when quite accidentally
a hero who sneezed abruptly seized
retreat and reversed it to victory.
His Medal of Honor pleased and thrilled
his proud little family group.
While pinning it on, some blood was spilled,
and so it was planned that he command F Troop.
Where Indian fights are colorful sights,
and nobody takes a lickin'.
Where paleface and redskin
both turn chicken.
When drilling and fighting get them down,
they know their morale can't droop
as long as they all relax in town
before they resume with a bang and a boom. F Troop!"
F Troop was an American television sitcom that aired on ABC from 1965 to 1967. It centered on the men and officers of Fort Courage, a fictional U.S. Army outpost in 1860s Kansas. The commanding officer was Captain Wilton Parmenter (Ken Berry), a good-hearted but accident-prone leader who fell into his rank after inadvertently instigating the final charge at the Battle of Appomattox. Due to his ineptitude, his superiors gave him command of Fort Courage, a dumping ground for the Army's useless soldiers.
Much of the show's humor came from the schemes of Parmenter's non-commissioned officers, Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch). They often conspired with the local Indian tribe, the Hekawis, as they operated their illicit business, O'Rourke Enterprises. Parmenter also had to fend off the marriage-minded plans of his girlfriend "Wrangler" Jane (Melody Patterson), a local shopkeeper/postmaster. The Hekawis watched their goings-on with bemusement, though they often got roped into their shenanigans.
This work provides examples of:
- Accidental Aiming Skills: Parmenter is notorious for his inability to hit a target. Instead, he wins gunfights by accidentally making ludicrously complicated trick shots, followed by his men pretending they were deliberate. He ends up with a reputation as a sharpshooter as a result.
- Action Girl: Wrangler Jane. She's the best shot in Fort Courage by a mile, can ride a horse like no one's business, and participates in quite a few of F Troop's more hazardous adventures.
- Actor Allusion: Agarn's distinctive hat is a Shout-Out to Larry Storch's standup comedy persona.
- Actually Not a Vampire: Vincent Price makes an appearance as a spooky immigrant in "V For Vampire". Everyone thinks he's a vampire, except of course Captain Parmenter. His reason? "They're not mentioned in the army manual." Of course, he's not a vampire.
- Aerith and Bob: The Parmenter family has many names from Greco-Roman and Norse mythology: Major Achilles Parmenter, Lt. Col. Hercules Parmenter, Colonel Jupiter Parmenter, General Thor Parmenter, Major Hannibal Parmenter... and Fort Courage's commandant is the meek Captain Wilton Parmenter.
- Affectionate Parody: Of the Western genre.
- All-Knowing Singing Narrator: One appears in "The Day They Shot Agarn", introducing each act. Lampshaded at the end, when Agarn demands to know who keeps doing all the singing, and the narrator walks out of the fort while still singing and strumming his guitar.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Some believe F Troop to be a Live-Action TV copy of the Glenn Ford comedy film, Advance To The Rear.
- Anachronism Stew:
- "That's Showbiz", which features a rock 'n' roll band at Fort Courage. Lampshaded by O'Rourke, who notes they seem to be ahead of their time.
- A "rock" band was also seen in "Lieutenant O'Rourke, Front and Center", but the focus is on the Playbrave Club they appear at.
- Anger Born of Worry: O'Rourke gets a touch of this towards Jane in "V Is For Vampire."
- Armed Farces: Although the setting is the old west, it does focus on army life. Parmenter is an incompetent buffoon who rose to his command post purely by accident, O'Rourke and Agarn have an assortment of shady enterprises in partnership with the Hekawis, the lookout is the Blind Without AND With 'Em Private Vanderbilt, and the other soldiers attest to the fort's status as a dumping ground for the US Army's worst. One of the writers has also gone on record as saying the show was made to relate to more modern soldiers.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Agarn, dressed as an "Indian maid", to coax the Loco Brothers out of their cave. Made funnier by the fact that Wrangler Jane, an actual woman, had failed in an earlier bid to do the same. Made famous to a new generation by being the clip shown on Freakazoid!. It helped that Agarn learned the Indian Love Dance at a Hekawi party.
- Balloon Belly: Agarn acquires one at the end of "Survival of the Fittest" after gorging himself on food in celebration of surviving the survival test.
- Benevolent Boss: For all of his failings and inexperience as a military commander, Captain Parmenter is nonetheless beloved by his men because he actually cares about them. Even O'Rourke and Agarn, who start the series only wanting to keep Parmenter around because of his obliviousness towards their side-businesses, want him to remain because they actually develop genuine affection for him.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Big guy Sgt. O'Rourke, played by 6'4" Forrest Tucker, and little guy Randolph Agarn, played by 5'8" Larry Storch.
- Blind Mistake: Happens regularly with Private Vanderbilt, thanks to his 20/900 vision. He once allowed two Indians wearing feather head-dresses to enter the fort unchallenged, and later explained "I thought they were turkeys." As a Running Gag, it's usually played the other way.
- Blind Without 'Em: Private Vanderbilt, the fort lookout. Subverted in that his vision is horrible even when he is wearing his glasses.
- Brownface: The Hekawi tribe consisting of Chief Wild Eagle (Frank DeKova, Italian-American), Crazy Cat (Don Diamond, descended from Russian-Jewish immigrants), Roaring Chicken (Edward Everett Horton), among others.
- Captain Ersatz: B. Wise from "Spy, Counter, Counterspy" is essentially Maxwell Smart from Get Smart in an Old West setting. They even borrow a couple of his Catch Phrases. Justified as it would be unlikely for Smart to have time-travel capabilities. And also averted, as Wise proves to be a traitor.
- Casting Gag:
- Trooper Duffy (Bob Steele) is an elderly cavalryman who claims to be the sole survivor of the Alamo, and regularly recounts his exploits there. Steele was previously a 1930s and '40s Western movie star, and had once been in a movie about meeting Davy Crockett at the Alamo.
- Sergeant O'Rourke is played by Forrest Tucker, who once portrayed a similar "O'Rourke" Cavalry Sergeant on Gunsmoke. In real life, he also served as a member of the United States Army Cavalry under George S. Patton.
- Alongside Tucker, several other cast members of F-Troop also served in the U.S. Army, including Ken Berry (Captain Parmenter), James Hampton (Trooper Dobbs), Joe Brooks (Trooper Vanderbilt), and Don Diamond (Crazy Cat).
- Catchphrase: Many.
- O'Rourke's "I don't know why everyone says you're so dumb" to Agarn.
- Agarn's response, "Who says I'm dumb?", as well as "I'm warning you, Dobbs!"
- Parmenter's "Please, Jane, not in front of the..." after she kisses him at an inopportune time.
- Catch Your Death of Cold: Captain Parmenter gets soaked multiple times in "The Majority of Wilton," causing this trope.
- The Cavalry: Deconstructed in that F Troop usually end up causing more problems when they ride to the rescue.
- Chained Heat: In "The Day They Shot Agarn", Parmenter and Agarn end up handcuffed to each wrist of a prisoner. Later the prisoner escapes, still handcuffed to Agarn.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The first few episodes featured Everett Edward Horton as Roaring Chicken, the Hekawi medicine man and main sidekick to Chief Wild Eagle. Eventually, he disappeared without a trace and Crazy Cat became the chief's main aide.
- Trooper Hoffenmueller, who appeared in the first season, did not return in the second season.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Wrangler Jane definitely has her moments when an attractive woman shows Parmenter any attention, most notably in "The Girl From Philadelphia" when a would-be fiancee of Parmenter's from back home comes calling. Also shows up for a moment in "Miss Parmenter", but quickly averted when Daphne is revealed to be Wilton's sister; the two ladies become friends afterward.
- Comical Translation: Trooper Hoffenmueller, who speaks German, Cherokee, Sioux, Apache, Hekawi...and absolutely no English.
- Cowgirl: Wrangler Jane, who shoots, rides, and lassos with the best of them.
- Criminal Doppelgänger: Kid Vicious, the notorious bandit double of the goody-two shoes Captain Parmenter.
- Custom Uniform: Agarn's tan hat is unique among the troopers, who all wear dark blue.
- Delayed Reaction: One of the many Running Gags involved Cpl. Agarn making a snide comment about their current situation, like "It's a shame we can't get someone to sing in his place." The other person, usually Sgt. O'Rourke, realizes that this is actually a good idea and says "Agarn, I don't know why everyone says you're so dumb!" Later, usually after the next scene change, Agarn suddenly exclaims, "Who says I'm dumb?!"
- Doorstop Baby: Chief Wild Eagle leaves Captain Parmenter one according to Hekawi tradition after he accidentally saves the chief's life in "A Gift From the Chief".
- Double Take: Sgt. O'Rourke or someone else will congratulate Agarn on one of his plans, saying "Agarn, I don't know why everyone says you're so dumb." After a Gilligan Cut to the next scene, Agarn remarks, "Who says I'm dumb?!"
- Double Vision: Used no less than five times on the show. Because Larry Storch was good with accents, he played three of Agarn's "long lost" cousins, one from Mexico, one who was French-Canadian, and one from Russia, in three separate episodes. Forrest Tucker and Ken Berry also got one episode each where they had to play opposite themselves.
- Dreadful Musician: Private Dobbs, an inept bugler who regularly mangles standard tunes like "Reveille", "Assembly" and "Retreat".
- Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot episode is the only one where any actual battles against Indians take place, and anyone dies. Any subsequent episodes dealing with the natives involve working with, outwitting, or making peace with them as needed.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Dobbs' full name is Hannibal "Shirley" Dobbs. Agarn takes the opportunity to giggle when this is brought up.
- Ensign Newbie: Captain Parmenter, put in charge of Fort Courage right after being promoted to captain. Bonus points since he earned his promotion by accident rather than military prowess.
- Evil Twin: Kid Vicious, the outlaw who happens to resemble Captain Parmenter who shows up in "Wilton the Kid".
- Expository Theme Tune:
- Played during the first season. Quoted in full above.
- In The Pilot, the intro was done in a 'newsreel' style right at the start, where they gave the intro story without the lyrics. Makes more sense also if it's mentioned that Parmenter's family were all high-ranking military types. Captain (Wilton) Parmenter was the lowest ranker in the family, at least until then.
- Feghoot: Chief Wild Eagle gives one that explains the origins of how his tribe got their name:Chief Wild Eagle: Many moons ago, tribe leave Massachusetts because Pilgrims ruin neighborhood! Tribe travel west, over stream, over river, over mountain, over mountain, over river, over stream! Then come big day... tribe fall over cliff. That when Hekawi get name. Medicine man say to my ancestor, "I think we lost. Where the heck are we?"
- Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: For the second season, the show switched from black and white to color, and the opening title sequence was redone as a result. Inexplicably, the original Expository Theme Tune was replaced with a lyrics-free instrumental version.
- Freudian Excuse: A later episode reveals why Parmenter's always dragged his feet on his relationship with Jane: his father and other men in the family treated families like military units.
- Friendly Enemy: Ostensibly, Fort Courage's mission is to "keep the peace" against the Hekawi Indians. In reality, the Hekawis are pacifists and the two factions tend to leave each other alone (except for the Hekawi's business deals with O'Rourke).
- Gilligan Cut: Agarn's insistence on not wearing a dress in "The Loco Brothers", as referenced in an episode of Freakazoid!.
- The Gunslinger: Wrangler Jane, the best shot in Fort Courage. In the battle in the first episode, all the troopers in the fort combined shot seven Shugs. Wrangler Jane got seventeen.
- Honest John's Dealership: Sergeant O'Rourke, whose get-rich-quick schemes tend to fail. He manages to maintain secret ownership of the local saloon, though.
- Haunted House: Featured in the episode "V For Vampire," which guest-starred Vincent Price, complete with secret passages and a mysterious "self-playing" organ. Everything gets a rational explanation in the end.
- Historical Domain Character: Ulysses S. Grant and General George Custer make appearances in the first season.
- Hollywood Natives: Played with by the Hekawis, who were a combination of stereotypical Hollywood Native Americans and Borsch Belt comedians. Inverted with Stand-Up Bull, an Indian comedian, who while he doesn't really speak Broken English, he does misuse certain nouns:Stand-Up Bull: Seriously tribe, take my brother, him not lazy, him too light for heavy work, and him too heavy for light work! (Imitates a trumpet flourish)Chief: Stand-Up Bull? No smoke-signal us, we smoke-signal you.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: O'Rourke, whose long army experience assists the green Captain Parmenter a great deal. Not to mention O'Rourke's side businesses...
- Ice-Cream Koan: Chief Wild Eagle has an old Indian saying for every occasion, though their applicability varies wildly. Lampshaded on occasion when he admits he doesn't know what a saying is supposed to mean.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Most of the men at Fort Courage graduated from there. This is made clear in an episode where Agarn was brought before a firing squad in "The Day They Shot Agarn" and all the soldiers instead shot the water tower he was standing next to.
- Injun Country: Averted due to Rule of Funny. The Hekawi tribe was portrayed as a harmless group of schemers who are solely interested in making business deals with white settlers. Much of the characterization of the tribe is actually based around Yiddish comedy, and the show even teases the myth that they're the lost 13th tribe of Israel.
- In-Series Nickname:
- O'Rourke and Agarn often inspire the troops on Parmenter's behalf in the first season by urging them to "Do it for the old man!" Parmenter asks "What old man?" and has to be reminded that O'Rourke is referring to him. It's especially funny considering Parmenter's age relative to the older and more experienced O'Rourke.
- Inverted on one occasion: Parmenter urges his men with "Do it for the old man!" and O'Rourke has to be reminded instead.
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Happens to Agarn when he is stripped of his rank in "The Day They Shot Agarn".
- It Will Never Catch On: One episode featured Jane's eccentric cousin, who invented primitive versions of the telephone and television. Everyone who saw them thought he was crazy.
- The Klutz: Captain Parmenter, aided by Ken Berry's excellent pratfall skills. Porches, rugs (one of which separated him from an impostor), and hitching posts are particularly favorite targets.
- Large Ham: Larry Storch as Corporal Agarn, who shamelessly mugs the camera and chews the scenery at every opportunity.
- Late to the Punchline: Whenver Sgt. O'Rourke or someone congratulates Agarn on a brilliant plan, he remarks "Agarn, I don't know why people say you're so dumb." Gilligan Cut to the next scene, and Agarn remarks "Who says I'm dumb?!"
- Laugh Track: No sitcom from The '60s would be complete without one.
- Literal Ass-Kicking: O'Rourke does a little of this to Agarn in "Wrongo Starr and the Lady in Black."
- Maintain the Lie: A recurring plot in the series, usually when the Hekawis have to feign being savage indians for a visitor to Fort Courage. One episode even required Agarn teaching the Hekawis how to do a war dance...
- Meaningful Name: The full name for Wrangler Jane, who runs the town's general store, is Jane Angelica Thrift.
- Military Brat: Parmenter is descended from a long line of Army officers, some of who show up to his (embarrassing) promotion ceremony.
- Military Moonshiner: Sergeant O'Rourke, who technically gets around it by paying the Hekawis to make his whiskey for him. He does provide the raw materials and parts to repair the still, and distributes the finished product at the local saloon, which he secretly owns.
- Mind Your Step: The loose floorboard in front of Parmenter's office was a Running Gag.
- Moses in the Bullrushes: Yellow Bird is the daughter of a tycoon who was kidnapped by Indians as a child; they raised her, and she remembers nothing of her old family until they happen across her.
- Odd Name Out: Captain Parmenter comes from a family with a proud military tradition. The other male members we either see or hear of are named Achilles, Hercules, Jupiter, Thor and Hannibal. Captain Parmenter's first name? Wilton.
- Overranked Soldier: Pretty much every soldier in Fort Courage is not qualified for his assigned rank. Including the Privates.
- Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Thanks to the fact that the Hekawi tribe is pretty much harmless, there isn't really a need for a military presence at Fort Courage, resulting in the soldiers not needing to do much more than routine garrison work. Half the plot of the pilot episode is O'Rourke trying to keep the new Captain from figuring this out in fear of the garrison being dispersed to locations with less opportunities for personal profit where he might actually have to fight.
- The Pratfall: Captain Parmenter demonstrated the technique frequently.
- Promoted to Opening Titles: Frank De Kova (Chief Wild Eagle) in season 2.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Literally, with the Hekawis. They have no time for villainy when they're busy making souvenirs for O'Rourke to sell (at a 50% cut) and distilling whisky for the town saloon.
- Punny Name: This is how the Hekawi tribe got their name:Chief Wild Eagle: Many moons ago tribe move west because Pilgrims ruin neighborhood. Tribe travel west, over country and mountains and wild streams, then come big day... tribe fall over cliff, that when Hekawi get name. Medicine man say to my ancestor, 'I think we lost. Where the heck are we?(Which is based on an old, much less TV-friendly version of the same joke involving the Fukawi Indians.)
- According to the Other Wiki, the tribe was originally dubbed "the Fugawi Indians" — until an eagle-eyed censor spotted the line "Where the Fugawi?" in the script.
- Rain Dance: This(or stranger) may happen whenever Wild Eagle dances for any reason.
- Rambling Old Man Monologue: Often attempted by Private Duffy, when he gets going on his tales of the Alamo. He's usually interrupted.
- Reassignment Backfire: While Fort Courage is never the best of the best, Parmenter at least manages to do a semi-competent job of keeping things running with help from O'Rourke and Agarn.
- Recurring Extra: Trooper Duddleson, who made 27 appearances and rarely said a word.
- Runaway Fiancé: Miko, in the episode "From Karate With Love", flees Japan when her father tries to force her to marry a man she doesn't love.
- Running Gag:
- Agarn makes a clever suggestion to O'Rourke, who compliments him by saying, "Agarn, I don't know why they say you're so dumb!" A few minutes later, Agarn suddenly asks, "Who says I'm dumb?!"
- Another one occurs whenever the fort's cannon misfires. Agarn kicks it in frustration, whereupon one of its wheels comes off. It then sends a cannonball into the lookout tower, knocking it over and sending Private Vanderbilt crashing to the ground.
- The loose floor board in front of Capt Parmeter's office
- Vanderbilt's lookout reports especially his tendency to call the fort to arms to repel "Indians" whenever he sees a flock of turkeys.
- Ruptured Appendix: In "Miss Parmenter," Chief Wild Eagle contracted appendicitis. Helping with his surgery inspires Parmenter's aimless (and equally clumsy) sister to go into nursing.
- Samurai: Played by Mako in "From Karate With Love". He's sent to catch Miko and return her to her arranged marriage; instead, he falls in Love at First Sight.
- Shot at Dawn: Corporal Agarn is sentenced to be executed by firing squad after losing a prisoner in "The Day They Shot Agarn."
- Singing Mountie: An entire episode, "The Singing Mountie", was devoted to such a character, RCMP "Sgt. Ramsden", played by Paul Lynde. Ramsden, who turns out to be an impostor, likes to communicate through song, which turns out to be rather annoying. This is a glaring anachronism, though.note
- Smurfette Principle: Wrangler Jane, though she can more than hold her own and in many ways is the most competent character in the series.
- Sneeze of Doom: Inverted into a fortuitously timed sneeze, according to the Expository Theme Tune.
- Spot the Imposter: Bandit Kid Vicious has tied and gagged Captain Parmenter, preventing him from shouting about the switch. As the sheriff prepares to take Parmenter away, the captain trips over a rug in a familiar way. Sergeant O'Rourke has the gag removed, allowing Parmenter to prove himeslf by correctly identifying Agarn's first name, Dobbs as the company bugler, and Wrangler Jane as his girlfriend.
- Status Quo Is God: After O'Rourke is promoted to lieutenant in one episode, Agarn, Dobbs, and Hoffenmueller are promoted to sergeant, corporal, and bugler, respectively. When O'Rourke gets himself demoted back to sergeant by the end, he demotes Agarn, who demotes Dobbs, who takes his bugle back from Hoffenmueller. And the whole thing is lampshaded by Captain Parmenter, who declares he's happy that Fort Courage is back to normal.
- Ten Paces and Turn: Capt. Parminter gets in a duel with a visiting European who insists on formal dueling rules. They take ten paces, turn - and then realize that because they're dueling with swords it doesn't really work.
- Theme Naming:
- When listing the troopers, many background ones were named after famous pairs: i.e. Lewis and Clark, Gilbert and Sullivan, Stanley and Livingston, and so on.
- Many of the Parmenter clan, who had names like Hercules, Thor, Achilles...and Wilton.
- Tomboy: Wrangler Jane.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Parmenter, in the episode "Old Ironpants", who models himself after General Custer after a short bout at the army training academy. He was back to his normal self by the end, thank goodness.
- Truth in Television: "The Day They Shot Agarn" was based on an actual rule that appeared in post-Civil War army manuals; if a soldier lost a prisoner in transport, he was expected to carry out the prisoner's sentence.
- Tuckerization: Colonel Herman Saunders, played by Willis Bouchey in "The Phantom Major", is named after associate producer Herman S. Saunders, listed in the closing credits as Herm Saunders.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Agarn's assorted relatives. Justified since they're all played by Larry Storch.
- Sergeant O'Rourke and his father, who is visiting from Ireland, both played by Forrest Tucker in a dual role.
- Undying Loyalty: The troopers to Parmenter. They're all aware of his failings as a commander, but they're loyal because he's such a Benevolent Boss. In one episode, the men get to quit the army on a technicality, but they end up coming back because they feel guilty for leaving Parmenter in the lurch.
- Unsuspectingly Soused: A sick Captain Parmenter accidentally imbibes one too many "cures" for his cold in "The Majority of Wilton". Hilarity Ensues.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Sgt. O'Rourke and Corporal Agarn.
- Walking Disaster Area: Private Leonard "Wrongo" Starr, who appeared in two episodes played by the late Henry Gibson. Everywhere he went, disaster and mayhem would follow.
- The Western: Parodied.