Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: The Second Season

DVD available at Amazon.com

Created by:
Aaron Ruben

Jim Nabors….Pvt. Gomer Pyle
Frank Sutton….Sgt. Vince Carter
Ronnie Schell…Pvt. Gilbert “Duke” Slater
Ted Bessell….Pvt. Frankie Lombardi
Roy Stuart….Cpl. Chuck Boyle
Allan Melvin….Sgt. Hacker
Barbara Stuart….Bunny Wilson

Paramount Home Video presents Gomer Pyle USMC: Season Two. Thirty episodes on 5 DVDs. Episodes aired from Sept. 17, 1965 to April 15, 1966. DVD released June 26, 2007.

The Show

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In the South, especially North Carolina, there were laws on the books that demanded TV stations show The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle – U.S.M.C. back to back. These shows stuck to you like humidity and mosquitoes. While it was easy to appreciate the simple charms of Andy and the folks in Mayberry, Gomer was a mixed bag. Here was a contemporary series about the Marines, yet there was never a single peep about anyone being shipped out to Vietnam. The biggest threat flung around Camp Henderson was reassignment to Alaska. There would be no visit to Saigon. Gomer would never strap on his guns and fight the Viet Cong in the bloody rice paddies. Pyle and his men never feared leaving California on a TransPacific flight. At least on Hogan’s Heroes the Nazis feared a trip to the Russian Front.

A majority of the 62 men under Sgt. Carter’s command rotate without too much personality shown on camera. The show never felt obligated to give us a consistent set of supporting privates in Gomer’s barracks. This season featured a trio of notable privates that would periodically report for duty on occasion. William Christopher plays Pvt. Hummel, a company know-it-all. Christopher would go on to be Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H after being a guest Nazi on Hogan’s Heroes. Veteran TV character actor Ronnie Schell found a home at Camp Henderson as Pvt. “Duke” Slater. He was Gomer’s reliable pal, although he wasn’t above luring his naive bunkmate into a plan. This would be the last season for Ted Bessell in the role of Pvt. Lombardi. He would be discharged to the role of Donald on That Girl. It is amazing to see the Impeccable Hair of Ted Bessell put on maneuvers. Even after a day beneath the steel helmet, Bessell’s hair looks stunning.

The season’s called to attention with “PFC Gomer Pyle” that explains why we’ll never see Gomer Pyle reach the rank of General. Sgt. Carter wants all of his men to become Private First Class instead of mere Privates. But Gomer doesn’t want to move up the chain of command because its not the way he was raised in Mayberry. “Gomer Untrains a Dog” has a batch of attack K-9s arriving at the base. Gomer gets assigned a German Shepard named “Killer.” But leave it to Gomer to turn the vicious animal into happy pet. “Arrivederci, Gomer” allows us to visit Pvt. Lombardi’s family. They’re an out of control pack of Italian stereotypes. You expect Lombardi’s sister to stomp grapes for a living. She does a have a problem with a boyfriend that won’t commit. When Gomer belts out an Italian love song to the sister, she thinks he’s going to marry her. He looks really uncomfortable with the prospect of a military wedding in his future.

“Gomer Pyle, Civilian” has Sgt. Carter finally break the private into filing for a transfer. But instead of it being the most wonderful day in his life, Sgt. Carter regrets alienating Gomer. He needs his Gomer. You don’t need read into any subtext about their emotional relationship. It’s right on the surface. As Gomer packs up his locker, he looks at a grinning photo of Sgt. Carter. It’s campy and heartbreaking. When it comes to war games, these two should bivouac on Brokeback Mountain. “Gomer Pyle, POW” shows how much damage he can cause during Camp Henderson’s war games. All Sgt. Carter wants if for Gomer to get captured by the other side so he doesn’t have to worry about Pyle screwing up the mission. Of course Pyle ruins this plan by become a faux war hero. You’ll spot future M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr as a rival marine. Vegas Vacation has Gomer drag Sgt. Carter all over Las Vegas. Carter wants to hit the craps table, but Gomer wants to see the Hoover Dam. They’re like an old married couple on a holiday.

The big highlights of this season is two unexpected visits from Andy Griffith Show citizens. “A Visit From Cousin Goober” has Goober Pyle sneak onto the base. He’s fled from Mayberry and wants to join the Marines. All he ends up doing is getting Gomer into trouble since the brass thinks he’s really his cousin. Opie Joins the Marines has a plot where Opie runs away from Mayberry to join the Marines. Why can’t anyone from Mayberry just visit Gomer in order to enjoy the dry heat of Southern California? The end of Opie’s visit has a really creepy cameo from Andy Griffith. He gives a stare reminiscent of his role as the killer in Murder in Coweta County.

The bad news on this set is that a few of the episodes are the syndicated prints. A majority of the 30 episodes run around the 25 minutes and thirty second mark. The episodes that run short of that time include “Gomer Untrains a Dog” (23:16), “Gomer Captures a Submarine” (24:03), “Gomer Pyle, Civilian” (24:45), “Little Girl Blue” (24:31), “Duke Slater, Night Club Comic” (25:05) and “Gomer, The Would-Be Hero” (24:52). There’s also a warning about music replacement. Nothing seems too jarring for a casual viewer. I’m guessing that there must have been a scene with Gomer singing to the dog that had to be snipped because once more a music publisher wanted a fortune.

Even with the denial slathered all over this series, Gomer Pyle is still funny. Why resist laughing as Gomer disarms all combatants with his Shucks ‘n Aw Southern fried assault. The misfortunes he delivers to Sgt. Carter while attempting to do the right things are hilarious. We all know that a Marine’s life in the late ’60s didn’t involve Max Factor and constantly sweeping the barracks, but who wants to tell innocent Gomer the horrible truth of Vietnam?

The Episodes
The second season consists of “PFC Gomer Pyle,” “Third Finger, Left Loaf,” “The Blind Date,” “Home on the Range,” “Gomer Untrains a Dog,” “Supply Sergeants Never Die,” “Cat Overboard,” “Gomer Captures a Submarine,” “The Grudge Fight,” “Gomer the Star Witness,” “A Visit From Cousin Goober,” “A Groom for Carter’s Sister,” “Gomer Minds His Sergeant’s Car,” “Gomer the Peace Maker,” “Gomer Pyle, POW,” “Gomer Pyle, Civilian,” “Gomer and the Beast,” “Grandma Pyle, Fortune Teller,” “Arrivederci, Gomer,” “Segeant Carter Dates a Pyle,” “Little Girl Blue,” “A Star is Born,” “Gomer and the Phone Company,” “Duke Slater, Night Club Comic,” “Vacation in Vegas,” “Opie Joins the Marines,” “A Date With Miss Camp Henderson,” “Gomer and the Father Figure,” “Sergeant Carter Takes a Desk Job” and Gomer, the Would-Be Hero.”


The picture is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are top quality. The excellent color and detail makes it obvious that Gomer is wearing eye makeup.

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. The levels are solid. You might want to lower the volume when Sgt. Carter chews Gomer a new one.


The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C: The Second Season

(OUT OF 10)