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Ernest Borgnine and the TV legacy (in brief)
Another boomer icon has passed away -- Ernest Borgnine, who died today at age 95 -- and in an all-too-brief tribute, some comments below. For anyone who wants to see "McHale's Navy," head over to Hulu.com where the entire series is posted. (The actual pilot, from 1962, was called "Seven against the Sea," an Alcoa production, which also starred Borgine.)
It is the curse, or blessing, of television that no matter how many brilliant screen roles -- and Borgnine had a few -- great stars of yesteryear had, they will always be remembered first and foremost by their long and successful sitcom or drama. And while obits will mention "Marty" in the first breath, "McHale's" will assuredly be in the second.
Borgnine, of course, had a few dozen TV roles over the years -- "Airwolf" fans, now is the time to mourn -- and a little known fact: He had a star voice role on "SpongeBob SquarePants," as "Mermaid Man," the doddering superhero who had a sidekick named Barnacle Boy (Tim Conway!) He was also a frequent "Tonight Show" guest.
Borgnine, in fact, was perfect for television: A wonderful character actor with great rubbery features and a gruff vocal instrument made of gravel and ground concrete: Once seen and heard, he could never ever be forgotten. He was a lovable presence, much as Andy Griffith was, but lovable in an entirely different way. His role on "McHale's" was very much of the time, when World War II servicemen still vividly remembered the most momentous time of their lives (not 15 years earlier); TV grabbed onto the war in both drama ("Combat") and comedy (""Hogan's Heroes") and viewers couldn't get enough. Borgnine had a terrific supporting cast here -- Tim Conway, Carl Ballantine, Joe Flynn, and on and on. The show was a hit, a big hit, and lasted years. Boomers, of course, loved the show, and loved him, and always will. (Meanwhile, check out the "Airwolf" promo below.)