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June 06, 2012

Hogan's Heroes, McHale's Navy, and the Post 9/11 GWOT Situation Comedy

I saw a Fox-bashing graphic the other day that I thought was clever and then it led me to perplexing questions.

What would a holocaust survivor think of Hogan's Heroes in 1965, 21 years after D-Day? What would a child who had lost their parents to the Nazi's think of Hogan's Heroes?

Similarly, McHale's Navy in 1962. It took 21 years after Pearl Harbor for it become acceptable for a pop-culture comedy to have a Japanese sailor (Fuji) as one of the good guys to be protected. Fuji's backstory was that he was a deserter from the Japanese Navy and McHale's crew kept him dressed as a POW as a cover.

If your husband or brother died in World War II, when would a comedy featuring "good Germans" or "good Japanese" become not only non-controversial but also commercially viable? It seems like it takes 21 years. How long will it take after 9/11/01? Given the genre, what will the next war comedy show podcast look like?


Here's a few of the standard characters in these ensemble setpieces, drawn from the archetypes in Hogan/McHale.
  • The Protagonist: The pragmatic lovable unit leader who takes care of his people and accomplishes the mission in spite of the organization
  • Antagonist/Management: The rigid rule-driven second-level boss and his toady sidekick, eager to catch the squad on a violation.
  • Staff: The lovable sidekick, the innocent rube, the hustling scamster, the womanizer, the gambler, the professor, the mercenary
  • The Defanged and Explainable Other: Fuji. Schultz. Klinger.

Let's consider WW2's Hogan and McHale as WarComedy 1.0

WarComedy 2.0 would be MASH, situated in Korea but really about VietNam - while we were still in VietNam. Time delay: 0. No bad VietCong here; the enemy is Us, or the enemy is War. In WarComedy 2.0 it became acceptable to discuss and depict American deaths, and to even doubt the purpose of those deaths.

What will be our WarComedy 3.0? When will we get the post-9/11 Sitcom, the GWOT comedy setpiece? When will it become artistically practical and commercially feasible to product a successful comedy show for the kiddies about troops fighting in the 'Stans? And what new twist will make the show fresh and challenging - not just Hogan/McHale with cellphones, but with a new generational twist like we saw in Mash?

I suggest that War Comedy 3.0 would have to move past petty national alignments - I mean really, it's just a probability distribution that you were born here, anyway, it could have easily gone another way - and recognize the universality of war and the equivalent experience of combatants. With that in mind, I think our NextGen WarComedy would probably be made in the United States but broadcast on Al Jazeera, and the characters would include:

  • Protagonist:The Sheik, who's real name is not known. Rumored to have come from a wealthy and educated Saudi family, he gave it all up to wage jihad but is frustrated at impractical fundamentalists.
  • Management/Antagonist: The Blind Cleric - Obsesses over minor details. If truth were known, he is not completely blind - he's just legally blind but thought this was a good sinecure.
  • Staff:
    • The Farmboy: raised on a opium poppy farm, educated to 1st grade level in a madrassah
    • The Scamster continually trying to get martyr candidates to designate him as their beneficiary
    • The Mercenary A veteran of Algiers who kills for bounty, but often loses his money to the Scamster
    • The Womanizer although he patrols with the religious police, often copies down the cellphone number of immodest temptresses for later liaisons
    • The Professor hacks electronics and websites; uses aliases to cruise

  • The Defanged, Explainable Other: Sgt. Rock, an American from Ground Zero City that willingly stands in for their propaganda and training videos. Sgt. Rock went AWOL in 2008 because of fears his sexual orientation would be outed. The Sheik keeps telling Rock the policy has changed and it's OK, really he can go home now, but the Rock won't believe it.

Working titles: The Sheik Squad. The Gitmo Gonzo's. A diverse bunch of guys, each trying in his own way to do what's expected, in spite of the organization and the zany situation. You heard it here first. If it takes 21 years, we're halfway there.


Anonymous said...

What a great idea. I have always been amazed at how Hogan's Heroes got made. It was only about thirty years after WWII. And isn't Hollywood full of Jews? How did this get green lighted? Especially portraying Nazis as loveable buffoons.

I see your show set in Afghanistan as a MASH/Hogan's Heroes smash up. Life at an American base with a bunch of wacky Taliban dudes. Or, maybe a Guantanamo. Wacky Muslims locked up constantly hatching hair-brained plots against the West.

Anonymous said...

This was the beginning of early tv propaganda to make the ex foe popular for whatever reason commerce trade etc. This country really does have owners just look at the tactics used nowadays.

Anonymous said...

the thing you arent realizing is in hogan, the show was meant to make the germans look like complete idiots. notice how its not realistic at all? i understand you're point if the show was more realistic but seriously? not even close. it has nothing to do with loving the nazi's or anything like that.

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