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Military TV Shows From The Groovy Era

Entertainment | December 20, 2018

Stars of the television series 'MASH,' California, 1972. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

The groovy era was an iconic time in American history. So many things were going on at the time culturally and otherwise. “Change” was a cultural theme during the counterculture era. While this era played out, it was known as a time of people making their individual marks in life. Often this mark included making personal, social and political statements.

The tumultuous counterculture era was a time of cultural change and was also known as the GROOVY era.

The groovy age rang in the era of the hippy. Hippies were/are typically known as individuals who are free spirits and in opposition to the norms of society. Often, this mark included making personal, social and political statements. These statements came in the form of everything from clothing to music and much more.

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The groovy era was no stranger to the opposition of military conflict.

There was a lot of political conflict in the world during the ‘60s and ‘70s. That being the case, it was somewhat surprising how television audiences embraced shows with similar themes. During the groovy era, many young people were of the opinion that war was not the answer.

Make love, not war was the mantra of many, but television audiences embraced the reality of the BEAST!

Surprisingly, during this notable time in American history, people were not "digging" the concept of war but watching television shows about it just the same. During this epic time in American history, several military-themed television shows made their mark.

Of the many such television series, the ones that come to mind are Baa Baa Black Sheep, Gomer Pyle USMC McHale’s Navy and M*A*S*H.

Baa Baa Black Sheep was one of those iconic, military “period” TV series from the groovy era. This TV series aired from ’76 until ’78 on the NBC television network. This iconic show starred the very talented Robert Conrad. Conrad portrayed Greg “Pappy” Boyington who was a fighter pilot squadron leader of a group of misfit military personnel. The name of the squadron was the “Black Sheep” because of their collective inadequacies.  

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The character Robert Conrad (loosely) portrayed in this epic military TV series was an actual World War II, U.S. Marine squadron leader.

Gomer Pyle USMC was also a TV series about the U.S. Marines. The star of the show was Jim Nabors. Similar to the theme of Baa Baa Black Sheep, P.F.C. Pyle was a misfit himself. He portrayed something of an intellectually challenged underling. As the series played out, it became apparent that he wasn’t as stupid as he appeared. He was more so, inexperienced and “green.” Coming from the small town of Mayberry, he was not well versed in the ways of the real world, much less the military. He, nevertheless, pressed on, always trying to do the right thing and make Sergeant Carter happy.

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Gomer Pyle’s famous expressions from this hit series included a long, drawn out… “Gollee” and "Shazam!”

Another TV series about a group of military misfits was McHale’s Navy. This group was led by Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, portrayed by Ernest Borgnine. This group of misfits was especially UN-military-like. Not only had they been banned to their own island, the outfit befriended the enemy (Fuji) and always had some scheme to get under the skin of Captain Binghampton, somewhat of a misfit himself.  Ensign Parker, portrayed by funny man, Tim Conway, was secretly on the side of McHale and his men.

McHale’s Navy portrayed the antics of the crew of the PT-73.

M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) was also based on a military theme. This TV series, however, had a different spin. With an all-star cast including Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, and Jamie Farr, among others, this show revolved around a mobile medical unit in war-torn South Korea. The point of view of the plot centered more around the reality of the casualties of war. Many of the medical personnel were not military but were doctors drafted to serve in the war effort. M*A*S*H epically chronicled the behind the scenes of the Korean War.  

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The irony of M*A*S*H was that the men and women of this medical unit, patched up soldiers only to send them back to the front line to get hurt again.

While these TV series were known to be very entertaining and funny, they aired during a time when there was nothing funny about war. These shows weren’t meant to desensitize audiences about the atrocities of war but rather to help people cope with the reality.

Tags: 1960s television, war, 1970s television, military tv shows, the groovy era, entertainment

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.