You can quibble about the situation, but the comedy still works.
, 23 Jun 2009
Whether it was morally right to set a light hearted comedy in a WW2 German prison camp is of course questionable. It's the same question as was asked about 'Dad's Army'. Making comedic a mileage out of times of great hardship, threat and tragedy is always going to raise eyebrows.
However, it's always funny to see historical orthodoxy turned on it's head and to see the oppressors being bested by the people who are supposed to be their captors. It's done over and over around the world, so it must have reasonances.
In the UK in TV and films we've had Porridge, Colditz, 'Ello 'Ello and so on. In the US they had Hogan's Heroes and ofcourse MASH is somewhat the same kind of premise, conscript doctors dragooned by the Army, which they then seek to outsmart at every opportunity. And the US probably had other shows that we never saw in Europe along these same lines. Mel Brooks has made something of a speciality of this strand of comedy (and I think was a writer on Hogan briefly?)
So, Hogan's Heroes. A prison camp in Germany in WW2, run by an egomaniac Idiot (Colnel Klink) is host to a load of captured allied airmen and soldiers. Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane) is the senior officer among these men. Due to the lax regime in the camp (exemplified by John Banner's excellent numbskull Sergeant Schultz) the 'captives' build underground facilities that not only allow them to live in some comfort - for example they have a tailors shop down there! - but also allow them to come and go from the camp as they please and assist other prisoners to escape to freedom. All the while they allow Klink to maintain the illusion with his superiors that his camp is escape proof and run with iron discipline.
So after all this time (made in the late 1960s remember - by Bing Crosby productions, no less) how does it all look now in the 2000s? Well, some of the episodes are still just superb, many are very watchable, a few are embarrasing. Mostly the comedy still works, it's almost all in colour (quite good colour too) and the quality is good. This means that kids will watch it without any problem and they will love the visual gags even if they are not initially 100% informed about the premise.
So, yes, well worth reissuing these on DVD. There are more too. I think this ran to about 5 series. If you remember it from wayback, have another look now. If you watch it sympathetically, you'll have a great time.
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