December 16, 2020

Hogan's Heroes - the final episode




Idon't think I've ever given an old piece a bump to the top; to be sure, I've resussitated a few old pieces here and there, if they prove to be timely in their subject matter (or if I prove to be untimely in my ability to come up with something new), but usually once I write something, it becomes part of the archives, destined to be found only by people looking for it (or stumbling upon it). Today, though, I make an exception.

A few years ago—almost nine now, if  you can believe it—I wrote what I thought was a fanciful little piece speculating on what would have happened if one of my favorite shows, Hogan's Heroes, had been given a final episode. Today, of course, it would go without saying; just about any series that isn't cancelled in the middle of its first season gets the chance to have the last word. Back then, though, that generally wasn't the case. But if there were ever a series that deserved a closing episode, it's Hogan. After all, the concept is a closed circuit; we all know that World War II ended, and so the heroes' time in Stalag 13 would have come to an end as well. Additionally, there's the unique dymanic of the relationship between the captors and captives, especially that between Hogan and Klink, that really begs a "rest of the story" story. And, being a comedy, we can be pretty sure that it won't be a tragic end that befalls these much-loved characters.

Over the years, this post has continued to get comments; two, in fact, in the last couple of weeks. I have no other essay that can make that claim, which I think speaks less to my skill as a writer and more to the enduring popularity of Hogan's Heroes. However, because it was originally published so long ago, it occurs to me that very few of you have had the chance to see this continuing discussion in the combox. Therefore, for your pleasure, as well as that of those who'd like to offer their own scenario on how Hogan's Heroes ends, I thought I'd bump it back to the top. And so, we return to February 21, 2012, and an episode that never was.

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I've never been embarrassed to admit that Hogan's Heroes was, and remains, one of my all-time favorites. It was the first series I got in its entirety on DVD; the acting was superb, the writing spot-on, the plots often literate and clever and frequently downright hilarious. The cast—Bob Crane as Hogan, Werner Klemperer as Klink, John Banner as Schultz, Klink’s nemeses General Burkhalter and Major Hochstetter (Leon Askin and Howard Caine) and the whole cast of heroes (Robert Clary, Richard Dawson, Larry Hovis, Ivan Dixon and Kenneth Washington)—were uniformly great.

The last episode, airing on July 4, 1971 could have been any particular episode from that final season, and in fact there’s no reason to think it was conceived any other way. A seventh season had been expected, and so the show's cancellation came as something of a surprise, but, in fact, it had been around for six years and, like most extended-run shows, was beginning to show its age, and the ratings had begun to fade. In other words, a perfect candidate for a wrap-up episode.

So what would that final episode have been like? Well, many of the major events of the war had come and gone during Hogan’s run (though not necessarily in linear order) including D-Day. The Allies might have come to liberate the camp, or they might simply have terminated Hogan’s assignment (the POWs, you recall, were stationed at Stalag 13, posing as prisoners but in reality operating a massive underground commando and espionage ring). Myself, I prefer to think of the series concluding with the end of the war; Burkhalter and Hochstetter, being true believers in the Nazi regime, probably would have been taken prisoner themselves by the Allies. (In reality, they might have committed suicide, but let’s not make this too realistic.)

Hogan and his men probably would have vouched for Schultz, who really was just a working man at a job he didn’t particularly like, and possibly even Klink, who when all was said and done didn’t really bear the POWs any real malice; he was too incompetent to have done too much harm. The men would have been lauded as true heroes for their daring behind-the-lines escapades, none more so than Colonel Robert Hogan himself. Already a full colonel, it’s reasonable to assume that Hogan would have come out of the war at least a Brigadier General, with a brilliant future should he decide to stay in the service. The Army, recognizing what it had on its hands, would have made the most of the photogenic, dynamic Hogan. (An earlier episode had actually involved the brass bringing Hogan back home, cashing in on his accomplishments by having him lead bond drives throughout the country.)

And where do things go from there? There certainly would have been a book about such an audacious assignment, just as there was with A Bridge Too Far, A Man Called Intrepid, The Great Escape and other true war stories, probably called, simply, Hogan’s Heroes, by General Robert Hogan as told to David Halberstam. In due course, a movie would have been made based on the book, and it’s fun to speculate on who would have played Hogan in the movie. (Greg Kinnear, anyone? Probably more likely Kirk Douglas.) Hogan might have served in Korea, flying the same kinds of bomber missions he flew in Europe during WWII; on the other hand, he probably would have already been back in Washington, with a high-level job in the Pentagon.

Come the early 60s, Hogan would still have been only about 50. JFK, who also recognized talent when he saw it, might have made Hogan his Air Force aide, working directly out of the White House. (I'll bet they would have had some adventures together.) Our co-blogger Steve suggests that Hogan might have been in charge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, which would have meant that the fiasco would have been averted, Castro toppled, and Cuba liberated. Without Castro and the CIA working behind the scenes, JFK doesn’t meet his death at the hands of conspirators in Dallas, and as we all know that means no expanded war in Vietnam. (Yeah, right.)

See how easy this is? The world as we know it changes completely! Kennedy goes through with his plan to dump LBJ from the ticket in 1964, choosing instead the charismatic Senator from Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey. Bobby lives, not being shot in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, because it is JFK’s loyal Vice President Humphrey who becomes the unanimous choice to continue the legacy of the New Frontier. (Bobby continues as Senator from New York, even providing consultation with that young Clinton fellow from Arkansas who’d had his picture taken with JFK that time. Bobby and Bill fly to Hollywood often and hang out with friends.

The Republicans, of course, turn to Richard Nixon as the best bet to unseat Humphrey and end eight years of Democratic dominance. In a peaceful campaign prosperity becomes the number one issue, and the voters decide to give the Republicans and their tax breaks a chance, electing Nixon as president. True to form, Nixon immediately sees an opportunity to wreak havoc on his enemies, even authorizing a burglary at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate. (What was that about history changing?) The country in a shambles, being led by the president who pardoned the man responsible for it, the people turn to someone they can trust: Robert Hogan, the now-retired military hero, the man who has always stayed above politics, the most trusted man in America (next to Walter Cronkite). And with him, the charismatic former actor and governor of California, Ronald Reagan. What a match! Hogan and Reagan – or is it Reagan and Hogan? Whatever. Happy days are here again.

All that from a simple half-hour sitcom. See why it’s so important for series to have final episodes? You can never tell how history could turn out differently. TV 
 

25 comments:

  1. I would have liked to see Patton show up at the front gate and crash through it with a tank. Burkhalter & Hochstetter would have been there, and Patton would point the barrel of his cannon right at their noses. After they surrendered Hogan would take them on a tour of his tunnel system and all the stuff that went on down there. Burkhalter and Hochstetter become POW's, Klink gets 30 days in the cooler,
    Shultz goes to the states and moves to Texas where there are other German settlers. Hogan marries Heidi. (R.I.P. Cynthia ) and they all live happily ever after. In my opinion Gen. Burkhalter was the funniest character. It would have been great fun to have a last episode.

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  2. The final last episode (no repeats) of "Hogan's Heroes was "Rockets Or Romance" (#168) was aired on April 4, 1971.
    Plot:
    Hogan becomes the partner of a beautiful underground agent when he and his men team up with the underground to destroy a guided missile battery.

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  3. True fans of the show, I being one, would have liked to see a finale. I also believe that we would have wanted Shultz and Klink to be treated respectively. Shultz was more obvious, but Klink was not one for violence or punishment. He was without a doubt the best character. I still cannot watch an episode without laughing at his facial expressions, and the humor he brought to the role. I am a television addict, and I place him in the top five comedic actors of early television.

    The cast, especially the Germans including Burkhalter and Hochstetter were great. Burkhalter is probably the most underrated character on the show. Whenever he appeared - whenever both of them appeared, it was certain that it would be one of the best episodes, the way they always lambasted Klink.

    God rest their souls.

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  4. I'm 75 years old and watch Hogan's Heroes about 4 times a week. I love those guys......Of course Andy and Don Knots were great also.

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  5. I understand LEAVE IT TO BEAVER was the first show to have a final episode, per se...the Cleavers looking back on memorable events (via clips)

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  6. There was a final episode in the form of a movie but different studio they where rescued by the us army but where nearly shot as spies for collaboration as they all looked fit and healthy would love to know the name of the movie??

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  7. I’ve often wonder what could have been. Perhaps a 1-hour finale where we witness the Allies surround and liberate Stalag 13. I like the idea of the tank crashing the gate. I would have enjoyed seeing the remaining guards (the ones who didn’t flee into the woods) throw down their weapons as the overwhelming American / British troops enter the camp. The surrendering Germans would at first be forced to lie face down on the ground where they would be frisked, then told to form a single file line behind the Allied trucks. I wanted to see Hogan, in the midst of all the commotion, step forward and pull a terrified Sgt. Schultz out of line and say, “It’s OK men… he’s one of ours” Then after watching Klink being forcefully herded into the truck along with his fellow Germans, a couple of the heroes would move in and speak up, telling the armed liberators that the Kommandant, a Luftwaffe officer, is now the prisoner of the top-ranking POW, Col Hogan, and will be dealt with accordingly. After isolating him from the unknown fate that awaited the German guards, Hogan would then tell Klink, “Looks like the war is over… Wilhelm… stay behind me and you will be alright. You just might get to see Palm Springs after all”

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  8. I like your final episode, and I agree, Sgt. Schultz and Col. Klink deserved to be rescued. They were both likable characters, both perfectly portrayed by talented actors.

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  9. i have lookand look and lookfor final episode , now (i know there is none i am tv addict myself,and go to bed every night with Ho gans and his men,best comedy shoe ever,forget Seinfel he is 2 pompus anyway. HOGANSWAS AND IT IS THE BEST PRIGRAM EVER. )

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  10. I AM FROM BRAZIL MY ENGLISH IS TERIBLE BUT U GET THE GIST ANYAWAY.

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  11. I figured the last episode would have involved our heroes evacuating the camp (they came close at least once before!) Maybe right after D day the Axis starts to realize there is a resistance group near the Stalag and they start to figure it out! (I know the D-Day episode was about 2nd or 3rd season, but I regard the events as not being shown in chronological order! Kinch was probably in another barracks.)

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  12. 'Hogan's Heroes' had only a mild case of 'M*A*S*H Syndrome, a.k.a. 'The show lasted longer than the war'.
    The alternate Hogan history was cool!

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  13. 'Hogan's Heroes' had only a mild case of 'M*A*S*H Syndrome, a.k.a. 'The show lasted longer than the war'.
    The alternate Hogan history was cool!

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  14. A smart final episode would have hinted at the Battle of the Bulge, maybe including a snide offer from Hogan to help with the transfer of operations to arriving American GIs, the final scene showing the downward drift of parachuting spec ops guys: give Clink or Shultz an appropriate last line as all watch the landing young soldiers and camp guards are laying down their arms.

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  15. The camp sirens blare loudly, but guards are setting their rifles down and stand back at attention.
    Klink storms from the office: SCHULTZ, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!!!
    "Commandant, the camp is being taken by members of the, uh, Colonel Hogan, what's the name of that unit again?"
    "Oh, just a few friends from the 206 Airborne, Aye Brigade."
    "That's the one, mine here."
    Klink puts his hands up: Oh, fine. I give up.
    A young GI, Tommy gun level in hand approaches. "I have orders to report to a Colonel Robert Hogan."
    "That's me."
    The others of the Hogan's Heroes crew gather near along with several chummy GI troopers.
    "Sir, your new commission," the lead GI says, handing Hogan a ribboned envelope.
    "And it's my honor to salute Brigadeer General Robert Hogan, commander of German occupied sector 13!" the GI adds saluting.
    Each of the other Hogan's Heroes crew follow suit with comments of their own:
    "Blimey, it's about time"
    "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy"
    "Vive le generalle!"
    "Congratulations, sir"
    "Sir," the GI suddenly tenses up.
    "This camp seargent is still armed!!!"
    Hogan considers Schultz, standing by, rifle in hand. ""You mean Schultz?"
    Schultz, embarrassed, Huddle's closer to Hogan, extending the rifle personally to him. "Speaking for me, I have always preferred toys."
    Hogan takes the rifle with a wink. "So have I, my old friend. So have I"
    Scene cuts to a German Colonel's arm placing an ole WW1 helmet on a table, then an American Colonel's arm places a US Air Force cover on it as closing theme music sounds out for the final credits to start rolling . . .

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  16. Klink is at last revealed as "Nimrod", the most effective resistance agent in Germany. Hogan, stunned, shakes his hand.

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  17. For me a final episode would have to include Schultz returning to the toy company - probably now destroyed by allied bombers - with Klink having been offered an accounting job at the company. Could have Hogan with them telling them he'll make sure they're able to rebuild as things like toys and hope will be some of the most important things needed as the world recovers from the war.

    I also like the comment above regarding the helmet and Air Force cover for the final credits.

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  18. Okay, the final episode is as follows; We open on Stalag 13 and there is excitement; the guards are packing up and preparing to move out. There is the constant sound of war in the distance. Klink is saying good bye to Hogan and the prisoners. Wishing them well as they are about to be liberated. Hogan makes a few wise cracks and invites Schultz and Klink to stick around as they champagne on ice. Klink gets huffy and prepares to leave. Hogan finally relents and takes Klink on a tour of what Schultz knows nothing about. Klink is amazed at what is underground and is a bit angry for being made a fool of. Better than being dead like Burkehalter or captured like Hockstedder. Cut to Klink shaking hands with Hogan as he gets into his car. As the car drives out through the open gate, the camera pulls back to show a TV production crew filming the last episode. As the camera pans around we see an older Robert Hogan and older Klink talking to reporters. Klink is trying to tell them that it is only a comedy. He was not as obtuse as the character you've just seen on TV. Hogan agrees but with a wink and nudge. As Hogan and Klink walk through the open gates to their waiting limo, they talk about the upcoming reunion and getting together with the boys, if Schultz can find the time away from his factory.

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  19. From AV Club - https://tv.avclub.com/hogan-s-heroes-unceremonious-finale-comes-from-the-era-1798237542

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  20. Actually, there's a reference to an event in March,1945 in the final aired episode of the series - which was about 6 weeks before the Nazi Germany surrender - so there's a chance they knew when it aired the series was going to end. Yes, there had been some in and out-of-chronological order historical references dropped through the run (but then let's not forget COMBAT! had five seasons between D-Day and The Tail end of the War in Europe!) But this seems placed in the script as a "just in case".

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  21. I've had this discussion several times and came up with the idea of Schultz and Klink getting captured. Schultz strikes a deal with the U.S. government and goes back to his toy company (providing toys for U.S. families until his dept is paid off.) Klink not only receives a light sentence (due to Hogan's influence) but is actually COMMENDED for his incompetence. During the trail Hogan explains that Knink was aware of his goings on and faked his incompetence as to not put the mission, or his own position in jeopardy which allowed Hogan and his men to accomplish their missions successfully. Of course Klink knew nothing about this and naturally plays along, however this is the first time he learns about Hogan, his men and the entire operation during the trial.
    "Colonel Klink, so you knew about this operation all along?"
    "Did I?"
    Klink looks at Hogan who nods his head.
    "Oh, did I? Yes, yes, yes! Of course, yes! I knew it all along!"

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  22. Interesting. I loved the show. I suppose your wrap up is as good as any of the others in the comments, given that it never actually happened.

    The real Stalag 13 was nothing like Luft Stalag 13 in the show, other than approx. location. Assuming we follow the general outline of history, Hogan and his Heroes would have been liberated on April 6, 1945 by an American tank battalion. I'd assume by that time the guards would have, indeed, given up without much of a fight and in a comedy, they sure would have. The fate of the Germans would be mostly a slow processing out under the American provisional government. With the testimony of Hogan and the rest, both Shultz and Klink would return to civilian life, living out the rest of their lives in relative peace and prosperity.

    Hogan himself, being a full Colonel was surely a career man. He would have easily made General and moved among the upper echelons of the U.S. government, perhaps taking a path to the presidency. He was surely good at schmoozing, a necessary talent for such things.

    LeBeau would opt out and open a fancy eating establishment in the heart of Paris, eventually becoming a world famous restaurateur as well as an impresario.

    Carter would go to Officer Candidate School, become a Civil Engineer in the new U.S. Air Force and in time, be posted to the Air Force Academy, teaching Explosive Ordnance Disposal.

    Baker leaves the military before desegregation, gets elected to local office in his hometown and becomes involved in the civil rights movement.

    Newkirk leaves the military and first becomes an entertainer, investing in various businesses, all of which become extremely successful due in no small part to his eclectic skills. By the mid 50s he is a millionaire. Eventually, Peter Newkirk is a major mover in the hotel and entertainment business, known worldwide for his many accomplishments.

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  23. I read (and in my younger days, wrote) HH fanfic. I don’t remember this line from the show, but there are several Fanfic stories where Hogan said he came in the camp by the front door, and that’s how he intends to leave.

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  24. In the final episode, the Allies storm the camp and take Klink prisoner. Just as he is about to be led away, Hogan pulls a gun and grabs him, yelling, "This man tortured my people...I'll deal with him MYSELF!"

    Hogan drags him away and the two men hide behind a barracks. "OK, Klink, I'll create a diversion and you run for it! Go back to where you came from!"

    Klink smiles and says, "That would be Lancashire, old boy," in a north Midlands accent. Hogan is shocked, and Klink coolly pulls out a cigarette and lights it. "You know, Colonel, it feels so *good* to finally speak the *King's* again...!"

    The troops who had taken Klink in the first place, all Brits, come around the corner and laugh. "Colonel Hogan," says Klink, saluting, "allow me to *finally* introduce myself...Colonel Malcolm Stewart, MI6...!"

    Hogan returns the salute and laughs. "You son of a...!"

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!