Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I've mentioned the show Combat! quite often lately, so I thought I'd do a whole post about it, just explaining what it is and my relationship to it. (This will definitely be long)

Combat! ran from 1962-1967 and has 152 episodes. It focuses on American Infantrymen in Normandy after the D-Day Invasion in 1944. The two main stars are Vic Morrow (Sgt. Chip Saunders) and Rick Jason (Lt. Gil Hanley). There were also five other regulars, who made up Sgt. Saunders' squad: Jack Hogan (Pvt. William Kirby), Pierre Jalbert (Pvt. Paul "Caje" Lamay), Dick Peabody (Pvt. Littlejohn), Tom Lowell (Pvt. Billy Nelson), and Conlan Carter (Doc). Actually, the show had two "Doc" characters. The first season has what we call "Doc 1", played by Steven Rogers. But that character was really boring, and I guess Rogers had some personal issues at the time, so seasons 2-5 have "Doc 2". When you read fanfic or listen to fans talk, when they say "Doc" they generally mean "Doc 2". If they mean "Doc 1", they'll say "Doc 1" or "Doc Walton", which is a name the publicity dept. gave him, but which was never used in the show.

Of the stars, all but three are still alive. Vic Morrow died while filming the infamous helicopter scene for Twilight Zone: the Movie (there was a huge court case, and you can find out a lot about it by googling if you want to; I've even seen footage of the crash, which is not pleasant) back in the early 1980's. Rick Jason committed suicide a few years ago, and Dick Peabody died of cancer a year or two later.

The show itself is the longest-running WWII drama in tv history. It had lots of amazing writers (like Gene Levitt and Burt Kennedy), directors (like Richard Donner and Robert Altman) and guest stars (like James Coburn, Charles Bronson, James MacArthur, and a zillion others). Combat! was about as realistic as tv could be in the mid-sixties, or at least non-news tv. It focused on the people involved in war, and was ahead of its time in that it didn't dehumanize the enemy, and worked hard to show the wastefulness inherent in war. The mid-series two-part episode, "Hills are for Heroes" (which Vic Morrow directed) is an amazing look at the useless slaughter that can happen during war. Oh yeah, Vic Morrow got nominated for an Emmy for the first-season ep "Survival", which Robert Altman directed (I'm not a big Altman fan, as he ran off with Morrow's wife, but he did direct some lovely eps). For all the info you would probably ever want about the show, visit Jo Davidsmeyer's site at www.combatfan.com or www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/main.html , although she's been having some issues with her server lately and sometimes the site won't load.

So, about my relationship to the show (sorry, this is a really long posting, isn't it?). Back in 1994, a new tv channel started up near where we lived, and was showing all sorts of great old shows. They didn't have a listing for it in the local tv guide yet, so my brother and I would just check in every half hour or so to see what was on. One day we checked, I think around 10am, and it was this black-and-white war show with two guys on the screen. One of them said, "You'll go far with that kind of attitude," and the other one said, "Do you mean far in the army, or far over that rough area back there?" We watched a couple minutes, until the opening credits came up and told us we were watching Combat!. We ran to Daddy and said, "Did you ever hear of a show called Combat!?" He said, "Yeah, that was a really good show," or something to that effect, and we started taping it for a few weeks. The first full ep I ever saw was "The Walking Wounded", and it's still my favorite ep. We just found out this year that that very first bit we saw is in an ep called "The Prisoner". Anyway, Sgt. Saunders sauntered his way into my heart quite easily, and I've been hooked ever since. I was 14, and my brother was 9 at the time.

When I got to college, I joined the online Combat! email discussion group, and haven't been off it for more than a month or two ever since. I'd written a few short stories about the show back in high school, but when I joined the discussion group I really discovered fanfiction (or fanfic). I soon improved and lengthened one of my old stories, and in 1999 sometime, "The Escapist" got published online. I followed it with two more stories involving the title character of that one, a certain Private Puling I'd made up. Next began what is now my Fog Trilogy, three stories occuring more-or-less simultaneously and showing what happens to different members of the squad when they got split up by some fog. This Spring, I joined a newer discussion group too, which is all fanfic writers (well, a few fanfic readers too, but we tend to convince them to try to write). All but one of my stories are posted on the Purple Hearts page (http://www.storynook.net/PurpleHearts.htm) under the name 'White Queen'; "Bulletproof", my first Combat!/Angel crossover, is on the regular Story Nook Combat! page (http://www.storynook.net/Combat.html).

One last thing: Combat! is now available on dvd! Season One is out already, and Season Two will be released November 30th, with the other seasons to follow, probably in March, July, and November of next year. Huzzah! You can also catch it on some cable and satellite channels, like Encore's Action Channel and I think Nickelodeon's TV Land might show some too. The channel I originally watched it on back in 1994 no longer shows it, although they still retain the right to, last time I checked. But I have Season One on dvd now, and Season Two preordered!

"Love me, love my sergeant!" Vive l'Combat!

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