The Sergeant Jack Show

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The "Sergeant Jack Show" (originally "The Dick Tracy Show Starring Sgt. Jack") was a children's television show which aired on WBMG-42 from 1965 to the early 1980s. It was hosted by former WSGN-AM disc jockey Neal Miller in the guise of "Sergeant Jack".

The show was initiated as an in-studio "frame" for the animated cartoon series based on the Dick Tracy comic strip. The name and concept for Miller's character reflected the program's title sponsor, Jack's hamburgers. Jack's founder Jack Caddell was friends with Jefferson County Sheriff Mel Bailey. In order to wear the uniform on the air, Bailey swore Miller in as an honorary deputy.

The program debuted when WBMG expanded its broadcast hours to the afternoon, probably on November 1, 1965. By the end of the decade, Sergeant Jack was the last locally-produced children's weekday afternoon program still on the air in the Birmingham market. In 1969 WBMG staff artist Howard Cruse introduced two puppet characters to the show: "Wilbur", a scheming groundhog, and "Oscar" a yellow monkey.

After being promoted to art director for the station, Cruse redesigned the Sergeant Jack set in vivid yellows, blues and reds. When he left the station, the departure of Wilbur and Oscar was explained away with the pair building their own moon rocket to pick up NASA's litter from the lunar surface. The rocket stalled on the way, however, leaving them stranded.

Later characters were created by Ted Lowry, and included "Sneezer", a mouse with a cheese allergy, "Reggie" the mynah bird, "Burt and Donna", a pair of married frogs, "Oliver" a near-sighted lion, and centenarian "Salvador Crago". Sergeant Jack served as straight-man for the puppet cast's manic, sometimes satirical, highjinks.

Notable guests appearing on the Sergeant Jack Show included the Monkees and Leonard Nimoy.

In 1976 the program moved from its weekday afternoon slot to Sunday mornings, and then to Saturdays, after which live audiences were no longer part of the show. The show ended its run in June 1982.

References

  • Hollis, Tim (October 30, 2005) "Sgt. Jack", Chapter 6 of The Magic City Kids' Shows on Birmingham Rewound
  • Hollis, Tim (2006) Birmingham Broadcasting. Images of America series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0738542717