USS Reluctant - The naval cargo ship (nicknamed "The Bucket") stationed
in the South Pacific during World War II on the military comedy adventure MR.
ROBERTS/NBC/1965-66. Roger Smith starred as Lt. Douglas Roberts who wants to
leave the mundane existence of working on a cargo ship and get into the heat of
the battle. Unfortunately, every time he requests a transfer to the front line,
his commanding officer, Captain John Morton refuses his request. Morton likes
things just the way they are and doesn't want to jeopardize the operations of
his ship by loosing an officer to the fighting. Mr. Roberts, however, is
determine to get into the fray of fighting and transferred off the cargo vessel.
While Roberts waits for the day he gets transferred, he settles into the
routine business of running the ship. His companions onboard include Junior
officer Ensign Pulver who is always good for a laugh. Pulver is obsessed with
the ladies and is not averse to smuggling his girlfriends on aboard. Doc, the
stern medical officer brings a conservative calm to the group with his wisdom
and somber outlook on life. And then, there is Captain Morton and his potted
palm. Morton shows more concern about that palm tree than with his own crew. The
Captain once canceled shore leave for the entire crew after he discovered that
someone had crushed out a cigar on his potted palm.
On a day to day basis, Mr. Roberts had to contend with a number of problems.
They might include discovering a pregnant woman accidentally left in the sickbay
after the ship set to sea; keeping three USO females out of sight from the crew
until they arrived at their destination, hosting a Congressman who visits the
ship after Pulver sent a letter alleging the crew's heroic exploits; arranging a
phony surgery on Pulver to get Doc out of a depression; or uncovering a plot by
a German spy planted on the ship to impersonate the Captain.
To keep the crew's morale from slumping Mr. Roberts sometimes became involve
in activities like a arranging a boxing match between his ship and another ship
in the fleet, or agreeing to steal a film (a musical) from the Captain's
quarters after the crew complained of seeing the same old movie over and over
Another daily concern of Mr. Roberts was junior officer Ensign Pulver who
avoided work at all cost and got involved in all sorts of hanky panky aboard the
ship. Pulver's pranks included accidentally killing the Captain's beloved potted
palm; giving medical supplies to a pretty lieutenant without permission; and
bringing a bevy of unauthorized females aboard (Pulver pretended one such
stowaway was a member of royalty to explain her presence onboard).
Besides Mr. Roberts's concerns over Pulver and crew, his main focus in life
was getting transferred off "The Bucket" and into the war. Once Robert almost
made it off the ship but had to stay when his replacement proved inept. Ensign
Pulver tried to help Mr. Roberts by contacting his mother in the States to use
her influence to get Roberts transferred, but to no avail.
With all the constant rejections, Roberts sometimes felt overwhelmed and took
his anger out on the crew, but that never lasted very long. After all, despite
his disappointment, Mr. Roberts was a dutiful officer and would always follow
orders, despite his personal feelings.
TRIVIA NOTE: The series was based on the 1940s
book/play "Mr. Roberts" written by Thomas Heggen which spawned the memorable
movie hit Mr. Roberts (1955) starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon.
The ship used for the program was actually the USS VIRGO (AKA-20). Author Heggen
served aboard the Virgo during World War II and many of the misadventures that
he chronicled into his novel were based on real stories aboard the ship. For
instance, on the Virgo, the ship's Captain Randall actually kept a potted palm,
and the crew plotted to throw the plant overboard. Also, the name of the ship on
the TV series "The Bucket" was inspired from the crew's nickname for the Virgo's
nickname "The Iron-Bound Bucket." Sadly, soon after the success of this book and
play, a despondent Thomas Heggan took his own life.
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