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C.P.O. Sharkey
Don Rickles CPO Sharkey 1977.JPG
Sharkey winds up in a Tijuana jail after trying to bail out his men
Created byAaron Ruben
Directed byPeter Baldwin
Russ Petranto
Mel Ferber
StarringDon Rickles
Peter Isacksen
Elizabeth Allen
Harrison Page
Richard X. Slattery
ComposerPeter Matz
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes37
Executive producerAaron Ruben
ProducersAaron Ruben
Gene Marcione
Running time30 minutes
Production companyR&R Productions
Original networkNBC
Original releaseDecember 1, 1976 (1976-12-01) –
April 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)

C.P.O. Sharkey is an American sitcom television series, created by Aaron Ruben, that aired on NBC from December 1, 1976, to April 28, 1978. The series starred Don Rickles in the title role, with Peter Isacksen, Elizabeth Allen, Harrison Page, and Richard X. Slattery featured in the cast. Rickles, who actually served in the Navy during World War II, was already well known for the indiscriminate insult comedy he used in his stand-up routines and in guest appearances on other TV shows and specials. C.P.O. Sharkey was the third TV series that provided him with a regular vehicle for his coarse humor. (Two previous series in which he starred, both eponymously titled The Don Rickles Show—one a 1968 variety show, the other a 1972 sitcom—each aired for one season.) Coincidentally, Rickles portrayed a different C.P.O. in the 1961 episode "Professional Sailor" of the CBS military sitcom/drama, Hennesey, starring Jackie Cooper.


Don Rickles is U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, an abrasive career Navy man stationed at a San Diego naval base, in charge of Company 144, a group of seaman recruits. Sharkey initially comes off as callous, sarcastic and insulting to everyone around him, but underneath his harsh exterior he genuinely cared for his men and often went to great measures to help with their problems.

Members of Company 144 were a motley mix of ethnicities, including:

Others on the base included:

Running gags and precedents

In the earliest episodes of the series, Sharkey would often end conversations with each of his recruits by giving them the evil eye and saying "I'm gonna keep an ey-y-y-e on you".

Pruitt, who stood 6' 7", would invariably hunch forward, looking over the 5' 6" Sharkey when addressing him face-to-face; Sharkey found it uncomfortable to speak to Pruitt this way and would make snide remarks about Pruitt's height or a mistake he made. (The July 9–16, 1977 cover of TV Guide showed Rickles and Isacksen in character, with Sharkey standing on a foot locker so he could physically be eye-to-eye with a surprised Pruitt.) Some of Sharkey's insults toward Pruitt included:

Lt. Whipple would often lecture Sharkey. When he left the room (after bellowing "Carry on!" in his piping voice), Sharkey would often look in the camera and imitate Whipple's buck-teeth. He referred to him as Lieutenant Bugs Bunny.

The series was the first prime-time sitcom to depict the burgeoning punk rock music scene, with The Dickies, a band from the San Fernando Valley, making a guest appearance in season 2.[1]

The Tonight Show cigarette box incident

CPO Sharkey is peripherally remembered for an incident that occurred when Rickles was a guest on The Tonight Show on December 13, 1976, during which he broke Johnny Carson's wooden cigarette box, an heirloom that Carson had kept on his desk since 1967. Rickles pretended to be an immigration agent while joking with guest host Bob Newhart, using the cigarette box as a rubber stamp, slamming it down on the desk several times and accidentally breaking the lid in two. Upon seeing what he had done, Rickles went into mock panic.

Carson returned to the show the following night and promptly discovered the broken box still sitting on his desk while conversing with bandleader Doc Severinsen, who was sitting in for Ed McMahon. After he was told that the broken box was Rickles' doing, Carson took a camera crew, walked across the hallway to the adjacent studio where CPO Sharkey was being recorded, and interrupted the taping in order to tease Rickles, all to the delight of the studio audiences of both shows. Carson mocked Rickles' comedic style, calling him a "big dummy," and also teased actor Harrison Page, speaking to him in an exaggerated jive accent. As Carson prepared to exit, Rickles announced Carson to his own audience. Carson then mockingly glared at Rickles, shouted: "They know who I am!" and playfully slapped his face before leaving.

Two years later on November 13, 1978, nearly seven months after CPO Sharkey had been cancelled, Rickles, this time guest-hosting The Tonight Show while talking with guest Carroll O'Connor, inattentively started slamming Carson's new cigarette box on the desk, but immediately stopped when he realized what he was doing; this time the box remained intact.

The original incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a major highlight of the 1970s era of the show. The incident was also featured in Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, Rickles said that the incident was a genuine accident, but he and Carson played up the drama. "Knowing Johnny, he milked it a little bit. And I added to it." He also said he had no idea that Carson would barge in on his set that day. "I was really taken. In those days, those were bigger cameras than they are today. To schlep all that stuff into the other studio was quite an event."[2]

Broadcast history

Season Time slot (ET)
1976–77 Wednesday at 8:00–8:30 PM (Episodes 1–7)
Wednesday at 9:00–9:30 PM (Episodes 8–14)
Wednesday at 9:30–10:00 PM (Episode 15)
1977–78 Friday at 8:00–8:30 PM (Episodes 1–12)
Friday at 8:30–9:00 PM (Episodes 13–22)


Reruns aired on Ha!, which became Comedy Central, in the early 1990s.[3] C.P.O Sharkey is currently available on Tubi.

Home media

On May 19, 2015, Time Life released C.P.O. Sharkey – The Complete Season 1 on DVD in Region 1.[4]

On September 22, 2015, Time Life released C.P.O. Sharkey – The Complete Season 2 on DVD in Region 1.[5]


Season 1 (1976–77)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Oh Captain! My Captain"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenDecember 1, 1976 (1976-12-01)
The chauvinistic chief must adjust to the fact that his new commanding officer is a woman.
22"Shimokawa Ships Out"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben & Gene Farmer
Story by: Walter Bien & Gene Farmer
December 8, 1976 (1976-12-08)
An enlisted man thinks Sharkey is discriminating against him because he is Japanese.
33"The Dear John Letter"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Gene Farmer & Aaron Ruben
Story by: Coslough Johnson
December 22, 1976 (1976-12-22)
Chief Robinson suspects that Sharkey is a real ladies man when he accidentally sees a "Dear Jane" letter in the typewriter.
44"Goodbye Dolly"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenDecember 29, 1976 (1976-12-29)
The men try to hide an inflatable female doll in the barracks without Sharkey's knowledge.
55"Skolnick in Love"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben and Richard Freiman & Stephen Young
Story by: Richard Freiman & Stephen Young
January 12, 1977 (1977-01-12)
Shy recruit Skolnick decides to marry a cocktail waitress after a two-day courtship, much to everyone's surprise.
66"Mignone's Mutiny"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Larry Siegel, Gene Farmer, & Aaron Ruben
Story by: Larry Siegel
January 19, 1977 (1977-01-19)
Recruit Mignone's unhappiness with the rigors of boot camp spreads to the other men.
77"Kowalski, the Somnambulist"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben & Mort Scharfman
Story by: Mort Scharfman
January 26, 1977 (1977-01-26)
Recruit Kowalski experiences repeated bouts of sleepwalking, which Sharkey desperately tries to find a cure for, or the young man may face a medical discharge.
88"Sunday in Tijuana"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenFebruary 9, 1977 (1977-02-09)
Sharkey's romantic plans with Natalie are wrecked when his recruits get arrested in Tijuana, Mexico.
99"Rodriguez and His Mamacita"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenFebruary 16, 1977 (1977-02-16)
Recruit Rodriguez is just one of the sailors who get in trouble with Sharkey and the top brass for sneaking women into the barracks.
1010"Sharkey Boogies on Down"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben & Mort Scharfman
Story by: Mort Scharfman
February 23, 1977 (1977-02-23)
Chief Robinson takes Sharkey to a disco to celebrate his 45th birthday.
1111"Sharkey Finds Peace and Quiet"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Rick Mittleman & Aaron Ruben
Story by: Rick Mittleman
March 2, 1977 (1977-03-02)
The chaos of barracks life leads Sharkey to dream of moving off-base to his own apartment.
1212"Sharkey the Marriage Counselor"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben & Jim Rogers
Story by: Jim Rogers
March 9, 1977 (1977-03-09)
Sharkey tries to help a fellow sailor with his marital problems.
1313"Sharkey's Secret Life"Peter BaldwinTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben
Story by: Bill Richmond & Gene Perret
March 16, 1977 (1977-03-16)
The recruits are convinced Sharkey is gay after his clandestine meeting with an effeminate toupee salesman.
1414"The Pizza Party"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenMarch 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Pruitt plans a pizza party to celebrate the end of boot camp, but does not consult Sharkey.
1515"A Wino Is Loose"Peter BaldwinAaron RubenMarch 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Sharkey must remove a wino who spent the night in the barracks right before a major inspection.

Season 2 (1977–78)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
161"The New Captain"Mel FerberTony WebsterOctober 21, 1977 (1977-10-21)
The new captain proposes to shape up "the chief with the biggest beer belly," a pretty fair description of the outraged Sharkey.
172"Operation Frisco"Mel FerberArnie RosenNovember 4, 1977 (1977-11-04)
Being assigned to submarine duty interferes with Sharkey's plans to have fun in San Francisco.
183"Sharkey Flies over the Cuckoo's Nest"Russ PetrantoGary BelkinNovember 11, 1977 (1977-11-11)
A case of mistaken identity ensues when Sharkey reports to the base hospital for his routine physical and is mistaken for a mental patient.
194"Don't Make Waves"Russ PetrantoArnie RosenNovember 18, 1977 (1977-11-18)
Comical chaos ensues as Sharkey's barracks is chosen for an experiment in coed Navy living.
205"Natalie's Ultimatum"Mel FerberAaron Ruben & Arnie RosenDecember 2, 1977 (1977-12-02)
Sharkey' long time girlfriend, Natalie, tires of waiting and gives him an ultimatum about marriage in their relationship.
216"Sharkey the Actor"Mel FerberArnie RosenDecember 9, 1977 (1977-12-09)
Sharkey lands the lead in a Navy training film.
227"Barracks Baby"Russ PetrantoTeleplay by: Howard Albrecht, Sol Weinstein, Aaron Ruben & Arnie Rosen
Story by: Howard Albrecht & Sol Weinstein
December 30, 1977 (1977-12-30)
Sharkey must hide a pregnant Mexican woman from INS officials in this Christmas themed episode.
238"Seven-Eleven Sharkey"Russ PetrantoTeleplay by: William Raynor, Myles Wilder, Aaron Ruben & Arnie Rosen
Story by: William Raynor & Myles Wilder
January 6, 1978 (1978-01-06)
Sharkey turns to the dice to help recruit Kowalski win back the money for his Mother's trip to Poland that the young man had lost in a craps game.
249"Forget Pearl Harbor"Mel FerberTeleplay by: Aaron Ruben
Story by: William Raynor & Myles Wilder
January 13, 1978 (1978-01-13)
The behavior of a visiting CPO from the Japanese Navy causes Sharkey to think that he may be a spy.
2510"Close Encounters of the Worst Kind"Russ PetrantoMichael Brown & Andy RubenJanuary 27, 1978 (1978-01-27)
Sharkey's girlfriend, Natalie, accuses him of being insensitive.
2611"Pruitt's Paradise"Russ PetrantoArnie RosenFebruary 3, 1978 (1978-02-03)
Pruitt has been showing signs of lethargy and Sharkey suspects it is due to a wild night life.
2712"Sharkey Meets Pruitt's Sister"Russ PetrantoAaron RubenFebruary 17, 1978 (1978-02-17)
Sharkey and the men try to scrounge up a woman to represent their barracks in the Navy's Miss Topside beauty contest.
2813"Sharkey's Back Problem"Russ PetrantoMichael Brown & Andy RubenFebruary 17, 1978 (1978-02-17)
Sudden back pains lead Sharkey to worry that he will be ineligible for the "CPO of the Year" competition.
2914"It Happened One Night"Russ PetrantoTeleplay by: Bruce Kalish, Philip Wickham Taylor & Aaron Ruben
Story by: Bruce Kalish & Philip Wickham Taylor
March 3, 1978 (1978-03-03)
A bomb scare in the female recruits barracks forces them to be housed in Sharkey's building.
3015"Tell It to the Marines"Russ PetrantoArnie RosenMarch 10, 1978 (1978-03-10)
Visiting Marines cause havoc at the training base as their behavior tests the patience of Sharkey and the other sailors.
3116"Sharkey and the South American Way"Russ PetrantoAaron RubenMarch 17, 1978 (1978-03-17)
Sharkey must instruct a visiting South American sailor in the ways of the United States Navy.
3217"Punk Rock Sharkey"Russ PetrantoMichael Brown & Andy RubenMarch 24, 1978 (1978-03-24)
Sharkey ventures into a punk-rock night spot to stop a fight, and comes out with a loose filling and the affections of a teen-age runaway.
3318"Pruitt, the Russian Flu-Carrier"Russ PetrantoAaron RubenMarch 31, 1978 (1978-03-31)
Pruitt infects Sharkey and most of the recruit company with Russian flu and Sharkey is overwhelmed by home-spun remedies.
3419"Captain's Right Hand Man"Russ PetrantoTeleplay by: Arnie Rosen
Story by: Roland Wolpert
April 7, 1978 (1978-04-07)
Much to both of their chagrins, Captain Buckner is forced to make Sharkey his personal aide.
3520"Fear of Flying"Mel FerberTeleplay by: Howard Albrecht, Sol Weinstein, Aaron Ruben & Arnie Rosen
Story by: Howard Albrecht & Sol Weinstein
April 14, 1978 (1978-04-14)
Sharkey reveals that he has a fear of flying and is terrifed at an upcoming flight he is required to take because of Navy business.
3621"The Even Couple"Russ PetrantoAaron RubenApril 21, 1978 (1978-04-21)
Sharkey moves off-base into an apartment in order to spice up his social life. His plan backfires when the recruits all show up just before a "last chance" date with Natalie yelling loud enough about problems that Sharkey gets tossed by his landlord.
3722"The Used-Car Caper"Mel FerberBob Booker & George FosterApril 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)
Sharkey must come to the rescue when his recruits are swindled by a sleazy car salesman into buying a lemon.


  1. ^ "Punk Pix, 1976-1980 & New Wave, Power Pop & Rock Classic Archive, Rare Photos: Dickies". Archived from the original on August 22, 2006.
  2. ^ Dave Itzkoff (2015-05-15). "Don Rickles Recalls His 'CPO Sharkey' Days". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  3. ^ McKerrow, Steve (1991-12-02). "Comedy Central offers dusty laughs". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  4. ^ Official Time Life Press Release for 'The Complete Season 1' Archived 2015-03-20 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ CPO Sharkey – 'Season 2,' 'Best of Season 1' and 'Mr. Warmth: The Ultimate Don Rickles TV Collection Archived 2015-08-31 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading