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Title:

Mr. Roberts

Cast of 'Mister Roberts' 1955 Movie

Network: ABC
On-Air: 1965-66
Genre: Comedy
Length: 30 Minutes
Service: Navy
Lt. Douglas Roberts serves aboard the USS Reluctant, a naval cargo ship (nicknamed  "The Bucket" ) stationed behind the battle lines in the South Pacific during World War II. 

Mr. Roberts, however, wants to leave the mundane existence of working on a cargo ship and get into the heat of the battle. Unfortunately, every time he requests a transfer to the front line, his commanding officer, Captain John Morton refuses his request.

You see, Morton likes things just the way they are and doesn't want to jeopardize the operations of his ship by loosing an officer to the fighting. Mr. Roberts, however, is determine to get into the fray of fighting and transferred off the cargo vessel. While Roberts waits for the day he gets transferred, he settles into the routine business of running the ship.

His companions onboard include: Junior officer  Ensign Pulver who is always good for a laugh. Pulver is obsessed with the ladies and is not averse to smuggling his girlfriends on aboard. Doc, the stern medical officer brings a conservative calm to the group with his wisdom and somber outlook on life.

And then, there is Captain Morton and his potted palm. Morton shows more concern about that palm tree than with his own crew. The Captain once canceled shore leave for the entire crew after he discovered that someone had crushed out a cigar on his potted palm.   

On a day to day basis, Mr. Roberts had to contend with a number of problems. They might include:

  • Discovering a pregnant woman accidentally left in the sickbay after the ship set to sea;
  • Keeping three USO females out of sight from the crew until they arrived at their destination
  • Hosting a Congressman who visits the ship after Pulver sent a letter alleging the crew's heroic exploits
  • Arranging a phony surgery on Pulver to get Doc out of a depression
  • Uncovering a plot by a German spy planted on the ship to impersonate the Captain.

To keep the crew's morale from slumping Mr. Roberts sometimes became involve in activities like a arranging a boxing match between his ship and another ship in the fleet, or agreeing to steal a film (a musical) from the Captain's quarters after the crew complained of seeing the same old movie over and over again.

Another daily concern of Mr. Roberts was junior officer Ensign Pulver who avoided work at all cost and got involved in all sorts of hanky panky aboard the ship. Pulver's pranks included accidentally killing the Captain's beloved potted palm; giving medical supplies to a pretty lieutenant without permission; and bringing a bevy of unauthorized females aboard (Pulver pretended one such stowaway was a member of royalty to explain her presence onboard).

Besides Mr. Roberts's concerns over Pulver and crew, his main focus in life was getting transferred off "The Bucket" and into the war. Once Robert almost made it off the ship but had to stay when his replacement proved inept. Ensign Pulver tried to help Mr. Roberts by contacting his mother in the States to use her influence to get Roberts transferred, but to no avail.

With all the constant rejections, Roberts sometimes felt overwhelmed and took his anger out on the crew, but that never lasted very long. After all, despite his disappointment, Mr. Roberts was a dutiful officer and would always follow orders, despite his personal feelings.

TRIVIA NOTE: The series was based on the 1940s book/play "Mr. Roberts" written by Thomas Heggen which spawned the memorable movie hit Mr. Roberts (1955) starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon.

The ship used for the program was actually the USS VIRGO (AKA-20). Author Heggen served aboard the Virgo during World War II and many of the misadventures that he chronicled into his novel were based on real stories aboard the ship.

For instance, on the Virgo, the ship's Captain Randall actually kept a potted palm, and the crew plotted to throw the plant overboard. Also, the name of the ship on the TV series "The Bucket" was inspired from the crew's nickname for the Virgo's nickname "The Iron-Bound Bucket."

Sadly, soon after the success of this book and play, a despondent Thomas Heggan took his own life.


MR. ROBERTS/ABC/1965-66

     
Roger Smith as Lt. Douglas Roberts
Steve Harmon as Ensign Frank Pulver
Richard X. Slattery as Capt. John Morton
George Ives as Doc, the Ship's Medical Officer
Robert Ivers as Seaman Bob
Ray Reese as Seaman Reber
Richard Sinatra as Seaman D'Angelo
Ronald Starr as Seaman Mannion
John McCook as Seaman Stefanowski
Alan Mowbray as Chief / Native Chief

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