Hey gang! I’m so excited to announce that I am participating in my very first blogathon! *THROWS HAT IN THE AIR*
Eva of Coffee, Classics, & Craziness and Hamlette of Hamlette’s Soliloquy are hosting a blogathon in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The blogathon began yesterday and will be completed on June 8th. The blogathon will cover a variety of topics (movie reviews, book reviews, non fiction articles) regarding the European Theater of WW2), so don’t forget to check out Eva’s and Hamlette’s blog for the full schedule!
My subject of choice? A review of one of my favorite shows EVER!
Ah, the infamous question. What is your favorite TV show?
In a world of TV-binging and having dozens of shows at our fingertips on the Internet, it can be hard to choose. However, I usually manage to narrow it down to the top five.
And firmly in that top five is Garrison’s Gorillas.
Warning: This is a very, very, very, very, VERY long post (it just got longer with all those very’s) and I’ll be surprised if anyone reads every single word – BUT YOU’D BETTER, BECAUSE IT’S ALL GOLD – DO YOU HEAR ME? GOLD!!
^ Take a good look, people. This is what awesome looks like. ^
A group of commandos recruited from stateside prisons to use their special skills against the Germans in World War II. They had been promised a parole at the end of the war if they fight (and if they live). The alternative was an immediate return to prison; if they ran, they could expect execution for desertion. The four were: “Actor”, a handsome, con man; “Casino”, a tough safe-cracker and mechanic; “Goniff”, a likable cat burglar; and “Chief” (Brendon Boone), a rugged, somber American Indian who handled a switchblade like he was born to it. Led by West Pointer First Lt. Craig Garrison and headquartered in a secluded mansion in London, this slippery group ranged all over Europe in exploits that often took them behind enemy lines.
Get ready for some barely restrained squealing. These are MY boys. The feelings I have for this cast are similar to the emotions many harbor for the Fellowship of the Ring. They’re my babies, so read respectfully OR ELSE. 😛
LT. CRAIG GARRISON
Garrison’s is basically Mr. Incredible. Yeah, I’m going to stop the bad guy, but I’m going to get the cat out of the tree and STILL show up for my wedding on time. Garrison believes he can do it all . . . and he usually does, even if he nearly gets himself killed doing it.
Garrison’s mind NEVER stops working and we can see the burning intelligence in his eyes. More important than being an actual planner, Garrison has the ability to think on his feet – which is good since their missions usually go south. His can-do attitude, his tenacious determination to achieve every goal, and his ability to think his way through any situation become a running joke amongst the Gorillas who tease him for his bulldog tendencies, even though they admire him for it.
Garrisons is THE noble character, the character that would die for a “bad” man. Even though the Gorillas’ loyalty is shaky in the beginning, Garrison shows from first scene that while he’s tough on them, he will ALWAYS do the right thing by them.
Garrison steps into the breach for his guys, he pushes them, and expects the best from them. He believes that there is more behind the hardened shells and goes to bat for his boys even when they won’t.
He’s an older brother, even a father to them. At certain moments when they’re really cutting up, he even has to be their surrogate mother.
Garrison himself is a bit of a rebel, and finds it alarmingly easy to think or act like a criminal at times. He is not the sort of man that could be chained to a desk job and he is often as impatient and disgusted by “brass” as his men, though he hides it under a disciplined veneer. But this rebellious streaks enables him to understand his men when no one else does. Combine that with a dry wit, and Garrison can hold his own with the most disreputable criminal every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Garrison’s is the most subtle performance, but it’s perfect. They basically went out and found Garrison with this actor, and he is so genuinely noble, tough, we can’t help loving him. I know I can’t.
Actor was the first Gorilla that I got attached to, and honestly, what’s not to like? The actor, Cesare Denova, was half German and half Italian, and this shows in his magnetic performance. He combines the elegance and charm of an Italian aristocrat with the cool authority of a Prussian.
Actor is a confidence man, a swindler – but he’s also an artist and takes quiet satisfaction in being the best. A chameleon, Actor can play any role convincingly and goes undercover as everything from a German officer to a simple-minded repairman. No matter the role, it is performed with perfect execution and dispatch.
Actor is the leader when Garrison is not around. He’s the only one with the brains and authority for it and the others freely recognize that. And unlike the other emotional, volatile members of the gang, he’s also the only one with enough ice in his veins for the job. Actor exhibits the most civility and polish of the Gorillas, making him seem like he’s the most normal but inside, he’s the coldest.
In the beginning, while the others freely grouse about how they were forced to be soldiers and audibly plan on how they’ll cut their losses at the first opportunity, it’s Actor who recognizes the odds that stand in the path of their success and advises them they should stay. Like a professional chess player, Actor has the whole game figured out, has anticipated everyone’s move, and plays accordingly. He stays initially not out of a slowly-burgeoning loyalty (like Chief) but from the cool determination to preserve his own skin. And, unlike the others, Actor has a well-developed sense of irony that allows him to see something humorous in the entire situation. But that’s the way Actor is – he likes to brush things off as if they were nothing.
He is occasionally condescending to the rest of the gang (who, admittedly can be out-of-control barbarians), and no matter what the situation he keeps up his high standards in dress and manners as he gazes with removed superiority at the world around him. The one thing can consistently blow his cool, though, is Gonif. The cat-burglar brings out Actor’s emotional side and the two of them squabble like a pair of children in a highly-amusing display of pettiness. Actor is also the ladies’ man of the group, and his weakness for the fairer sex has a tendency not only to get the gang in trouble (amusingly referenced, though rarely seen) it sometimes reveals a little more heart than Actor ever intended to show to the world when he happens to fall for, of all women, a nun.
Ceeare Danova himself was a renaissance man, and it bleeds through clearly in his performance and his aura of confidence, control, and charisma. All the man has to do is say a single world in that smooth, resonant voice and how can we not believe every word he says? Oops, he just conned me.
I shall always have a special soft spot for Casino. Loud, brash, macho, violent, emotional . . . with a heart of gooey, sugary-sweet marshmallow buried beneath a hide as thick as a rhino’s. Casino bellows a lot but he’s the biggest softie in the bunch.
Casino has the most entertaining background of them all, the one he hear the most about (pretty much true across the board for Casino, he talks the most of all of them). His family is involved with the Mob, his uncles were bootleggers who taught him all kinds of dubiously impressive tricks, such as how to incinerate the cops chasing you. The most mechanically minded of the group, Casino’s also the one who will produce the do-it-yourself-liquor-still when they need alcohol (don’t ask). He can also drive a tank, or build a cop-trap.
There’s an aggressive, protective streak in Casino, and it is revealed during the series that he had seven brothers and sisters (one of whom died tragically) and the audience finds it safe to assume that Casino, in his gruff way, has adopted the other gorillas. Whenever they get an “outsider” recruited to their ranks, Casino is the one that is going to be hazing them the hardest, but he’s also the first one to come to their defense or bail them out of trouble when things get hard.
Casino could have very easily been the complainer of the group or nothing but the loud-mouth, but the actor adds so much more. There’s a layer of American-Italian charm and charisma that oozes off of Casino, as well as deep emotion beneath his cranky surface.
Unlike, Actor, EVERYONE pushes Casino’s buttons, and he’ll make sure you know it – loud and clear. The worst thing you could ever do to Casino is to tape his mouth shut. Barking is the way Casino deals with his emotions and he uses every comment to build up a rather shaky barricade around his softer interior. Though he’s quick with his mouth and his hands, Casino still possess a caring and charismatic side – he just does his best to hide it.
Basically, Casino’s like a big dog, snarling and snapping sometimes, poised and disciplined at others, charming and lovable on occasion, and always possessing a heart as big as New York City.
Gonif the thief / pickpocket of the group . . . and he lives up to his reputation on an hourly basis. He’s like a magpie. Whether it’s Casino’s favorite pair of loaded dice or a Nazi painting, Gonif is sure to have his sticky fingers all over it, just because he can.
How to describe Gonif? He’s the organ grinder’s monkey. He has the looks, charm, sweetness, and annoying duplicity of an overgrown Peter Pan. He’s what Siegfried Farnon of James Herriot would call “A debauched choirboy” – a peculiar mixture of cherub and devil.
Gonif could have very easily been just the clown, the one who’s just there to say the dumb lines, but Gonif is never that, because the actor adds so much more to the character.
There’s a childlike quality to Gonif that makes him stand apart from the rest of the gang. For instance, at one point when the boys are in a museum and decide to nab a “souvenir” Gonif nabs a musical snuff-box, while the other’s take things of more value.
Gonif is the jokester of the group, and he uses hijinks and witticisms to distract from moments of stress or emotion, and hides behind his quips as if they were a shield.
There’s a defenseless quality to Gonif (his karate moves never work like they do for the rest of the boys), and he prefers, when possible, to fade away when trouble or violence arises, like the Chesire Cat. He likes to defuse situations with clowning and light-hearted humor but, during extreme moments, he’ll rise to the occasion and use a machine gun with the best of them. And there was never a braver man under torture than Gonif.
While he can exhibit a startling toughness and grit, Gonif’s real skills come out in second-story work, where his balletic and graceful strength come into play along window sills and roof tops. Gonif is definitely invaluable to the group – as long as the gang doesn’t kill the little blighter from sheer exasperation.
After finally watching Legolas in The Fellowship of the Ring, I would actually compare his personality and character to the one, the only . . . Chief.
The eager young beaver, wise beyond their years and yet also naïve and idealistic. A bleeding heart ready to leap to anyone’s rescue but also a killing machine. The trusting, easily crushed puppy, who can switch to cold, calculating panther at the drop of a hat.
Chief is the only one of the gorillas that was in jail for a violent crime . . . whether it was manslaughter or murder, we’re never really sure. He’s the knife man of the group, the one that can kill quietly. Of Native American descent, Chief is often the one called upon to use his near-silent stalking skills as the look-out man who takes out anybody in their way. Chief is also the driver of the group, though you might just lose your breakfast if you get into the vehicle while he’s behind the wheel.
Chief’s just a sweet baby . . . who will stick a knife in your gut and smile about it. There’s a wild, violent edge to Chief – (Pro Tip: Don’t complain around him, he hates complainers, and don’t call him Indian) – that jumps out in startling moments.
After Garrison, Chief’s the Gorilla who is most concerned with what is morally right or wrong. He is the one who is first touched by the loyalty and protection Garrison shows to the gang and after that he becomes the watchdog for Garrison, in a sense, the little brother. He, of all of them, understands Garrison’s the best, because they both have that noble heart. Chief is fumbling blindly to become the man that Garrison is and the audience gets the sense that he looks up to Garrison a little more intently than the rest of the gang. Chief is a follower, and desperately wants someone to lead him and someone to believe in. Unlike the other whingers, Chief will move inexorably forward through any situation with his jaw out and nothing more than a swift punch for the really annoying complainers, like Casino. A simple guy with simple tastes, you can leave Chief alone with his beloved knife (it’s practically his child) and maybe a book and his chessboard and you could more or less trust that he won’t try to destroy the neighborhood (unlike the others) in your absence. Chief can be pulled into mischief, but he’s often the one who tries to be more responsible around troublemakers like Casino and Gonif, occasionally nipping Gonif’s thieving tendencies in the bud or letting Casino know when he needs to shape up. He roles his eyes at Actor’s woman-chasing ways, and when the others smoke, contents himself with a toothpick.
Of all the gorillas, Chief is the only one who could ever truly be a soldier. There’s a diamond in the rough quality, a sense of duty and sacrifice that isn’t as strongly felt in the others. The greatness – and the softness – is all sitting there, under a quiet, brooding exterior.
WHY I LOVE THE SHOW
It’s a war-oriented series – any war story will usually be a favorite of mine.
It’s about WW2 – one of my favorite historical periods.
Plenty of good old-fashioned action!
There go my boys destroying something again! They always do such a good job. Lil’ sis is proud of you.
It’s a WW2 series without all the anti-war garbage. Our heroes don’t fight evil and then go home and wonder if they should have and cry into their pillows because they hate war. They take down the bad guys because they have to and without angst and slap each other on the back afterwards for a job well done. After reading personal accounts of WW2 (and actually knowing some WW2 Veterans) this mindset seems much more accurate than the Vietnam War-style angst that is often superimposed over WW2-era stories.
It’s really quite clean, all things considered. There’s a little bit of innuendo in two episodes, and of course, violence – though mostly of the Western kind. There might have been one or two swear words, but not much! This show demonstrates how you can write a believable tough guy with imagination instead of just giving him a dirty mouth.
The sassiness, the cockiness. The mixture of idealism and rebellion. It’s a redemption story. It’s a tough guy story. It’s a red-blooded man story. It’s a blow something up and ask questions later story. They’ve got their hearts on their sleeve, but are hiding it under an attitude a mile wide. Thinks a more mature Outsiders who are actually engaged in a worthwhile fight, and you might be somewhere close to Garrison’s Gorillas.
The episodes have well-crafted plots, snappy dialogue, subtle plays of emotions, and they always get the bad guy – what’ s not to love?
There is emotion – but there is never angst. #Hallelujah
There are wonderful male relationships that can be quite touching – but are never gooey. They definitely act like men through the whole show.
Technically speaking, this was a wonderfully produced series. Unlike many TV shows, the scripting is always consistently good, and the cinematography should be especially noted as being truly exceptional and unique.
Did I mention the sass? Because these guys = SASS.
It’s a story of redemption (my favorite theme of all), as four cons as thrust into a world of self-sacrifice and they realize there’s something more important than their own skins, something they ought to be fighting for. And along the way, they discover their own self-worth. We see these guys transform from selfish criminals – into rough and ready soldiers.
Ride of Terror: This was the episode that made me fall in love with Chief! Our boy is put into an impossible situation when he discovers that their mission is to rescue an American colonel who used to be the warden of Chief’s prison, dubbed “a hell hole” because of what he did to the prisoners, notably Chief. Chief is furious, and torn over what to do, but all he really wants to know is if Garrison knew beforehand and didn’t tell him. Chief, despite being the tough, Dallas Winston sort, is anxious to follow someone and to believe in someone, and he’s unsettled when he thinks Garrison might have put him in this situation without “shooting straight” with him. He, Garrison, and Gonif go undercover as prisoners, while Casino and Actor go undercover as workmen reinforcing the prison walls. Unfortunately, the colonel is a jerk who has his own plans and things go horribly awry. Will Chief rescue him or not, even after how the colonel treated him? Well, you’ll have to watch it for yourself!
Friendly Enemies: I love this episode so much! The humor is so quick and so frequent in this show in the witty dialogue, it’s hard to pick an episode that is the funniest, but I think this one wins out. The team goes undercover to help a group of Americans escape from an Italian prison camp by sowing dissension between the Italian and German allies. Half of the team are disguised as Germans and the other as Italians, and they have a gleeful time harassing the enemy and pulling one stunt after another. Chief goes undercover as a captured American G.I. so that he can be thrown in prison with the captives and inform them of their plan, and that’s when things get sticky. The American prisoners are too sick or too wounded to escape on foot. Add to that Actor’s struggles as he goes toe-to-toe with an arrogant and immovable Italian officer, and things start to unravel . . .
The Expendables: The Gorillas are losing their touch. Tempers and emotions are high after the last of a long stream of unsuccessful missions blows up in their faces, all they want is a little R & R and a chance to shake the feeling that they’ve been jinxed. However, upon returning to their base, they are angry to find that they are being immediately sent back out again. They’re even more angry when they find out the purpose of their mission – to be the expendable decoys to take the hit while another team of “real soldiers” rescues a defecting German general. The Gorilla’s faith in their leader is put to the ultimate test when they discover they are on a suicide mission . . . and that faith comes back tenfold when they realize that Garrison was never intended to go, but he chose to die with them, because they are his men. It’s subtle, but this touching moment of bonding is one of the most pivotal moments in the show. Unfortunately, the fuzzy feelings don’t last very long. The Gorillas already felt they were being pushed to the limit of their patience, but on the edge of breaking, even more is required of them. The American officer who so callously sent them on a suicide mission “because they were cons” gets himself in trouble and Garrison asks the Gorillas to help him bail the joker out of trouble. Will the Gorillas turn their back or prove themselves to be the heroes they are slowly becoming? Watch it and see!
The Grab: Let’s face it, when you get a group of blustering, hardened dudes together, what do you REALLY want to give them?
The team is ordered to rescue the infant son of a defecting German scientist, but when they break into the facility where the baby is being kept they find not one, but three, captured babies, with no way of identifying which one is their target. Knowing that the babies were all kidnapped by the Nazi’s, the team takes them all and a wild chase ensues cross-country as they are doggedly pursued by the Gestapo. The boys are utterly adorable in this episode as they are forced to become nannies to three equally adorable babies and the inevitable attachment follows as the Gorillas each claim a little boy and essentially adopts him. Actor (the non-baby person of the group) quips to Garrison: “I’d hate to the German that tries to take their baby away from them!”
The Death Sentence: Someone from Garrison’s past reemerges and accuses Garrison of committing a crime several years ago. Namely, cowardice and dessertion.
Needless to say, the Gorillas freak. Garrison, their guy, is on trial! I love this episode so much – it is so full of heart. These rough, tough, ex-cons are furious that their impeachable, stainless leader is being put on trial, because WE ALL KNOW GARRISON COULD NEVER BE A COWARD, let alone desert. Abandoned through necessity, by their leader, the boys are a little like a pack of scrappy puppies deprived of their alpha, and they are determined to fight their way to the truth – convict style. This is a “pay it back” episode as the gorillas, in a complete reversal, are now the ones that have to play advocate for their leader and rescue Garrison. It’s beautiful to see how far the group has come in this one, and what an unbreakable bond they now have as they go to incredible lengths to rescue their leader.
Run From Death: The episode with a nun as a guest star seems to be a staple of WW2 shows, but this episode makes it fresh and intriguing. The wonderful Julie Harris plays a determined nun who lures the team into France under false pretenses, only to reveal that what she really wants is their help in rescuing four children of infamous French Resistance leaders (and their dog) and getting them out of the country before the Germans find them and either use them as hostages, or kill them. Being the big softies that they are, the team agrees, though much tension ensues as sister’s peaceful ways bump up against the violent tendencies of the Gorillas. But things really unravel when Garrison is wounded in a skirmish and taken to a German hospital. It is then that Sister Therese reveals that there’s more to her, and her past, then the Gorillas first expected and she is swept into an elaborate con to free Garrison before the group can make their final race towards freedom.
The Magnificent Forger: The team is being deployed to replace a list of Allied agents with a list of Nazi collaborators, but they need the assistance of a forger to get the job done. An old friend of Casino’s is sprung from prison to do the job, but despite Casino wanting to defend his friend, the guy is a problem from the start with his hard-case attitude. When Blackie is killed in their first attempt to land in occupied France, Casino is crushed, and furiously determined to hate the replacement who is parachuted in to their location. Unfortunately, it’s not hard. Clarence, while a talented forger and by laughable happenstance a criminal, sticks out like a sore thumb. He fainted during the parachute jump, cringes at everything and barely speaks above a whisper. More to the point, he’s too scared to do the job, quickly earning the frustration of the group, and the derision of Casino – who can do derision like no other. The harrowing mission can only be completed if Clarence can find his courage, and, just maybe, if the Gorillas can find it in their hearts to extend some kindness and offer a fellow “con” a helping hand.
I actually got to speak to the actor who plays Chief (Brendon Boone).
A little while ago, I joined the official Facebook fan group for Garrison’s Gorillas. Mr. Boone is a member and helps keep the group growing. He commented on my membership and chatted with me a bit. At another time, he answered one of my questions and told me a special behind-the-scenes anecdote about the show.
I SPOKE WITH CHIEF. Forget your Legolas and Marvel superheroes, I talked to Chief! I’m not going to lie, this was a very exciting moment for me. 😉
Mr. Boone is nice, funny, and gracious, and I think it’s awesome that he interacts so much with fans of the show and helps keep the group alive. 💖
WHERE TO FIND THEM
The episodes are all available (for now) on Youtube! The quality can be a bit grainy, but watch them on a small screen (or sitting way back) and you’ll be golden. Oh, and you might get Chinese subtitles at some point on the screen, because apparently this series was wildly popular in China.
The Big Con is the first episode, and I do recommend you start with that one, even though that one is often the poorest quality, film wise. Also, the personalities in the first episode are still being solidified in that one . . . Except for Garrison.
*pauses for an intense fan girl moment*
And, it’s a little thing, but their signature outfits haven’t been defined yet and that can be bothersome to a super-fan such as myself.
So, if after watching the pilot if you’ve still not caught the spirit of the thing (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?), I would recommend watching Ride of Terror or Friendly Enemies next, where the boys are on fine display.
So, speak to me friends. Have you watched Garrison’s Gorilla? You probably haven’t, but I can always hope. *sighs*
And if you haven’t watched it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? Hint; If you liked The Rat Patrol this is even better, and if you’ve ever watched Combat! this is LIGHT YEARS better. If you liked Leverage, pfft, Garrison’s Gorillas completely eclipses it!
MAN, I love this show.
I put off writing this blog post for a long time because I KNEW that anything I attempted to say would be inadequate in expressing how much I love this series and how great it really is. I was literally groaning and fake-sobbing the whole time I wrote it because I knew that I’d never be able to sum up the awesomeness of this show.