11 – At Ease (1983)

At Ease was writer/director John Hughes’ first and last television series as creator. Though Hughes would get his start on the short-lived Delta House, At Ease was his creation… or at least parts of it were.

This episode was recorded after watching all but one episode of At Ease. YouTube hosts 13 of the 14 episodes. Unfortunately, the fourth episode “Prairie Moon Over Texas,” is currently unavailable. Find the rest of the episodes here.

Synopsis

The series, set at Camp Tar Creek, an Army computer base in Texas, follows the misadventures of Sergeant Tyrone Valentine and Private Tony Baker, a pair of conniving GI’s, attached to Company A, as they attempt to outwit Major Hawkins, their by-the-books commander, and profit from their hitch in the army. An updated version of the Phil Silvers “Sergeant Bilko” series. See full episode descriptions below.

Select Cast, Guest Stars & Crew

  • Roger Bowen … Col. C. Clapp (14 episodes)
  • Jourdan Fremin … Cpl. Lola Grey (14 episodes)
  • Richard Jaeckel … Maj. Hawkins (13 episodes)
  • Josh Mostel … Maxwell (14 episodes)
  • David Naughton … Pfc. Tony Baker (13 episodes)
  • John Vargas … Cardinel (14 episodes)
  • Jimmie Walker … Sgt. Tyrone “Val” Valentine (14 episodes)
  • George Wyner … Cpl. Wessel (13 episodes)
  • Ray Girardin … Maj. Buck (1 episode, “The Tar Creek Chronicles”)
  • Paul Kreppel … Ridley (1 episode, “The Tar Creek Chronicles”)
  • Chris MacDonald … Pfc. Jeff Keene (1 episode, “The Tar Creek Chronicles”)
  • Phil Rubenstein … Leon Boyle (1 episode, “The Tar Creek Chronicles”)
  • Barney Martin … Col. Whatley (1 episode, “The Ballad of Lucinda Ballard”)
  • Fred McCarren … Jerry Gilmore (1 episode, “A Tankful of Dollars”)
  • Tim Robbins … Medic (1 episode, “A Tankful of Dollars”)
  • Bob Saget … Solider #1 (1 episode, “Chariots of Fear”)
  • Hy Averback … producer/director (6 episodes)
  • Aaron Spelling … executive producer (1 episode, “A Tankful of Dollars”)
  • E. Duke Vincent … supervising producer (1 episode, “A Tankful of Dollars”)
  • Jack Elliott … Series Music (13 episodes)
  • Charles Fox …Series Music (1 episode, “The Tar Creek Chronicles”)

Episodes (descriptions from TV listings)

  • S1, Ep1 … Tankful of Dollars … Air Date: 4 March. 1983 … Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Two soldiers at Camp Tar Creek rent out the entire base and its men to an advertising agency making a commercial for Commando Cologne.
  • S1, Ep2 … Chariots of Fear … Air Date: 11 March. 1983 … Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Major Hawkins lays it on the line when Gls like Valentine, might turn his military base into a gambling casino. This episode was originally slated to be the premiere, but was swapped out days before airing.
  • S1, Ep3 … Computer Dating … 18 Mar. 1983… Written by Arthur Julian
    Baker and Valentine plot to use the base’s computer as a computer dating service.
  • S1, Ep4 … Prairie Moon Over Texas … 25 Mar. 1983… Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Baker and Valentine get caught renting Army equipment to a nudist colony. Unfortunately, not online.
  • S1, Ep5 … Murder On the Tar Creek Express … 1 Apr. 1983… Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Colonel Clapp’s new automated security system is sabotaged.
  • S1, Ep6 … Love Sick … 8 Apr. 1983… Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Baker pretends to be sick in order to be looked at by a pretty doctor.
  • S1, Ep7 … The Marriage of the Figaros … 15 Apr. 1983… Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    Baker and Valentine rent the chapel to a couple wanting a military wedding.
  • S1, Ep8 … The Ballad of Lucinda Ballard … 22 Apr. 1983… Written by Stephanie Garman, Hollace White
    Corporal Grey bets Major Hawkins that there has been a American female war hero.
  • S1, Ep9 … The Great Computer Library … 29 Apr. 1983… Written by Arthur Julian
    After one insult too many, the soldiers get revenge on Major Hawkins by stealing his secret laser device.
  • S1, Ep10 … A PFC and a Gentleman … 13 May 1983… Written by Arthur Julian
    Baker plans a romantic evening with Lola, but is ordered on a mission.
  • S1, Ep11 … The Tar Creek Sting … 20 May 1983… Written by Tom Biener, Ron Landry
    The soldier force Corporal Wessel to help them break up a gambling ring at the saloon.
  • S1, Ep12 … Valentine’s Day … 27 May 1983… Written by Arthur Julian
    A Texas state police officer comes to the base believing that Valentine is seeing his girlfriend.
  • S1, Ep13 … Maxwell’s People … 3 Jun. 1983… Written by Arthur Julian
    A Russian spy is working at Tar Creek and the Pentagon thinks one of the soldiers is providing her with information.
  • S1, Ep14 … The Tar Creek Chronicles … 10 Jun. 1983… Written by John Hughes
    Colonel Clapp has visions of whipping the Navy football team when a former All American is transferred to Tar Creek. This episode features material from the original un-aired pilot.

Visuals

Episode artwork is adapted from an advertisement (artist unknown).

Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko in The Phil Silver’s Show (left); Roger Bowman as Col. C. Clapp in At Ease (right)

 

AT EASE, George Wyner, Richard Jaeckel, Jimmie Walker, Steve Nevil, (‘Chariots of Fear,’ season 1, episode 1, aired March 4, 1983), 1983, © ABC

References

  • ABC Television Network.ABC-TV 1974 “Upcoming Fall Line-up” Promo Reel. via YouTube.
  • Beck, Marilyn. Hollywood. The Tennessean. March 2, 1982.
  • Bowen, Roger. Color Tile Commercial. 1983. via YouTube.
  • Buck, Jerry. “From Guadalcanal To The Computerized Army.” The Pittsburgh Press. April 24, 1983.
  • Freese, Gene. Richard Jaeckel: Hollywood’s Man of Character. McFarland. Apr 6, 2016.
  • Gansberg, Alan L. “Hollywood Strip.” Penn-Del Sunday. April 25, 1982 and June 27, 1982.
  • Goldberg, Lee. Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989. Adventures in Television, Jul 5, 2015
  • Harris, Will. “Random Roles: Christopher McDonald.” AV Club. Nov 8, 2011.
  • Harris, Will. “Jimmie Walker on Good Times, Guyver fans, and kicking Penny Marshall’s ass.” AV Club. Apr 14, 2014
  • Handler, David. “Private Eye.” Del Rio, News Herald. Texas. Friday. April 15,1983.
  • Holsopple, Barbara. “ABC Adapts Stripes for Comic Jimmie Walker.” The Pittsburgh Press. Feb 27, 1983.
  • Holsopple, Barbara. “New Series Debuts Tonight on ABC.” The Pittsburgh Press. March 4, 1983.
  • Kleiner, Dick. “Two Switched from Movies to TV Roles. Newspaper Enterprise Association. The Daily Reporter. March 19, 1983.
  • Keeps, David A. “When Aaron Spelling Ruled Television: An Oral History of Entertainment’s Prolific, Populist Producer” Hollywood Reporter. Sept 18, 2015.
  • Koch, David and Melissa Doyle. Where Are They Now? Guest: Jimmie Walker. Seven Network. 2006. via YouTube.
  • Koop, Bob and Carol Jason. “WIVB-4 covers MASH finale,” WIVB-4 Buffalo. Feb 28, 1983. via YouTube.
  • Leszczak, Bob. Single Season Sitcoms of the 1980s: A Complete Guide. McFarland. 2016.
  • Meade, Peter. “Naughten: ‘At Ease’ not so easy.” Journal Gazette. April 15, 1983.
  • Meltzer, Marisa. “When Brenda Walsh Was Young: The revolutionary first season of Beverly Hills, 90210.” Slate. Dec 7, 2006.
  • Peterson, Bettelou. “You’ll Know His Face, But Not His Name.” The Detroit Free Press. March 5, 1983.
  • Sacks, Mike. “Canned Laughter: Ben Glenn II, Television Historian.” The Paris Review, July 20, 2010.
  • Walker, Jimmy with Sal Manna. Dynomite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times—A Memoir. Da Capo Press/Brilliance Audio, Jun 26, 2012.
  • Zinnemann, Fred, director. From Here to Eternity. Columbia Pictures. 1953.

Credits

Theme music by Bradley Davis (Fresh Snow) with some incidental music by Chris Storrow.

With sound effects by Club-Sound, Kinoton, Nicstage, Raymonster, Panzen, PHMiller42, from freesound.org.

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