“The end of the Civ-il War was near when quite ac-ci-den-tal-ly,
A he-ro who sneezed ab-rupt-ly seized retreat and re-versed it to vic-to-ry,
His med-al of hon-or pleased and thrilled his proud lit-tle fam’ly group,
While pin-ning it on some blood was spilled and so it was planned he’d com-mand,
Considering the adoration that fans retain for the fine soldiers that made up F-Troop, it seems impossible that the show only ran for a mere two seasons (starting in 1965). And yet, in that short amount of time, the show was filled with so many memorable moments of silliness that it was destined to pick up numerous fans in later syndication. Perhaps the first parody ever produced of the Old West, F-Troop was a groundbreaking sitcom, fondly remembered for its wacky characters and “Anything goes” attitude.
Taking place after the conclusion of the Civil War, F-Troop followed the daily antics of the men that guarded Fort Courage, located near the banks of the Missouri River. In charge of the soldiers was an accidental war hero named Captain Wilton Parmenter, who earned his command after he won a battle by an errant sneeze that was misconstrued by his men as an order to charge.
Pamenter was pretty inept but certainly an honest and likable guy. And yet, he had been given command of perhaps the most bizarre post that ever existed. Con Artists and bumbling characters existed both within his troops and in the outside world – and managed to co-exist quite peacefully considering. His own Sgt. O’Rourke hawked Indian souvenirs, thanks to a secret agreement with the local Hekawi tribe. Acting as assistant to O’Rourke was the clueless Corporal Agarn and, acting as a lookout was the nearly-blind corporal Vanderbilt. Lovely cowgirl, Wrangler Jane, ran the local General Store and tirelessly directed her lustful attentions towards Captain Parmenter, who she hoped to marry one day.
Most fondly remembered are a number of running gags on the show that never failed to get a laugh. Any request for directions, for example, was always met with “Make a left at the rock that looks like a bear, then a right at the bear that looks like a rock.” Wrangler Jane’s amorous advances on Captain Parmenter were always met with “Please Jane, not in front of the men.” And perhaps the best-remembered recurring gag involved O’Rourke who would casually mention to Agarn, “I don’t know why everybody says you are so dumb.” A few moments later, in a completely unrelated moment, Agarn would finally wonder out loud, “Who says I’m dumb?”
One of the best things about F-Troop was that it always kept audiences on their toes, since you never knew what to expect, no matter how ludicrous the premise. In one episode called “That’s Showbiz,” Corporal Agarn decided to quit the army so that he could become the manager of a band called The Bedbugs.” Most strange was the fact that the group used electric instruments – a feat decidedly rare in the Old West. Some episodes even switched genres completely, such as “Spy Counterspy, Counter Counterspy” which parodied the popular 007 spy films of the day. Even the horror film genre wasn’t considered off-limits, as in the episode “V Is For Vampire” featuring iconic fright master, Vincent Price in a silly spoof.
It was bizarre moments like these that won the hearts of many fans during the short two-year run of F-Troop. The show would develop a full-on cult following in the years of syndication that followed, as millions of new fans learned of the zany antics that took place daily behind the not-so-guarded walls of Fort Courage.
If you have fond memories of watching F Troop as a tyke, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section.