It is pretty difficult to work a skydiving scene into one of them there television shows filmed before a live audience. But you can bet that never stopped the writers from trying. Scenes involving skydiving–especially gags involving parachutes–are one of the most time-honored go-to scenes in TV history. What is really amazing is the versatility afforded by skydiving and parachuting.
King of the Hill
Probably no other TV series in history–and certainly not an animated one–ever stuck with the parachute premise as strongly as “King of the Hill.” The finale of the third season of “King of the Hill” leads to Hank and Peggy trying to stimulate a little excitement into their marriage as they celebrate a dismal anniversary. The solution is one that probably is not limited to TV characters. They decide to jump out of an airplane. Despite the fact that Peggy suggested skydiving and Hank is far from being fully committed, it is Hank who experiences the thrill as Peggy chickens out. And the, at the last minute, Peggy goes ahead and jumps. Only for her ripcord to fail. And then her backup ripcord to fail. The season ends with the sight of Peggy free-falling to the earth. Most other shows that end this way would either have Peggy shockingly killed off, reveal it was a dream or find some way for her to be rescued. But “King of the Hill” is all in and Peggy does hit the ground and does break just about ever bone in her body and then, perhaps most amazingly, has the first few episodes of season four revolve around Peggy’s survival and recovery.
Gomer Pyle, USMC
Most TV series that put a major character into a parachute deal with things the way “Gomer Pyle, USMC” does. Private Pyle has stumbled and bumbled one too many times and so Sgt. Carter takes advantage of the opportunity to rid himself temporarily of his biggest knucklehead by volunteering him for skydiving training. When Sgt. Carter finds out that Gomer has named him the beneficiary of a special insurance policy in case of accident death, Carter’s guilt works overtime. Carter and Corporal Boyle desperately rush to stop Pyle from jumping but are too late and as they look into the sky they see him free-falling before he disappears behind a mountain. When they jeep to where Pyle appeared to be headed, he’s nowhere to be seen. Carter and Boyle talk about what a good person the numbskull really was at heart before it is revealed that Pyle’s parachute has been stuck in the tree above them the whole time.
The Drew Carey Show
One of the most occurrences of parachutes on TV shows is the gag about getting stuck in a tree. While Sgt. Carter gets mad at Pyle for surviving and then eavesdropping, Drew Carter does something perhaps even worse. Tim Allen plays himself doing a PR stunt that goes so wildly wrong he winds up hanging in a tree in Carey’s backyard. Figuring that a celebrity stuck in a tree is even better than if the stunt had worked, Carey makes the decision to just leave Tim Allen where he found him.
Not just a “Columbo” episode where skydiving plays a major role in the plot, but a “Columbo” episode with parachutes and Johnny Cash. Cash plays a pretty crummy country-gospel star who is being blackmailed because he has a taste for underage girls. Since “Columbo” is famous for showing the crime and doing away with the whodunit aspect, it’s not a spoiler at all to tell you that Cash’s character is also a trained pilot who uses that ability and a parachute to fake a plane crash in which he alone miraculously survived.
CSI: The Descent of Man
In this particular instance of TV mystery shows involving skydiving and parachutes, it is the guy with the parachute who is the victim. Unlike Peggy Hill, the skydiving accident results in paralysis when the parachute fails to open. But is there more to this instance of parachutes failing to deploy in TV shows than meets the eye? Since “CSI” is not structured like “Columbo” I won’t reveal the answer.