On January 5, 1919, the German workers party was formed and was soon led by army corporal Adolph Hitler who exploited Germany’s collapsed economy and weak Weimar regime to seize power and pursue a notoriously brutal policy of beligerent nationalism and racial hatred leading to the seizure of disputed territories in neighboring France, the invasion of Poland and the eventual creation of Nazi death camps during which millions of Jews and other undesirables were executed in the name of racial purity. Sensing an opportunity, CBS creates a series 20 years after the end of WWII set in a Nazi POW camp.
The juxtaposition of the swastika and the laugh track is still jarring 40-some odd years after Hogan’s Heroes was on TV, but even in light of the subject matter and the revelations of star Bob Crane’s deviant sexuality and brutal murder (depicted in Paul Schrader’s Autofocus), the flattening effect of the sitcom format prevails. Sumptiously shot, it retains high production values, but apart from Richard Dawson as the cockney POW and Werner Klemperer’s famously rising crescendo of frustration...”Ho-Gan!”as the beleagured Colonel Klink, this is a formulaic infantryman in Gestapo’s clothing.
The fact that several of the principals involved were actually Jewish inmates of real concentration camps (including John Banner (Schultz) and Robery Clary (Lebeau) and that the show was a big hit in Germany makes me feel like my head’s going to explode.