish New Yorker
  • Mignone (Barry Pearl), an Italian
  • Rodriguez (Richard Beauchamp), a Puerto Rican
  • Shimokawa (Evan C. Kim), a Japanese immigrant

Others on the base included:

  • C.P.O. Dave Robinson (Harrison Page), Sharkey's colleague and closest friend on the base.
  • Lieutenant Whipple (Jonathan Daly), Sharkey's immediate superior whose complacency and buck teeth were fodder for Sharkey, though for reasons obvious he never insulted him to his face.
  • Captain Quinlan (Elizabeth Allen), the newly appointed female base commander during season 1, which Sharkey had a hard time accepting at first.
  • Captain Buckner (Richard X. Slattery), who replaced Quinlan in season 2. A former submarine captain and hard-nosed career man, Buckner usually got right in Sharkey's face and barked orders in a rapid-fire manner, rendering Sharkey unable to respond except in civil answer.
  • Seaman Apodaca (Phillip Simms), who joined the base in season 2.

Running gags and precedents[edit]

In the earliest episodes of the series, Sharkey would often end conversations with each of his recruits by giving them the evil eye and saying "I'm gonna keep an ey-y-y-e on you".

Pruitt, who stood 6' 7", would invariably hunch forward overlooking the 5' 6" Sharkey when addressing him face-to-face; Sharkey found it uncomfortable to speak to Pruitt this way and would make snide remarks about Pruitt's height or a mistake he made. (The July 9–16, 1977 cover of TV Guide showed Rickles and Isacksen in character, with Sharkey standing on a foot locker so he could physically be eye-to-eye with a surprised Pruitt). Some of Sharkey's insults toward Pruitt included:

  • "Why don't you put bicycle pedals in your ears and ride yourself outta here!"
  • "Why don't you go elope with a moose!"
  • "The last time I saw a head like that was on a wall over a bar in Teaneck, New Jersey! Ya big dummy!!"

Lt. Whipple would often lecture Sharkey. When he left the room (after bellowing "Carry on!" in his piping voice), Sharkey would often look in the camera and imitate Whipple's buck-teeth.

The series was the first prime-time sitcom to depict the burgeoning punk rock music scene, with The Dickies, a band from the San Fernando Valley, making a guest appearance in season 2.[1]

The Tonight Show cigarette box incident[edit]

CPO Sharkey is peripherally remembered for an incident that occurred during a guest appearance by Rickles on The Tonight Show on December 13, 1976, in which he inadverdently broke Johnny Carson's cigarette box, an heirloom that Carson had kept on his desk since 1967. During his appearance, Rickles pretended to be an immigration agent while joking with guest host Bob Newhart, using the cigarette box as a passport stamp, slamming it down on the desk several times accidentally breaking the lid off its hinge; upon seeing what he had done, Rickles went into mock panic.

Carson returned to the show the following night and promptly discovered the broken box still sitting on his desk while conversing with bandleader Doc Severinsen (who was sitting in for Ed McMahon). After Severinsen informed Carson that the broken box was Rickles' doing, Carson took a camera crew and walked across the hallway to the adjacent studio where C.P.O. Sharkey was being video taped. He interrupted the taping in order to tease Rickles, pretending to be angry, all to the delight of the studio audiences of both shows. Carson mocked Rickles' comedic style calling him a "big dummy", and then teased actor Harrison Page, speaking to him in an exaggerated jive accent. As Carson prepared to exit, Rickles announced Carson to his own audience; Carson then mockingly glared at Rickles shouting, "They know who I am!".

Nearly two years later Rickles, this time guest hosting The Tonight Show himself while talking with guest Carroll O'Connor, inattentively started slamming Carson's new cigarette box on the desk, but immediately stopped when he realized what he was doing; this time the box remained intact. This happened November 13, 1978, nearly seven months after C.P.O. Sharkey had been cancelled.

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

In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, Rickles said that the incident was a genuine accident, but he and Carson made it dramatic. "Knowing Johnny, he milked it a little bit. And I added to it." He also said he had no idea that Carson would barge in on his set that day. "I was really taken. In those days, those were bigger cameras than they are today. To schlep all that stuff into the other studio was quite an event."[2]

Broadcast history[edit]

Season Time slot (ET)
1976–77 Wednesday at 8:00–8:30 PM (Episodes 1–7)
Wednesday at 9:00–9:30 PM (Episodes 8–14)
Wednesday at 9:30–10:00 PM (Episode 15)
1977–78 Friday at 8:00–8:30 PM (Episodes 1–12)
Friday at 8:30–9:00 PM (Episodes 13–22)

Reruns[edit]

Reruns aired on Comedy Central (then known as Ha!) in the early 1990s.[3]

DVD release[edit]

On May 19, 2015, Time Life released C.P.O. Sharkey – The Complete Season 1 on DVD in Region 1.[4]

On September 22, 2015, Time Life released C.P.O. Sharkey – The Complete Season 2 on DVD in Region 1.[5]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (1976–77)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Oh Captain! My Captain"TBATBADecember 1, 1976 (1976-12-01)
The chauvinistic chief must adjust to the fact that his new commanding officer is a woman.
22"Shimokawa Ships Out"TBATBADecember 8, 1976 (1976-12-08)
An enlisted man thinks Sharkey is discriminating against him because he is Japanese.
33"The Dear John Letter"TBATBADecember 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.
44"Goodbye Dolly"TBATBADecember 29, 1976 (1976-12-29)
The men try to hide an inflatable female doll in the barracks without Sharkey's knowledge.
55"Skolnick in Love"TBATBAJanuary 12, 1977 (1977-01-12)
Shy recruit Skolnick decides to marry a cocktail waitress after a two-day courtship, much to everyone's surprise.
66"Mignone's Mutiny"TBATBAJanuary 19, 1977 (1977-01-19)
Recruit Mignone's unhappiness with the rigors of boot camp spreads to the other men.
77"Kowalski, the Somnambulist"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben & Mort Scharfman
Story by: Mort Scharfman
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.
88"Sunday in Tijuana"TBATBAFebruary 9, 1977 (1977-02-09)
Sharkey's romantic plans with Natalie are wrecked when his recruits get arrested in Tijuana, Mexico.
99"Rodriguez and His Mamacita"TBATBAFebruary 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.
1010"Sharkey Boogies on Down"TBATBAFebruary 23, 1977 (1977-02-23)
Chief Robinson takes Sharkey to a disco to celebrate his 45th birthday.
1111"Sharkey Finds Peace and Quiet"TBATBAMarch 2, 1977 (1977-03-02)
The chaos of barracks life leads Sharkey to dream of moving off-base to his own apartment.
1212"Sharkey the Marriage Counselor"TBATBAMarch 9, 1977 (1977-03-09)
Sharkey tries to help a fellow sailor with his marital problems.
1313"Sharkey's Secret Life"TBATBAMarch 16, 1977 (1977-03-16)
The recruits are convinced Sharkey is gay after his clandestine meeting with an effeminate toupee salesman.
1414"The Pizza Party"TBATBAMarch 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Pruitt plans a pizza party to celebrate the end of boot camp, but does not consult Sharkey.
1515"A Wino is Loose"TBATBAMarch 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.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
161"The New Captain"TBATBAOctober 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.
172"Operation Frisco"TBATBANovember 4, 1977 (1977-11-04)
Being assigned to submarine duty interferes with Sharkey's plans to have fun in San Francisco.
183"Sharkey Flies over the Cuckoo's Nest"TBATBANovember 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.
194"Don't Make Waves"TBATBANovember 18, 1977 (1977-11-18)
Comical chaos ensues as Sharkey's barracks is chosen for an experiment in coed Navy living.
205"Natalie's Ultimatum"TBATBADecember 2, 1977 (1977-12-02)
Sharkey' long time girlfriend, Natalie, tires of waiting and gives him an ultimatum about marriage in their relationship.
216"Sharkey the Actor"TBATBADecember 9, 1977 (1977-12-09)
Sharkey lands the lead in a Navy training film.
227"Barracks Baby"TBATBADecember 30, 1977 (1977-12-30)
Sharkey must hide a pregnant Mexican woman from INS officials in this Christmas themed episode.
238"Seven-Eleven Sharkey"TBATBAJanuary 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.
249"Forget Pearl Harbor"TBATBAJanuary 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.
2510"Close Encounters of the Worst Kind"TBATBAJanuary 27, 1978 (1978-01-27)
Sharkey's girlfriend, Natalie, accuses him of being insensitive.
2611"Pruitt's Paradise"TBATBAFebruary 3, 1978 (1978-02-03)
Pruitt has been showing signs of lethargy and Sharkey suspects it is due to a wild night life.
2712"Sharkey Meets Pruitt's Sister"TBATBAFebruary 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.
2813"Sharkey's Back Problem"TBATBAFebruary 17, 1978 (1978-02-17)
Sudden back pains lead Sharkey to worry that he will be ineligable for the "CPO of the Year" competition.
2914"It Happened One Night"TBATBAMarch 3, 1978 (1978-03-03)
A bomb scare in the female recruits barracks forces them to be housed in Sharkey's building.
3015"Tell It to the Marines"TBATBAMarch 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.
3116"Sharkey and the South American Way"TBATBAMarch 17, 1978 (1978-03-17)
Sharkey must instruct a visiting South American sailor in the ways of the United States Navy.
3217"Punk Rock Sharkey"TBATBAMarch 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.
3318"Pruitt, the Russian Flu-Carrier"TBATBAMarch 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.
3419"Captain's Right Hand Man"TBATBAApril 7, 1978 (1978-04-07)
Much to both of their chagrins, Captain Buckner is forced to make Sharkey his personal aide.
3520"Fear of Flying"TBATBAApril 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.
3621"The Even Couple"TBATBAApril 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.
3722"The Used-Car Caper"TBATBAApril 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.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]