Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bob Crane Talks with Reporter Stan Freberg about 'Hogan's Heroes' ~ September 1965

Fans of Hogan's Heroes may know the tagline, "If you liked World War II, you'll love Hogan's Heroes." The line, used quite frequently during the show's initial run, would occasionally resurface after the series ended and ran in syndication, continually marring the show with the assumption that war is not only hell, but it can actually be fun.

There are no two ways around it; you can love and appreciate Hogan's Heroes all you want, but that tagline is offensive. Despite its great success and large fan base, Hogan's Heroes still receives quite a bit of flack from from those who do not understand the satire or premise of the show, perhaps in part due to the crude overtone of this simple yet harsh tagline. 

Bob Crane had never been a fan of this particular tagline, having been a terrific supporter of veterans and recognizing their service in the United States Armed Forces, especially during war time (his older brother served in the United States Navy during World War II, and was severely injured and nearly killed in battle). Bob spent a lot of time explaining and defending Hogan's Heroes openly to the public on behalf of the network and the show's producers. He also made regular appearances to veterans' groups.

His message each time was clear and simple: No, we cannot and should not make fun of World War II or any war. The show is a satire, set in a POW camp, not a concentration camp. It mocks authority and the power some individuals have achieved, even though it is blatantly obvious they do not deserve to be in positions of power in the first place. It roots for the underdog, who struggles against tyranny in the attempt to overcome the trials set before him despite the odds.

Many veterans enjoyed Hogan's Heroes, supporting Bob's stand on how humor and one's wits can be used to fight back, saying the use of humor helped them to overcome the horrors of war. And for many, Hogan's Heroes still resonates to this day, most recently with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's "Bridgegate" scandal, where Internet memes are cropping up featuring Sgt. Schultz and his famous line, "I know nothing!"

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being compared
to Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes in light of
the "Bridgegate" scandal, which broke this week.

The following interview between Bob Crane and reporter Stan Freberg was published in September 1965. While the interview is light, and the dangers of war bounce between the two men in jest, it is also clear that Bob did not embrace the tagline, his tone changing at the mention of it. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the tagline stuck, and it still resurfaces to this day, continuing the misrepresentation of the true intentions of the series.

From The Sunday Times, September 19, 1965, by Stan Freberg
"My favorite is a spot to promote Hogan's Heroes, an unlikely comedy series in which a band of Air Force officers are held captive by the Germans and try to escape each week, to some pretty funny results. The star, former KNX personality Bob Crane, informed me that the show 'is all about World War II.' There is a pregnant pause."

FREBERG: Well, that sounds pretty amusing so far; where does the show take place?

CRANE: In a prisoner of war camp in Germany.

FREBERG: Always a good situation comedy locale. What's the plot?

CRANE: Well, we have an escape tunnel dug under the barracks...We have our own tailor making civilian clothes, we're equipped to make counterfeit German passports...

FREBERG: All right under the noses of the German guards?

CRANE: Right. And each week we nearly get caught smuggling the men out. (He chuckles.)

FREBERG: What are some of the other amusing ingredients?

CRANE: Oh...German police dogs...machine guns...the Gestapo.

FREBERG: Just a few of the laugh-provoking elements to be seen this fall on Hogan's Heroes each Friday night on CBS. Shall we say, "If you liked World War'll love Hogan's Heroes?"

CRANE: No, let's not say that. No.