Hogan's Heroes, the barracks sitcom produced by Bing Crosby's company, premiered on CBS on Sept. 17, 1965, and ran in prime time until July 4, 1971. Set in Dusseldorf in the middle of World War II, the premise is that American prisoners of war would have no desire to escape from a German prison camp if they could use their superior intelligence to aid other allies in escaping, while making their surroundings as comfortable as a luxury resort. Naturally, in order to accomplish all this, the Nazis running the camp, which included the Commandant, Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer), and his main prison guard, Sgt. Schultz (John Banner), would have to be fairly incompetent.
Because the depiction of these befuddled officers bears little resemblance to the way real-life Nazis behaved, Hogan's Heroes has always been surrounded in controversy. Objections have been raised since the series first aired concerning the treatment of German soldiers as lovable buffoons.
But, much of the show's popularity has always had more to do with the characterization of the American soldiers, particularly the suave, coolly intelligent Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane). Hogan leads his multi-ethnic band of men on a never-ending series of comic capers, all of which have the express purpose of defeating the enemy in the most humiliating way possible. The show's humor is also largely dependent on the idiocy of Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz who, in spite of their relentless bravado, are nothing more than putty in the hands of a soldier as clever as Hogan.