Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series): Wikis


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Baa Baa Black Sheep
F4U Corsair used by Black Sheep Squadron
(but photo not taken in the series)
Genre Drama
Created by Stephen J. Cannell
Directed by Alex Beaton
Robert Conrad
Starring Robert Conrad
Country of origin USA
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 37
Producer(s) Stephen J. Cannell
Running time 60 min
Original channel NBC
Picture format NTSC
Audio format Monaural sound
Original run September 21, 1976 – September 1, 1978

Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is a television series that aired on NBC from 1976 until 1978. Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Pappy Boyington and his World War II "Black Sheep Squadron". The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell. The opening credits read: "In World War II Marine Corps Major Greg 'Pappy' Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep."



"Pappy" Boyington is the squadron-leader of a group of fighter pilots stationed on an island in the Pacific, during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. "Pappy" likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions, and owns a Bull Terrier named 'Meatball' (which he claims belongs to General Moore in 'Flying Misfits', but General Moore says 'he wouldn't own an ugly mutt like that.')

The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as "Pappy" due to his "advanced" age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214.) The premise is misleading in that the "Black Sheep" were not misfits or screwups. Boyington, who was a technical advisor for the series, commented that this was "fiction based on reality" and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed. In the documentary film "Pappy Boyington Field" Robert Conrad shares personal insight about Pappy from their time together during the television series.

Popular character John "Hutch" Hutchinson (Joey Aresco) was killed off in the episode "Last One for Hutch" and replaced as chief mechanic by GySgt. Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in "Devil in the Slot".

List of regular characters

  • Maj. Gregory/Greg 'Pappy' Boyington (Pilot/Commanding Officer VMF-214) (1976-78). Played by Robert Conrad.
  • Capt. James 'Jim' Gutterman (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976-77). Played by James Whitmore Jr.
  • 1st Lt/Capt. Lawrence 'Larry' Casey (Pilot) (1976-78). Played by W. K. Stratton. (Larry Casey was promoted to Captain at the end of the season two episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla").
  • 1st Lt. Jerome 'Jerry' Bragg (Pilot). Played by Dirk Blocker.
  • 1st Lt. Thomas Joseph 'T.J.' Wiley (Pilot) (1976-78). Played by Robert Ginty.
  • 1st Lt. Donald 'Don' French (Pilot). Played by Jeff MacKay.
  • 1st Lt. Robert A. 'Bob/Bobby' Boyle (Pilot). Played by Larry Manetti.
  • Lt. Jeb Pruitt (Pilot) (1977-78). Played by Jeb Stuart Adams.
  • Master GySgt/Warrant Officer/Capt. Andrew Andy Micklin (Chief Mechanic) (1977-78). Played by Red West. (Micklin was promoted to Warrant Officer at the start of the episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla", and was made a temporary Captain by Boyington while sitting in the brig for punching out a major in a bar fight, which Quantico (US Marines HQ) ultimately did NOT approve, resulting in his reduction in grade/rank back to Master GySgt).
  • Sgt. John 'Hutch' Hutchinson (Chief/Asst. Chief Mechanic) (1976-77). Played by Joey Aresco. Hutch is killed in the 23rd episode of the first season, when the airfield is bombed and strafed by Japanese planes, after the arrival of, and his replacement as chief mechanic by, Micklin.
  • Col. Thomas A. Lard (Executive Officer, Espritos Marcos) (1976-78). Played by Dana Elcar. Lard is a hidebound, by-the-book staff officer. A highly competent career Marine, Lard is offended by Boyington's frequent disregard for regulations and policies, and the two men rarely get along personally. However, Lard sees a lot of promise in Boyington (though he won't admit it openly), and he puts aside his opinions when it furthers the mission.
  • Brig/Maj. General Thomas Moore (Commanding Officer, Esprito Marcos) (1976-78). Played by Simon Oakland. Moore is impressed by Boyington's initiative in "stealing" the 214th, then by the results obtained by the Black Sheep, so he keeps Lard in check as much as possible.

List of recurring characters

  • General Claire Lee Chennault (Commander, AVG) (1976). Played by George Gaynes.
  • Admiral Chester Nimitz (1976). Played by Byron Morrow.
  • Admiral's Aide (Unnamed) (1976). Played by James Lough.
  • Nurse (Unnamed) (1976). Played by Sharon Gless.
  • Col. Mathis (1976). Played by Peter Donat.
  • Lt. Robert 'Bob/Bobby' A. Doyle (1976). Played by Jake Mitchell. Lt. Doyle's character was replaced by actor Larry Manetti during the series.
  • Lt. Freddy (1976). Played by Anthony Charnota.
  • Huckabee (Flying Tigers Pilot) (1976). Played by Lance LeGault.
  • Dr. James 'Jim' Reese (1976). Played by John Lawlor.
  • Medical Lt. (Unnamed) (1976). Played by James Murtaugh.
  • Nurse (Unnamed) (1976). Played by Sandra Kerns.
  • LCDR Delmonte (Head Nurse) (1976). Played by Janice Carroll.

(note: the above characters only appeared in the premiere episode, Flying Misfits, which is sometimes broken up into a two episode viewing, or as a single 90 minute movie.)

  • IJN Capt. Tomio 'Tommy' Harachi (Pilot) (1976-78). Played by Byron Chung.
  • Lard's Secretary (Pamela) (1976-77). Played by Jill Jaress.
  • First Commando/Capt. Ishima/Japanese Officer (1976-78). Played by Marcus Mucai.
  • Maj. Red Buell (Pilot, Former Commanding Officer, VMF-214) (1976-77). Played by Charles Napier.
  • C-47 Pilot (unnamed) (1976-77). Played by Kin Shriner.
  • Japanese Sentry/First Japanese Pilot (1976-78). Played by Matsuo Uda.
  • Japanese Plotter/Second Japanese Pilot (1978). Played by Michael Yama.
  • Japanese Guard/First Japanese Lt. (1976-77). Played by Cory B. Shoizaki.
  • Third Commando/Ensign Kira (1977). Played by James Saito.
  • Lt. Ted Carter (Pilot) (1976-77). Played by Frederick Herrick.
  • LCDR Gladys Hope (Head Nurse) (1977). Played by Anne Francis.
  • Nurse (unnamed) (1977). Played by Sandra Lewlyn.
  • Richards/Eddie (1977). Played by Johnny Fain.
  • Tall Nurse (unnamed) (1977). Played by Jacquelyn Gaschen.
  • Rouva (Coastwatcher)/Looey (1976-78). Played by Muni Zano.
  • Lt. Caroline Holden (Nurse) (1977). Played by Linda Scruggs Bogart.
  • Lt. Nancy Gilmore (Nurse) (1977-78). Played by Nancy Conrad.
  • Lt. Alma Peterson/Pretty Nurse/Lt. Susan Ames (1977-78). Played by Brianne Leary.
  • Unknown Nurse/Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Nurse) (1978). Played by Kathy McCullem.
  • 2nd Commando/Japanese Lt. (1976-77). Played by Jim Ishida.
  • Japanese Mechanic/Japanese Officer (1976). Played by Dale Ishimoto.
  • Japanese Capt/Submarine Commander/Japanese Admiral (1976-77). Played by Lloyd Kino.
  • Doc Roberts/Sgt. Dutch Savage (1976-78). Played by John Durren.
  • Sailor/Lt. Davis (1976-77). Played by Tim Haldeman.
  • Navy Lt./Marine Capt. (1976-77). Played by Curtis Credel.
  • Col. Tokura/Lt. Miragochi (1977). Played by Soon-Tek Oh.
  • Lt. Samantha Green/Moore (Nurse) (1977-78). Played by Denise DuBerry.
  • Sgt. Daniels/Radio Operator/Cpl. Stan Richards (Mechanic) (1977-78). Played by Steven Richmond.

Critical reviews

The day of the show's debut, The Washington Post called Baa Baa Black Sheep a "war-is-swell series [aimed] at anyone who remembers World War II as a rousing, blowzy, fraternity turkey-shoot."[1]

Production notes

Although the title Baa Baa Black Sheep comes from a nursery rhyme, the song heard at the beginning of the opening credits is actually the chorus to The Whiffenpoof Song, the "official" song of Yale University, written in 1909 as a parody of Rudyard Kipling's poem Gentlemen-Rankers.

The name of the island where the real-life Black Sheep were stationed was Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands of the southern Pacific, known as The Slot; this was changed to Vella la Cava in the series for legal reasons. The same was done for the Rear Area Allied Command island of "Espiritu Santo" (Espritos Marcos). The Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California provided an adequate substitute backdrop for flying scenes. Filming of airfield scenes was primarily done at the now-closed Indian Dunes Airport in Valencia, California. Occasionally, modern trucks can be seen passing in the background.

Some air-battle scenes were actually short clips from the 1969 film Battle of Britain (film), and German markings on the planes can clearly be seen. Other flying scenes pioneered the technique of mounting cameras on helmets worn by pilots, thus providing a pilot's-eye view never before seen in films featuring single-seat aircraft. Due to reflections from the Plexiglas canopies, many close-ups were shot with the canopies removed.

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair fighter planes were leased to Universal Studios by private owners. Many scenes showing repairs on the aircraft were filmed during actual preventative maintenance. "Japanese" aircraft used in the series were actually American planes, which had been modified to resemble Japanese planes for the film Tora! Tora! Tora! and later purchased by collectors. The Grumman J2F Duck float biplane belonged to legendary stunt pilot Frank Tallman and his Tallmanz Aviation museum in Santa Ana, California. Tallman often stated that this was his all-time favorite plane to fly, with the Corsair in a near-tie. Tallman provided or arranged for most of the aircraft used in the series.

During filming of the series, Gregory Boyington met Masajiro "Mike" Kawato, the one-time Japanese fighter pilot who claimed to have shot him down in 1943. It was later asserted that Kawato's claims were not true. Though Kawato's personnel records show that he had, in fact, been involved in the aerial battle, details that he provided of the action indicated that he had been involved in a different part of the fight.[2]

The pilot episode was shown as a stand-alone TV movie Flying Misfits through the 1980s and 1990s.

The use of generic Corsairs for filming created a technical error: There is a white arrow pointing forward on the right wing of the second Corsair which plunges. It is the mark of the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill between January 28 and August 28, 1945. The VMF-214 squadron was not on board an aircraft carrier but land-based, and it belonged not to the Navy but the Marines. This can probably be explained by the use of real Corsair, the owners of these historic aircraft did not authorize any changes.

Fiction versus reality

At an aviation history symposium in 2002, members of the real VMF-214 were asked about the authenticity of the TV series.[3] Retired Colonel Henry A. McCartney said the list of errors was too long to repeat. Among other things he observed, "On the show they had these marvelous conversations on the radio when I hardly ever remember a radio that worked." Speaking of flying technique, he opined that the movie pilots made "transport" landings on the main wheels whereas "A real Corsair pilot three-pointed that airplane if he had any self respect." This further illustrates the misfit reputation because during the timeframe of the series the Corsair was in fact landed as shown, due to design problems with the early landing gear oleo struts. LCDR William N. Leonard, serving alongside the Marine Corsair squadron on Guadalcanal during 1943, reported that Corsair pilots landed "fast and tail high to remedy the bounce" (but he clarified: "you land full stall, then raise the tail and run-out on the main gear".)[4] Other panelists noted the show's absence of gunsights, oxygen masks, and gloves. Another retired officer smiled when he said, "If we'd had what they did on that show--decent chow, quonsets instead of tents, and hot and cold running nurses, I'd still be out there!" Boyington himself referred to the series as "...inaccuracies, hogwash, and Hollywood hokum."[5]

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the first season in two separate DVD releases:

  • Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 1, released May 24, 2005, contains the show's two-hour pilot and first ten episodes.
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 2, released July 3, 2007, contains the remaining 12 first-season episodes.
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 3 was released in France in 2007. Both French and English sound tracks are available. DVD can be played on multi-zone DVD player in the US.
  • It is unknown when Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 3 will be released in The United States.

See also


  1. ^ Shales, Tom (1976-09-21). "'Black Sheep': Oh, What An Unlovely War". The Washington Post.  
  2. ^ "Kawato Masajiro: The man who didn't shoot down Pappy Boyington", The Warbird's Forum. (retrieved April 11, 2006)
  3. ^ "CORSAIR!". Dayton Daily News: p. Z3-10. 2002-09-12. Retrieved 2007-06-24. "The Gathering of Corsairs and Legends at the Indianapolis Air Show in Mount Comfort, Ind. . . . Numerous Navy and Marine pilots who few Corsairs in combat attended the show, where they participated in a symposium and signed autographs."  
  4. ^ Tillman, Barrett. Corsair: the F4U in WW II and Korea. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 17. ISBN 0870211315. OCLC 5713587.  
  5. ^ Bates, Tom, "Black Sheep of the South Pacific," SOF's Action Series, Volume II. #6 (Valor), December 1986, Omega Group, Ltd, p.57.

External links



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