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World War II action/adventure show set in the deserts of Libya that follows the Shoot'Em Up exploits of a four man band of Allied soldiers as they wreak havoc on Nazi supplies and missions. Ran for two seasons from 1966-1968 and developed a cult following that has lasted to this day, although not enough to prevent it from being cancelled after 58 episodes. Fondly remembered by fans for its leapin’ jeeps, action oriented story telling, and epic explosions.
Shall we spread a little alarm and despondency?
This show contains examples of :
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Moffitt has degrees in archaeology and anthropology, is an expert on geological formations in the desert, and speaks fluent German and Arabic. His knowledge of the terrain and people is why he was assigned to the Patrol.
- Affably Evil: Dietrich is very polite to the Rats, even when he is trying to capture and kill them.
- Badass Crew: Driving through the desert, sneaking up on Nazis and blowing them sky high with 50 caliber guns strapped to jeeps badass enough for you?
- Bilingual Bonus: There are frequent long passages in untranslated German and occasionally French. Hans Gudegast (aka Eric Braeden), who played Hauptmann Dietrich, is a native speaker, as are most of the Nazi characters who speak German. Apparently he sometimes adlibbed German lines—watch the English speaking Nazi extras trying to keep up.
- Butt Monkey: Dietrich may be the closest counterpart to Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner in live-action television: His plans to capture and/or kill the Rats never work (no matter how clever they are), his stuff usually ends up exploded, and heavy objects frequently fall on him. Poor guy can't catch a break. Never mind, they can't kill him, either.
- Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Subverted. The Germans, the Americans, and the British all wear similar khaki colored uniforms. Eventually you’ve just gotta tell them apart by their equipment or headgear. Truth in Television, as before long the North African sun had bleached all army’s uniforms the same basic color.
- Enemy Mine: There are several episodes where Dietrich and the Rats form a truce while working for a common end. By the end of the episode though, they always go back to trying to kill each other.
- Five-Man Band:
- Foe Yay: Mostly between Troy and Dietrich. Moffitt and Dietrich get a bit of love too.
- Hollywood History: Plays fast and loose with reality. The biggest is probably how the show seems to think Americans were in charge of the North African campaign, when they really only entered the fight during the last six months of the conflict. Most of the fighting was carried by the British Commonwealth.
- Ho Yay: Every which way you look. The Love Thine Enemy Raid practically makes Troy/Moffitt cannon, with Moffitt whiny and jealous the entire episode when Troy is devoting all his attention to saving the life of a beautiful German nurse. Tully and Hitch get a few moments too, and heck, all the guys one time or another.
- Indy Ploy: Troy loves this one. Hot headed sergeants can't be bothered to come up with elaborate premeditated plans!
- More Dakka: The main method the Rats employ against the Germans. This show will make you believe a jeep can kill a tank.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Seems to be Dietrich’s motivation for remaining a German officer. Truth in Television, as many Heer (Army) officers despised Hitler, but still wanted a strong Germany and were willing to put up with him if he could give their country superpower status once again.
- Nice Hat: One for everybody. Moffitt sports a black beret, Troy has an Australian slouch hat, Hitchcock is in a red kepi, and Tully wears the only standard headgear, an American GI helmet.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Sergeant Moffitt, although he technically enlisted and isn’t an officer. He’s got the upper-class Brit part down, and the cool headedness to counteract Troy.
- Pin Pulling Teeth
- The Quiet One: Tully sometimes goes for whole episodes without saying more than one word. Pulls it off by being The Big Guy who gets to use the bazooka.
- Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Sam Troy, natch.
- Southern-Fried Private: Tully Pettigrew plays with this trope. Although from Kentucky (and getting his jeep leapin’ training by running moonshine), he’s plenty intelligent and good at his job.
- The Squad: Sergeants Troy and Moffitt, and Privates Hitchcock and Pettigrew. Truth in Television, they are based on the real life guerrilla squads of the North African campaign like the SAS and the Long Range Desert Group.
- This may explain why it didn't last long when it was shown in Britain (veterans objected to the crew being made up of one Brit and three Americans).
- Those Wacky Nazis: It is WWII, after all. Played straight with the majority of German characters; subverted with Dietrich, who is an honorable professional soldier who hates his bosses and respects the Rat Patrol. The Nazi command, however, are Near-Complete Monsters.
- Translation Convention: Often done quite subtly. The Nazis will frequently have whole conversations with each other in German, but only if we can basically understand what’s going on, or when there’s a character translating to someone else. Most often, they will begin a dialogue in German, then ask to switch over to English, citing something like not wanting the enlisted men to overhear. A few times, the dialogue starts in German, then abruptly changes to English in a straight case of translation convention.
- At least in season 1. By season 2 the Germans were always inexplicably speaking English.
- War Is Hell: Played straight and subverted. War may be hell, but it sure looks like fun.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: One of the ways we learn Hauptmann Dietrich is different from the other bad guys. Also goes for the Rats, naturally.
- You Look Familiar: Guest stars were frequently reused (often with a change of rank and uniform or playing a different race), but particularly Manfred Lating, who played quite a few of the anonymous German soldiers who exist solely to be shot up.