All About M*A*S*H Since 1999

WNEW-TV M*A*S*H Promo (February 28th, 1983)

Here’s a brief promotional spot for a special broadcast of the first episode of M*A*S*H on WNEW-TV (Channel 5) in New York City. It aired at 11PM ET on Monday, February 28th, 1983–the night of the series finale on CBS.

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WNEW-TV devoted quite a bit of its schedule to M*A*S*H that night. The station aired the series from 7-7:30PM ET on weeknights followed by All in the Family at 7:30PM. The night of the finale, All in the Family was pre-empted so WNEW-TV could show “Our Finest Hour” from 7-8PM. At 8PM, a special installment of PM Magazine looked back at M*A*S*H.

[This will be my last Video Rarities post for a while because I’m running out of easily accessible videos and need to dig into my collection to find more. Hopefully I’ll have more to share in a few months.]

Rolling Stone Ranks M*A*S*H 16th Greatest TV Show of All Time

Earlier this week Rolling Stone published a list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and M*A*S*H landed in the 16th spot. Here’s what the magazine had to say about the show:

The Korean War show that lasted three times as long as the Korean War, taking off from the revolutionary 1970 Robert Altman comedy, as the doctors and nurses of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital wait for the next chopper with the next crop of wounded grunts requiring “meatball surgery.” M*A*S*H began as a gritty comedy, with Alan Alda’s Hawkeye and the rest of the staff trying to keep their sense of humor alive amid the daily carnage with booze, sex and hijinks. It evolved into a solemn (if sometimes preachy) meditation on the futility of war. The finale was seen by more than 120 million and remains one of the most-watched TV events of all time.

Among the 15 TV shows considered “greater” than M*A*S*H are The West Wing, Game of Thrones, Freaks and Geeks, All in the Family, The Twilight Zone, and The Simpsons. For the record, here are the five greatest TV shows of all time according to Rolling Stone: Seinfeld, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Sopranos.

Lists like these are always subjective and tend to be skewed toward more recent TV shows. Back in 2013, TV Guide published its own list of the 60 Best Series of All Time and M*A*S*H ranked eighth.

Name That Episode III #212

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: BDOR, who correctly identified “A Smattering of Intelligence” from Season 2.

Name That Episode

Name That Episode III #211

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: converse_craig, who correctly identified “Goodbye, Cruel World” from Season 8.

Name That Episode

Wayne Rogers Remembered at the Emmys

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards aired live on ABC last night with Jimmy Kimmel as host. As it does every year, the telecast included an “In Memoriam” segment. This year, Tori Kelly performed an acoustic cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as clips and pictures of dozens of TV stars and industry professionals were shown on screen.

Among those featured in the segment was Wayne Rogers, who passed away on December 31st, 2015:

Wayne Rogers Remembered at the Emmys

This is a picture of my TV screen. I apologize for the quality of the image.
Copyright © 2016 Television Academy/NATAS

Whoever edited the segment chose a brief snippet from “Radar’s Report” in which Trapper confronts the Chinese soldier who caused him to lose a patient during surgery. It’s a dark moment and among the best work Rogers did on M*A*S*H.

Others included in the “In Memoriam” segment were Steven Hill, Al Molinaro, Garry Shandling, Dan Haggerty, Patty Duke, Fred Thompson, Abe Vigoda, Alan Young, and Hugh O’Brian.

Episode Spotlight: Fade Out, Fade In

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“Fade Out, Fade In” (#121, 6×21)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, September 20th, 1977
Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: The 4077th needs a temporary replacement surgeon when Frank Burns goes AWOL so the stuffy Charles Emerson Winchester III is sent to help out. When Frank gets a transfer and a promotion, Charles is assigned to the 4077th permanently, much to his horror.

As I mentioned in my review of “Margaret’s Marriage” earlier this year, the writers wanted to bring Larry Linville back for a farewell episode at the start of Season 6 but he declined to return. According to Ken Levine, no script was ever written but a story was planned out to give Frank a proper farewell. That’s basically what happened when Gary Burghoff left M*A*S*H.

Because Linville didn’t want to come back, the writers had to craft an episode that wrote Frank out of the series without actually featuring Frank. That’s more or less what happened to Trapper when Wayne Rogers left M*A*S*H after Season 3. However, Frank plays a much larger role in “Fade Out, Fade In” than Trapper did in “Welcome to Korea.” Trapper went home to his family and Hawkeye never got to say goodbye. That was the end of it.

That could have happened to Frank, too, but it would have been repetitive. Instead, the writers decided to have Frank suffer a breakdown following Margaret’s marriage to Donald Penobscott and use that to explain his departure from the 4077th. Rather than simply have him sent home on a medical discharge, Frank was given both a promotion and a transfer stateside. It may have upset viewers as well. Allowing Frank–the “villain” on M*A*S*H–to go home while everyone else remained in Korea might appear cruel. Or is it a perfectly reasonable thing for illogical, irrational, and irrefutably absurd military to do?

The reaction to Frank’s transfer back to the United States is hilarious. I wonder who came up with having everyone throw papers in the air after the toast in Colonel Potter’s office. Of course, their jocularity turned to disgust when Frank called and told them about his promotion and transfer.

It’s strange but even though I’ve a lot to say about Frank (“Fade Out”) I don’t really feel like there’s much to say about Charles (“Fade In”). I’ve mentioned numerous times how much I’ve grown to appreciate the character of Charles and, more importantly, how superbly David Ogden Stiers portrayed the character. The seeds of Charles Emerson Winchester, III are planted here in his first appearance. He’s a little stiff, quite a bit obnoxious, and a very talented surgeon. He ruffles feathers the second he arrives at the 4077th and makes it clear he considers himself better than the other surgeons. And he gives this little speech:

“But know this. You can cut me off from the civilized world. You can incarcerate me with two moronic cellmates. You can torture me with your thrice daily swill, but you cannot break the spirit of a Winchester. My voice shall be heard from this wilderness and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer.”

I love it. There’s a bit of humanity in Charles, however. After B.J. has to take over for him in the O.R., Charles opens up about his concern that he can’t adjust to meatball surgery. Of course, he then proceeds to insult them all.

Ken Levine had this to say about Charles a few years ago at his blog:

I was there for the creation of Charles Emerson Winchester. The idea was to replace Frank Burns with a character that was very much his opposite. We all wanted Charles to be smarter and more gifted as a surgeon than Hawkeye or B.J. and, as opposed to Frank, a worthy adversary.

There were no auditions for the part. Producer Burt Metcalfe had seen David Ogden Stiers guesting on an episode of the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and thought he’d be perfect. It was only after David was hired that we learned he could do that slight Boston accent.

Charles is no Frank. He’s a gifted surgeon and knows his way around a prank. I wonder what fans of M*A*S*H thought of Charles while watching this episode when it first aired.

There are other minor storylines in this episode. One of them, the wounded battalion aid surgeon Captain Berman, ties into the Charles storyline. The others are unrelated: Klinger and his “lawyer,” Margaret and her worries about Donald becoming distant, the soldier who doesn’t want to return to the front because he doesn’t want to kill anyone else. They help flesh out the episode but don’t add much substance. Margaret’s problem with Donald lay the groundwork for her eventual divorce.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Fade Out, Fade In showing Charles.
“I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer.”

Robert Symonds returns as Colonel Baldwin in Season 9’s “No Laughing Matter.”

CBS repeated this episode in two parts on March 6th and March 13th, 1978. It was later syndicated as two half-hour episodes.

Radar supposedly smokes his first cigar in this episode even though he was seen smoking a cigar in several early episodes (including “Requiem for a Lightweight” and “Chief Surgeon Who?”).

I honestly didn’t notice while rewatching the episode for this review but during the scene in the Officers Club when Charles is talking to Igor, it’s not Jeff Maxwell’s voice we’re hearing. It’s a mystery why another voice was inserted in post-production. Several sources online state it is Johnny Haymer’s voice. Haymer played Sgt. Zale.

Gary Burghoff WFSB-TV Commercial: The Airport Spot

As promised, here’s the third and final WFSB-TV commercial Gary Burghoff starred in back in 2000. The first three of these commercials began airing in February 2000. At least one additional commercial was made at some point.

The third commercial was titled simply “The Airport Spot”:

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I can’t find the e-mails from the person who sent me a video with the three commercials so I can’t thank them by name but I’m glad they contacted me a number of years ago and offered to provide a video file with these three commercials.

44th Anniversary of M*A*S*H

Time sure flies, doesn’t it? I still remember the excitement surrounding the 30th anniversary of M*A*S*H back in 2002. That was 14 years ago. This year M*A*S*H is celebrating its 44th anniversary. It’ll hit the big 45 next year. Can you believe it?

To celebrate, I’ve revised my Promoting the Premiere feature with additional information. I’ve also added a gallery to make it easier to view CBS press material for the premiere, including a rare press release from August 1972. Take a look. You can also read my December 2014 Episode Spotlight reviewing “M*A*S*H — The Pilot” here.

This month’s poll asks whether or not you watched “M*A*S*H — The Pilot” when it originally aired on CBS in September 1972. I’ve asked this before but decided to ask it again. If you haven’t voted yet, take a second to do that now.

Finally, if you’ve ever wondered what TV critics thought of M*A*S*H when it debuted, I’ve collected a variety of newspaper reviews.

Happy Birthday, M*A*S*H.

Name That Episode III #210

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: Chauncey Uppercrust, who correctly identified “M*A*S*H–The Pilot” from Season 1.

Name That Episode

Final AfterMASH Episode Surfaces

Fans of AfterMASH–and they do exist–have been waiting over three decade to see the final episode of the short-lived M*A*S*H spin-off. It’s called “Wet Feet” and is not a true series finale. CBS cancelled the series without giving the writers an opportunity to craft an ending. The 31st and final episode was scheduled to air on May 31st, 1985 but CBS pre-empted it at the last minute. The episode remained unseen in the United States but reportedly aired in other countries.

A review of the episode surfaced at the AfterM*A*S*H blog last year after a fan provided a copy sourced from an Australian broadcast, providing proof that the episode did air somewhere. Last month, someone uploaded “Wet Feet” to YouTube:

I was conflicted about linking to the YouTube video–it may disappear without warning at any time and, technically, this is copyright infringement–but I think it’s noteworthy enough for the M*A*S*H community that I shouldn’t keep it to myself. “Wet Feet” marks the end of the M*A*S*H universe and features the last appearances of Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy.

(Thanks to David.)