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"Goldbricker." Now there's a term you don't hear much any more. But that's what Ed Sullivan called Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko back in the 1950s, and it's as apt a term as any for Phil Silvers' immortal comic creation. Hustler, gambler, scam artist, and con man also apply, but anyway you slice it, Bilko is inarguably one of the greatest characters to emerge in television's so-called Golden Age. Created by Nat Hiken and originally called "You'll Never Get Rich," The Phil Silvers Show is classic situation comedy. There's no character arc, no lessons learned, no sentimental denouement; just laughs, and plenty of 'em. The typical episode finds Bilko on the make--usually, though not exclusively, for money--and generally ends with him holding the short end of his own shtick. Silvers, a master at both verbal and physical comedy, is the focal point, of course. But the ensemble work, featuring Bilko's usual stooges from the Fort Baxter motor pool (Barbella, Doberman, Paparelli), his favourite victims (cf. Col. Hall), and occasional guest stars, is uniformly brilliant, the acting is seemingly effortless, and the pleasure they take in their work is palpable.
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