C.P.O. Sharkey was an American sitcom which aired from 1976 to 1978 on NBC.
The series starred "insult comic" Don Rickles as a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. Sharkey was an abrasive, sharp-tongued veteran in charge of a company of new Seaman Recruits on a San Diego naval base. Rickles is famous for his jokes about various ethnicities and this show provided him with a vehicle for his politically incorrect humor. The young company consisted of Daniels, an African-American; Kowalski, a Polish-American; Skolnick, a Jewish-American, Mignone, an Italian-American and Rodriguez, an Hispanic-American. Sharkey's best friend on the base was Chief Robinson (Harrison Page) who was African-American.
Rickles as Sharkey also put his insult humor to good use with the other characters. Sharkey's assistant, Seaman Pruitt (Peter Isacksen), was 6' 7" and simple-minded. His immediate superior was the smug and buck-toothed Lt. Whipple. The base commander was the female Capt. Quinlan (Elizabeth Allen), whom Sharkey never insulted to her face. But Sharkey was really a nice guy beneath his harsh exterior and often went to extreme measures to help his recruits with their problems.
In the first season, Sharkey's first name was never revealed until in one episode, he referred to himself as "Seymour". In the second season, he was named Otto.
- The 6' 7" Pruitt would often stand right next to the 5' 6" Sharkey to speak to him. Sharkey would find it difficult to speak to Pruitt this way and would make a snide remark about Pruitt's height.
- Lt. Whipple would often lecture Sharkey about something. When he left the room, Sharkey would look in the camera and imitate Whipple's buck-teeth.
- In the second season, Sharkey had a new commander, the tough Capt. Buckner (Richard X. Slattery). Buckner would yell orders in a tirade directly in Sharkey's face making the usually verbose Sharkey speechless.
The cigarette box incident
Despite not being particularly popular, this series is often remembered for an incident that occurred on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
. During production of the series, Rickles appeared on The Tonight Show
with guest host Bob Newhart
. While poking fun at Newhart and improvising a bit in which he was a clerk in an immigration office, Rickles slammed the cigarette box Carson
kept on his desk while pretending to stamp passports and accidentally broke it. When Carson returned to the show and discovered this, he took a camera crew to the studio next door where Sharkey
was being taped. Carson disrupted the taping in order to tease Rickles about it, to the delight of the studio audiences of both shows. Carson also teased Harrison Page by speaking to him in an exaggerated jive
accent. This incident was often replayed in Tonight Show
retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the show. It originally aired during December 1976. It was also featured in the documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project
Reruns aired on Comedy Central in the early 1990s.
Brooks, Tim; Earl Marsh (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.