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All About M*A*S*H Since 1999

Most M*A*S*H Fans Didn’t Watch The Series Premiere in 1972

Last month’s poll asked visitors whether they watched the series premiere of M*A*S*H on CBS back in September 1972. The majority (64%) of those who voted said they didn’t, which isn’t surprising. M*A*S*H is one of those TV shows that constantly gets new viewers. Many younger fans weren’t born until decades after the series debuted.

Here are the full results:

No (64%, 67 Votes)
Yes (36%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 105

I wasn’t alive in 1972 to watch the premiere of M*A*S*H so obviously I voted no in this poll.

This is actually the second time I’ve asked this question. It was previously the poll question back in September 2012 when an astounding 430 votes were cast. Four years ago, the results were almost evenly split: 51% said No while 49% said Yes.

How did you vote?

Name That Episode III #214

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 “Welcome to Korea” from Season 4.

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Name That Episode III #213

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 “The Smell of Music” from Season 6.

Name That Episode

Episode Spotlight: Springtime

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

“Springtime” (#54, 3×06)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, October 15th, 1974
Written by Linda Bloodworth & Mary Kay Place
Directed by Don Weis

Capsule Summary: Its spring at the 4077th and love is in the air. Klinger wants to marry his girl back in Toledo while Radar falls for a nurse. Meanwhile, a grateful soldier won’t stop protecting Hawkeye.

There’s a lot going on in this episode. Almost too much. It’s hard to say whether there’s an A story and a B story or just a bunch of relatively equal stories so I’m not going to try. Hawkeye has a guardian angel in the form of a grateful Marine named Lyle. Klinger gets married to Laverne with the help of Radar, Father Mulcahy, and Colonel Blake. Radar falls for the lovely Lt. Simmons. And there’s also a wounded soldier with a cat.

With all that’s going on, it’s surprising (or perhaps not surprising) how little Trapper has to do in this episode. He’s not really involved in any of the storylines but pops up in all of them. Even Father Mulcahy is given more to do–he plays a part in both the Hawkeye and Klinger storylines. Margaret and Frank stand around and shout, infuriated at everything they see. Frank is also twirled around in the air by Lyle.

Radar’s storyline is vaguely reminiscent of “Love Story” from Season 1, only it ends on a happier note. In that episode, Radar tries to appear cultured to attract the attention of a sophisticated nurse but ends up being bored by her. In “Springtime,” after learning Lt. Simmons enjoys quiet evenings reading poetry, Radar brings her chocolate and offers to read her some poetry. It works and she throws herself at him.

It’s interesting that two episodes in Season 3 involve some sort of ceremony being performed in the 4077th with the second participate far, far away. “Springtime” had Klinger’s marriage ceremony with Laverne in Toledo while “Life with Father” had the Jewish circumcision ceremony with a rabbi on an aircraft carrier. Although “Life with Father” aired two weeks after “Springtime,” it was actually produced before it. Did the producers worry at all that the storylines would seem repetitive?

Lyle’s obsession with Hawkeye is amusing. Alex Karras does a fine job portraying the hulking Marine as a sensitive brute who wants nothing more than to do good things for the doctor who saved his life.

I wonder if additional scenes involving the soldier-with-cat were cut from the script or the episode during editing. It’s never really resolved. On the other hand, it could’ve just be a plot point for the Hawkweye/Lyle storyline and there was nothing more to it. The closing credits include a credit for a character named Pasco played by Greg Mabrey. Perhaps Pasco is the unnamed soldier with the cat?

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Springtime showing Hawkeye, Radar, and Trapper.
Radar doesn’t want to talk to his Uncle Trapper and Aunt Hawkeye.

This was the second of three episodes penned by writing partners Linda Bloodworth and Mary Kay Place. The first was “Hot Lips and Empty Arms” from Season 2; the third was “Mad Dogs and Servicemen” from later in Season 3. Bloodworth also wrote two episodes on her own.

There has to be a story behind Mary Kay Place getting cast as a guest star in an episode she co-wrote. I’m not being critical of her performance, which I think was quite good, I’m just curious how it happened. At the time the episode was produced, she had just two acting credits to her name. Perhaps another actress was originally cast but at the last minute had to drop out and there was no time to replace her?

Patricia Stevens isn’t credited for her appearance despite having two lines during the scene in which Hawkeye meets the unnamed soldier and Fluffy.

Gwen Farrell and Kellye Nakahara are likewise uncredited. I don’t recognize the two other nurses grouped around the bulletin board looking at the volleyball schedule.

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.