1 9 6 3 – 1 9 6 4 (USA)
30 x 30 minute episodes
This black and white sitcom from CBS was an attempt by Phil Silvers to replicate the success of his Sgt Bilko character four years after the original Phil Silvers Show. This time, Silvers played Harry Grafton, the foreman at Los Angeles factory, Osborne Industries.
There were clear similarities and Grafton was essentially Bilko but with even less redeeming features. Both were conmen, both were manipulators and both wanted to beat the system. Grafton operated the Osborne coffee trolley, owned the vending machines and, unknown to all, ran his own business (Grafton Enterprises) from his office.
Stafford Repp, as the boss Mr Brink, was the Colonel Hall-type figure of authority who had to be outflanked, and as Bilko had his platoon so Grafton had put-upon factory-floor workers. But there was one fatal flaw . . .
While Bilko was trying to swindle the system, the government and the US Army while still having a soft centre, Grafton’s battles were against honest men – his fellow blue-collar workers – and underneath his nastiness was, well, more nastiness!
Soon enough Silvers and his production team were receiving mail from irate viewers asking why Grafton didn’t just stop trying to buck industry and do an honest day’s work for a decent day’s pay.
To side-step the problem and resuscitate the flagging series, it was decided in February 1964 to give Harry Grafton a family background – a widowed sister (Audrey) and her two children (Susan and Andy).
The plan was to gradually shift emphasis away from the factory and on to domestic issues. But it was to no avail.
After just 30 episodes CBS pulled the plug. From here on, Silvers’ TV appearances were restricted to guest spots or attempts to relaunch Bilko in a new guise, such as a CBS pilot called Eddie, which aired in September 1971.
In this, Silvers was cast as Eddie Skinner, a patrolman for a Bel Air residential community who liked to manipulate his colleagues for personal gain.
Silvers’ wife, Evelyn Patrick, appeared in occasional episodes as Mr Osborne’s niece. One of the factory workers (Waluska) was played by Herbie Faye, who had taught Phil Silvers the art of comedy back in 1932.