Loosely based on Congressional Medal of Honor winner Greg "Pappy" Boyington's
autobiography, Baa Baa Black Sheep (aka Black Sheep Squadron)
is an very entertaining series that tells of Boyington's adventures in
the South Pacific as a fighter pilot during WW II. Though not historically
accurate, the series is very enjoyable and exciting. A favorite of
mine when it first aired in 1976, this series has finally made it to DVD.
This set only includes the first half of the first season but it's a good
Set in the early days after Pearl Harbor, Major Greg Boyington (Robert
Conrad) is a pilot for the Marines who can't get a flying assignment.
He's been assigned to Coronel Lard (Dana Elcar) who does things by the
book, and Boyington's lack of respect for the Marine rule book lands him
a desk job. Not wanting to spend the war flying a desk, Greg takes
matters into his own hands. Coming across the files for all of the
pending court-martials for the Pacific arena, Boyington gathers all of
the pilots on the list and stamps their files 'disapproved.' He gathers
the men together and offers them a chance to fly with him.
These pilots are a group of drunk and disorderly Marines who have no
respect for authority. In other words, just like Greg. Faced
with flying for someone 10 years older than they are or jail, they decide
to sign up with Greg, but only after giving him the nick name "Pappy."
Now Greg has the pilots, all he needs is some planes for them to fly, and
the easiest way for him to get them is to steal them.
Dressing up as a doctor, Pappy puts the pilots of the 214th squadron
under medical quarantine for two weeks. Since they won't be using
their planes for a while, his pilots might as well use them. Of course
Col. Lard finds out about his plans, and it's only by the skin of his teeth
and some well timed interference by Pappy's friend General Moore (Simon
Oakland) that the men are able to escape with the planes. Christening
themselves the Black Sheep, both Boyington and his men know that their
days are numbered. With Lard on their tails trying to have them all
arrested, their only chance is to be the best fighter squadron in the Pacific.
Only a long string of kills will save them from the brig.
I haven't seen this show since it was first aired back in the mid seventies,
and I have to admit that I enjoy it almost as much now as when I was just
a kid. The program has aged pretty well, much better than some shows
from that period. Sure, the stories are a little predictable and
the plots are all a variation on the same theme, but the flying sequences
more than make up for that.
The acting isn't outstanding, but it's fits the series well. Robert
Conrad is a great Pappy Boyington, giving the character just the right
amount of humor and tough guy bravado to make him endearing. If the
real Boyington wasn't like Conrad, it makes you wish he were. The
supporting characters are mostly familiar faces, and they do a solid job
as the slovenly Black Sheep. Be sure to watch for a young John Larroquette
as Bob Anderson, one of the pilots.
If you are looking for an accurate and precise dramatization of what
the war in the Pacific was like, you'd best keep looking. Yes, Greg
Boyington did lead the 214 in the Pacific during WWII, and yes, they had
one of the best fighting records at the time. Boyington himself was
officially America's ace with the most kills (though his record is disputed
in several places,) and we were fighting the Japanese. Beyond that,
just about everything is a fabrication of Hollywood. Though the shows
are a lot of fun, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes at a couple of
the plots. There are only so many times that they can sneak onto
a Japanese held island to rescue a downed pilot or steal a plane before
you start to question the authenticity of the show. At those times
I'd just remind myself that this was Hollywood, sit back and enjoy the
The show is still a lot of fun, inaccuracies and all. The characters
are easy to like and it's fun to root for the underdog Black Sheep as they
try to find their way out of another scrape, but the best part of the series
are the dog fights. Mixing actual combat footage with contemporary
reenactments, the show does a great job of putting the viewer in the sky
with the pilots. Vintage Corsairs were used for the contemporary
footage, and though there are no surviving Japanese Zeroes (if I recall
correctly) the planes that they dressed up for the parts look good to my
inexpert eye. A good portion of each episode is taken up with
flying, and it never gets boring. Though they do use some of the
same footage of planes in the air over and over, but I'll be damn if it
This set consists of the first half of the first season. It has
the two hour pilot and the first 10 episodes. They come in two standard
keepcases which come in a slipcase.
This disc comes with a two channel mono soundtrack that sounds pretty
good for a show this old. The dialog is clear, though there is a
little distortion. Some shows are worse than others, with the last
episode in the set being one of the worst, but even in this episode it
doesn't get distracting. There isn't a lot of dynamic range, but
that is to be expected.
The full frame image looks fine. There is a little bit of grain
in some sections, but overall the show looks nice. The colors are
bright and the image is sharp for the most part. There are some spots
of dirt and an occasional scratch, but these weren't significant.
For a nearly 25 year old TV show, the video quality is very good.
I just wish that it was filmed in widescreen. The flying scenes would
look even better.
There wasn't much in the way of extras included with this set.
The only bonus items are a couple of interviews with the real Greg Boyington.
These last about seven minute all together. The first is from the
Today show on the morning that Baa Baa Black Sheep premiered on TV.
Robert Conrad and Greg Boyington talk about the show, and there's a long
clip from the pilot. The second is a short news piece from April
16th, 1959, where Boyington talks about his book that had just been published.
I was hoping that these would be a little more substantial than they turned
out to be, but it was still a nice item to include.
Even with the plots that stretched believability almost to the breaking
point, I really enjoy this show. The episodes are just a lot of fun,
and the flying scenes are excellent. The characters are all likable
and the episodes are filled with action. I can't wait for the second
half of this season. This set gets a very high Recommendation.