1 9 6 2 – 1 9 6 6 (USA)
138 x 30 minute episodes
1 x 60 minute episode
Lt. Commander Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine) was the commander of PT73 – a World War II motor torpedo boat with the most bizarre crew ever.
The show was built around the conflict between the regulation-ignoring, con-artist McHale and his long-suffering superior officer, Captain Wallace B Binghamton (Joe Flynn), assisted by Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter (Bob Hastings), who commanded PT Boat 16.
Binghamton was born in New York and had been head of the Long Island Yacht Club before the war.
McHale was loved and admired by his men but Binghamton hated him, and the Navy put up with him because, in the South Pacific where PT 73 was originally based at the island of Taratupa, he knew the territory – and “the Japs” – like the back of his hand.
He was born in Michigan and had been the captain of a tramp steamer in the South Pacific when Admiral Reynolds commissioned him as a lieutenant and assigned him to Taratupa as the commander of Squadron 19 and PT Boat 73.
McHale and his “crew of pirates” (as Binghamton called them) lived on the far side of the island in what is called “McHale’s Island” – where they also played host to an unreported Japanese prisoner of war named Fuji Kobiaji (Yoshio Yoda) who served as McHale’s cook – and had turned Taratupa into ‘The Las Vegas of the Pacific’. Binghamton’s attempts to “get the goods on McHale” were the focal point of the series.
McHale’s crew comprised of Lester Gruber (Carl Ballantine), Harrison “Tinker” Bell (Billy Sands), Willy Moss (John Wright), Joseph “Happy” Haines (Gavin MacLeod), Virgil Edwards (Edson Stroll) and Quartermaster George (“Christy”) Christopher (Gary Vinson).
For the last season of McHale’s Navy, the entire cast was transferred to Italy where they helped maintain the occupation of the small town of Voltafiore against the possible takeover of German troops.
Binghamton now also had to deal with the town’s conniving mayor, Mario Lugatto (Jay Novello), who was almost as much a con-man as McHale.
Nothing really changed except the locale and the gambling and racketeering that had been prevalent in the South Pacific now included the local townsfolk as well as military personnel.
The series began life as TV play Seven Against The Sea, a 60-minute comedy/drama segment of Alcoa Premier aired in the USA by ABC on 3 April 1962. Borgnine and Flynn starred, reprising their roles when the idea became a regular half-hour sitcom.
It proved to be a durable premise, running for four years and spawning two feature film spin-offs, McHale’s Navy (1964) and McHale’s Navy Joins The Air force (1965). Borgnine was absent from the latter and the main role was taken by Tim Conway as the naive, gauche Parker.
In 1997, Hollywood released a film “version” of McHale’s Navy starring Tom Arnold. McHale was now a retired Naval officer who spent his time smuggling items like McHale’s Ale and McHale’s Ice Cream onto a modern Caribbean Navy base.
The connection to the original TV show was tenuous, to say the least, although Ernest Borgnine made a cameo appearance.
Borgnine passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of kidney failure on 9 July 2012. He was 95.
Lt Cmdr Quinton McHale
Capt. Wallace B. Binghamton
Ensign Charles Parker
Lt Elroy Carpenter
Col Douglas Harrigan
George “Christy” Christopher
Harrison “Tinker” Bell
Joseph “Happy” Haines
Mayor Mario Lugatto
Nurse Molly Turner