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Catching the Schemes of a Silvers-Tongued Devil

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If Sgt. Ernie Bilko had paid attention to the original title of his series, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble.

The name, which weeks after the 1955 premiere was changed to “The Phil Silvers Show,” started out as “You’ll Never Get Rich.”

Because Bilko’s in the Army now and doesn’t make the big bucks at Fort Baxter in Roseville, Kan., he’s always looking to hit it big--usually with somebody else’s money.

On a daily basis--with the help of Cpls. Barbella (Harvey Lembeck) and Henshaw (Allan Melvin)--he sells tickets for suspicious raffles and phony dances and tries to scam the other soldiers into staking him in poker games. Among the crazy schemes that are part of TV Land’s marathon of “The Phil Silvers Show” on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.:

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* Bilko plans to strike it rich with the arrival of a new recruit, heartthrob singer Elvin Pelvin, in “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rookie” (11:30 p.m.). Bilko thinks he can get Pelvin to unknowingly record an album.

* Bilko plans to strike it rich with a base visit by Bing Crosby (11 p.m.). He’s got a Crosby concert in the works, but Bing isn’t in on it.

* Bilko plans to strike it rich when he finds the perfect quiz-show contestant (9:30 p.m.) in Pvt. Honnegar. Though a bump on the head makes Honnegar (Fred Gwynn) forget everything, Bilko has a plan to win the $64,000.

* Bilko plans to strike it rich when he thinks there’s gold on the unused Camp Fremont in California (2 a.m.). He gets the whole base transferred (it also conveniently moves the series West).

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Other marathon highlights:

* Bilko, trying to get a date for the unseen sister of Pvt. Doberman (10 p.m.), builds up her looks so much that even he’s convinced she must be a beauty. (Maurice Gosfield, who plays Doberman, portrays the sister too).

* Bilko visits a former recruit (1:30 a.m.) who wants to be an artist--not a businessman like his rich dad wants. The heir is played by Alan Alda, in his first major TV role--40 years ago.

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DETAILS, DETAILS: What short-lived, early ‘60s prime-time cartoon was patterned after “The Phil Silvers Show”? Answer next week. The answer to last week’s quiz (What is the link between the characters the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger?): Britt Reid is the son of the Lone Ranger’s nephew.

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Set Your VCR

Rita Moreno, who had already won an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy, won a second Emmy for “The Paper Palace” episode of “The Rockford Files” (today at 6 p.m. on KDOC Channel 56). She plays a prostitute who’s the target of a murderer. A refresher: Her Oscar was for “West Side Story” (1961), the Tony for “The Ritz” (1975), the Grammy for “The Electric Company” (1972) and the other Emmy for “The Muppet Show” (1976-77).

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“Gomer Overcomes the Obstacle Course” in the first episode of “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” (Friday at 1:40 a.m. on TBS).

A social outcast with a hideously abnormal face awaits the results of her final medical treatment in “The Eye of the Beholder,” a classic “Twilight Zone” (Friday at 9 a.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel).

That’s soft-porn producer-director Zalman King playing Nick, a teenager on “Land of the Giants” (Tuesday at 7 a.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel) trying to free his imprisoned friends.

Loretta Swit is a lonely telephone operator in a two-part “Hawaii 5-0" (Monday and Tuesday at 10 p.m. on the Family Channel) from 1970, two years before she starred in “MASH.”

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