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For the devoted fans of Gomer Pyle, the fourth season is referred to as “The Duke-less Time.” Actor Ronnie Schell had split Camp Henderson to star in his own sit-com called Good Morning, World. The only recurring platoon friend remaining for Gomer was Pvt. Hummel (William Christopher). However Christopher didn’t step up in the ranks. He’d have to wait a few years for supporting stardom as Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H*. Instead, this season the producers gave Gomer a real girlfriend in Lou Ann Poovie (Elizabeth MacRae). Shocking!
The third season had all the guys on Camp Henderson begging for time with Lou Ann. With Duke shipped off and Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton) occupied with Bunny Wilson (Barbara Stuart), Gomer finally seduced the warbling songbird. To help us believe that Gomer would land a woman, they cut back on the eye makeup and mascara that made him the Metrosexual Marine. “The Better Man” has Lou Ann prove to her daddy and ex-fiance that Gomer is her beau. Lou Ann’s dad has his suspicions after Gomer confesses to making rugs and paper flowers. What tough marine drinks root beer? Her daddy wants his little girl hooked up with her old boyfriend. Who wants to claim Gomer as a son-in-law? Will Gomer slap on his kill face and let Lou Ann’s dad know who’s the alpha male?
“A Visit from Aunt Bee” has another Andy Griffith Show character screw up the scheduled life on Camp Henderson. Aunt Bee gets upset that Gomer has to clean the barracks. Why can’t the Marines hire a maid service? Sgt. Carter blows his top when she pitches in to spiff up the base. However the old lady doesn’t take kindly to his temper. She goes straight to the press. This bad publicity forces the Colonel to tear Carter a new one. The Sarge has to make Aunt Bee happy or he’ll be in the doghouse. Which isn’t that bad considering the normal “punishment” option in 1967 was a place called Vietnam.
The big event of the season is a four episode story arc that airlifts Gomer to Washington D.C. “The Great Talent Hunt” revives the competition between Sgt. Carter and Sgt. Hacker (Allan Melvin). The base is holding a talent show. The winner will perform at a gala in the nation’s capital. Hacker recruits a ringer singer from the reserve pool. What Hacker doesn’t count on is his man coaching Gomer. Guess who gets the votes from the judges? “Gomer Says ‘Hey’ to the President” drags him and Sgt. Carter across the country. During a tour of the White House, Gomer takes a wrong turn and ends up in an extremely wrong place. There’s a certain nostalgia to this episode since it’s been years since the White House has been opened for public tours. “And a Child Shall Lead Them” puts a lost Japanese kid in the custody of Gomer. It gives them more time to show off the landmarks from the location shoot. “The Show Must Go On” finally takes us to the big show. Sgt. Carter turns into a stagemother. His tips on how to sell the song to the audience nearly destroys Gomer’s chance to perform. All the pressure gets to Gomer’s vocal cords. He seeks comfort in the presence of Abe Lincoln. Taken together these four episodes can be viewed as Gomer Pyle: The Movie.
There’s quite a few guest star moments. “Corporal Carol” drafts Carol Burnett as a female Marine that wants to drill Gomer. She thinks he wants her as a girlfriend, but Gomer is a claimed man. Lou Ann fears for she can’t compete with the headstrong Cpl. Carol. Two women fighting over Gomer is comedy at its core. “The Price of Tomatoes” lets Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazzard) claim that Camp Henderson is on his farm land. “The Night Club Comic” stars Jerry Van Dyke as an entertainer who gains a following by tapping into Gomer as his sidekick. The marine knows how to pep up the crowd into a sing-a-long as Jerry plays “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey” on the banjo. Sgt. Carter isn’t pleased with his private moonlighting as a cabaret artist. Until his career took off with Coach, this was Jerry’s shining role after starring in the creepy My Mother the Car.
Like the previous two season box sets, The Fourth Season features episodes missing musical numbers. People have complained about these edits, but there are certain music publishers that want outrageous cash for the rights. They didn’t yank every note off the soundtrack. Several musical moments didn’t get slashed away. Jim Nabor’s overpowering version of “The Impossible Dream” is complete. While Jerry Van Dyke’s episode is two minutes short, most of the songs remain. Someday music publishers will be more cooperative with vintage TV shows that promoted their songs for decades.
Gomer and Sgt. Carter keep up the military humor while Duke takes a leave of absence in this penultimate season. The show is pure cornball fun. There’s nothing sophisticated about the series. We know that a guy like Gomer wouldn’t last four years in the Corp. He doesn’t transform into a marine killing machine. Gomer is eternally naive. You can believe that he would stumble into the Oval Office or a mine field. Maybe him having a girlfriend is a major stretch, but that’s why this is a sitcom and not a documentary. Gomer Pyle: The Fourth Season proves that Gomer wasn’t a short-timer when it came to the funny.
“A Visit from Aunt Bee,” “The Recruiting Poster,” “Corporal Carol,” “Leader of Men,” “Gomer, the Beautiful Dreamer,” “The Great Talent Hunt,” “Gomer Says “Hey” to the President,” “And A Child Shall Lead Them,” “The Show Must Go On,” “The Better Man,” “To Watch A Thief,” “The Prize Boat,” “Friendly Freddy Strikes Again,” “Change Partners,” “Wild Bull of the Pampas,” “Gomer, the Good Samaritan,” “Gomer, the Privileged Character,” “Gomer Goes Home,” “A Dog is a Dog,” “Luv Finds Gomer Pyle,” “Gomer and the Queen of Burlesque,” “The Carriage Waits,” “Sergeant Iago,” “Goodbye, Dolly,” “The Price of Tomatoes,” “Chef For a Day,” “Gomer and the Night Club Comic,” “Love and Goulash,” “And Baby Makes Three,” and “Friendly Freddy, The Gentleman’s Tailor.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are so sharp and detailed that you can see any dust inside the barracks. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You can feel Sgt. Carter’s holding back his growls when Gomer screws up again. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Gomer Pyle: The Fourth Season delivers the hick humor without camouflaging any messages about what was really happening in the world.
CBS DVD presents Gomer Pyle: The Fourth Season. Starring Jim Nabors, Frank Sutton, William Christopher and Allan Melvin. Thirty episodes on five DVDs. Originally Broadcasted: Sept. 8, 1967 – April 12, 1968. Released on DVD: May 20, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.