You may not have noticed before, but an awful lot of TV characters have been Colonels. Or, at the very least, they have referred to themselves as Colonels. Judging by what TV has to offer on the subject, there seems to be something peculiarly unique to the rank of Colonel that allows for a certain bit of eccentricity of character that just isn’t allowed among Generals and Majors.
King of the Hill
Few would likely term Hank Hill a rebellious sort of Texas, but if you know anything at all about his upbringing, you know he was a rebel. The supremely uptight title character of the animated series “King of the Hill” was the son of a World War II Colonel who never allowed anyone to forget his service to the public that included killing “fitty men.” As part of Colonel Cotton Hill’s GI benefits package, he felt he had the right to indulge himself in any vice available and never ben questioned. As uncomfortable with all things private as personal as his son Hank was, Col. Cotton Hill was free and open. Not just one of TV’s most eccentric Colonels but one of TV’s most eccentric characters, period.
Bet you didn’t know that the very first color cartoon ever produced exclusively for TV not only starred a Colonel, but had the rank in its title. “Colonel Bleep” was a rather strange concoction to hold such an honor. The title character didn’t belong to any military branch here on earth and, in fact, was not of this earth at all. The atomic blasts on Japan at the end of World War II brought Colonel Bleep here from his home planet of Futura. Along with two sidekicks, a cowboy and caveman, work together to protect earth from the devious plans of Dr. Destructo
On one very memorable episode of “The Simpsons” even Homer becomes, briefly, a Colonel. If only in name. Colonel Homer is the name that Homer takes on when he becomes the manager of up and coming country singer Lurleen Lumpkin. “Colonel Homer” is a satiric tribute or slap, however you see fit, at Colonel Parker, the manager of Elvis Presley who had a contract with the King that even other weasels in the music industry envied. And that is saying something.
A number of Colonels made their way through the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, but the one that is the most memorable in terms of TV history is most definitely Col. Blake. Transferred from the big screen smash movie to small screen C.O., Colonel Blake was the less than by-the-book overseer of all the craziness taking place at this Army hospital during the Korean war. When actor McLean Stevenson decided to try his hand at starring in his TV series, it seemed as though Col. Blake would be living the dream of all the other characters and getting back home. The scene were Radar arrives inside the operating room to deliver the news that Col. Blake’s helicopter crashed and there were no survivors remains one of the most shocking moments in TV history.
McKeever and the Colonel
Colonel Harvey Blackwell has a place in TV history as one of the first Colonels to become a title character. What also sets Blackwell apart from fellow TV Colonels is that he was retired and living on his laurels like Col. Cotton Hill nor was he actively engaged in war like Col. Blake. Just like Cotton Hill briefly was in one memorable episode of “King of the Hill” Col. McKeever was in charge of a military school. And like most military school comedies, “McKeever and the Colonel” focused on the friction that exists between young cadets and old guard military types in charge at such a school.
Colonel Humphrey Flack
Colonel Flack was a con man. Not just a con man, but a con artiste. And, in the tradition of Robin Hood, he eventually came around to using those talents on the other side of legally constituted morality to serve the purposes of a greater morality. If you break laws to swindle lawbreakers and give the greater portion to those in need, have you really committed a great enough crime to warrant prosecution? Such was the weekly dose of ethical considerations that made up episodes of “Colonel Humphrey Flack.” Of course, at just a half hour each, the greater philosophical questions related to this TV Colonel were mostly presented as subtext.
Calvin and the Colonel
You know, when you really start looking into the subject, there have been a lot of animated characters on TV who achieved the rank of Colonel. “Calvin and the Colonel” was one of the many offerings in the first wave of animated cartoons landing on the prime time schedule in the wake of the unexpected success of “The Flintstones.” If “The Flintstones” was essentially “The Honeymooners” thrown back to the Stone Age in animated form, then “Calvin and the Colonel” was essentially “Amos ‘n Andy” in animated form. Imagine every major stereotype of a character from the Deep South that ever appeared in the movies turned into symbolic animal avatars and transplanted to an urban setting in the North. Col. Montgomery J. Klaxon was as cunning as a fox because, well, he was a fox. Calvin T. Burnside was a great bear of an idiot. That Calvin character would return almost unchanged more than fifteen years later as Mayor Teddy Burnside on “Carter Country.”