Found! McLean Stevenson in a Raft on Cher in 1975

For at least 15 years, M*A*S*H fans have wondered about the existence of a bit of TV footage in which McLean Stevenson sat on a raft and shouted “I’m okay! I’m okay!” Supposedly, it aired at the start of an episode of The Carol Burnett Show the day after “Abyssinia, Henry” was originally broadcast back in May March 1975. Or so one version of the story goes. Other versions claim it was an episode of Tony Orlando & Dawn or The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

I looked into the rumor back in June 2011 and was only able to determine that if it was The Carol Burnett Show it couldn’t have aired the day after “Abyssinia, Henry” because The Carol Burnett Show was seen on Saturdays while M*A*S*H aired on Tuesdays during the 1974-1975 season. Truthfully, I wasn’t convinced it ever really happened.

Well, it did. Only not on The Carol Burnett Show and definitely not the day after “Abyssinia, Henry” aired. See for yourself:

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So when did this footage air? During the Sunday, May 4th, 1975 episode of Cher’s CBS variety show, which was called Cher. McLean Stevenson was the special guest that week. In addition to his brief raft appearance, he was also in two full sketches.

(After I wrote about McLean Stevenson and The Carol Burnett Show, a number of people left comments saying they remembered the footage, including two who claimed it was from an episode of Cher. They were right.)

Why do so many people seem to remember seeing something like this on The Carol Burnett Show? I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible McLean Stevenson did something similiar on The Carol Burnett Show. It’s equally likely that someone remembered seeing the raft gag but got confused and thought it was an episode of The Carol Burnett Show and not Cher. Once the misinformation made its way online it spread and eventually was taken as fact.

If you’re curious how I got my hands on this footage, here’s what happened. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from someone saying they had the episode of Cher on DVD. Apparently, the series aired on VH-1 at some point during the 1990s (originally an hour long, the VH-1 episodes are cut down to 30 minutes). He offered to send me a copy. I eagerly accepted but was torn. On the one hand, I was excited to finally see the footage. On the other hand, it seemed too good to be true. Could this really be it?

At first, after watching the episode in question, I couldn’t find the footage of McLean Stevenson on a raft. He was definitely in the episode, part of a bizarre sketch involving mice. I took a closer look and there it was. The timing was perfect. The 41st anniversary of “Abyssinia, Henry” was only days away. What better time to post the video and finally confirm once and for all that it really happened?

Let’s all say a big thank you to the M*A*S*H and Cher fan who provided the DVD.

32 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    OMG!! RJ, you are a rock star!! For years and years, it was said this clip existed, but just like Big Foot, no one had proof or even remembered seeing it; but you proved it indeed does exist today!!

    Great job!! What a find!!

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    AWESOME! And thank you to the mysterious DVD donor that has proven this to not be an urban legend. Seeing it just makes me miss Mclean/Col. Blake even more!

  • Mark O'Neill says:

    Great, great find! Many thanks!

  • BDOR says:

    Indeed, major kudos extended to the mysterious fan who sent this clip in – you have single-handedly put to rest of the most infamous urban legends in M*A*S*H history, and I know we can all rest a little easier tonight.

    Mac Stevenson certainly got the last laugh, didn’t he?

  • Mark O'Neill says:

    …there are those who intensely defend the producers’ killing off of Henry, and there are those who wish they hadn’t done it. I’m in the latter group. One time, when I expressed my view to Larry Gelbart, he suggested I watch the episode backwards…in which case Henry comes back to life. If I had my way, I’d tack this little clip of Stevenson from Cher onto my DVD of Abyssynia, Henry.

  • BDOR says:

    You know what would have made this appearance better, though? If Henry was in his “Adolf Menjou” suit, because that’s what he wore the last we saw of him leaving the 4077th – that would be have been a nice little continuity nod. Maybe even show the suit in a distressed state to show that he did survive, but just barely.

  • Joe says:

    R.J., I’m one of the people who said it was on Chers variety show

    So all I can say is this to everybody: SEE, I TOLD YA!!!!

  • Father Angus says:

    Awesome! Finally, some proof that this actually exists! Many, many thanks to whoever found it, and of course to R.J.

  • Dan says:

    This is an amazing find! RJ – thanks for updating the site and thanks to the DVD owner for bringing it to everyone’s attention.

  • Mark O'Neill says:

    …I can’t get into specifics or names, but let me add that several of the MASH alumni were quite pleased to learn of and see this clip. I think there was a real fondness for Mclean Stevenson among his co-stars.

    • BDOR says:

      I’ve heard stories of how fond everyone was of Mac, I believe Wayne said he was the funniest man on the set, and the chemistry between him and Gary seemed real genuine, not to mention Gary is quick to defend Mac’s decisions to leave the show mostly due in part to the terrible working conditions.

  • Joe says:

    a big THANK YOU to that mysterious DVD owner who found tis clip-I’ve always wanted to see it again, and I have a excellent memory (I’m 58 and can still remember things in detail from when I was 1 or 2) but frankly I was starting to doubt my memory about this! LOL

  • Andrea says:

    An amazing find and thank you for sharing it.

  • Lyn says:

    All this 84yo woman can say is a heart-felt thanks. I watched this marvelous show from its first episode to its last and continue to eagerly look forward to its weekend reruns. Hear, hear MASH !

  • Heath says:

    A couple of months ago I located Maclean’s appearance listing on tv.com and added it to the post thread to support Joe’s memory. I made the dopey claim that it was an April 5 show but I obviously misread the date. In Australia the day comes before month in date sequences. I feared the skit may be tasteless but it is actually quite poignant and haunting given his lack of success at other roles that followed. Kudos to all involved in its recovery.

  • David G. says:

    Now … let’s see if someone can relocate the musical number that Linville and Swit did while dressed as Burns and Houlihan on some variety show of the period … and can identify WHERE -that- clip came from. (I’m not joking about this. I saw it on YouTube a dozen or so years ago, but it’s long gone now!)

    One great M*A*S*H mystery solved … another one now opened….!

  • Your pal, jim says:

    Burns & Houlihan on Don Rickles’ show, singing and dancing.

  • Wendy says:

    Very very awesome, is there any way to get a copy, I would love the cip to add it to a custom DVD I am making of MASH rarities.

  • Wesley Hyatt says:

    Having just written a book on The Carol Burnett Show, this was one mystery I could never confirm nor deny until now. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU SO MUCH for finding this and posting what really happened. Now, if they’d just issue a correction on Jeopardy for claiming that this happened on Carol’s show, I’d be a happy man.

  • B says:

    “Abyssinia, Henry” was originally broadcast on March 18, 1975. Not May. Back then, shows finished their seasons in February and March, as there were no May sweeps back then.

  • Greg says:

    I guess Mclean regretted quitting the show. The network was shocked and quite upset that Mclean left the series, and the episode of Blake’s death in a plane crash left no chance of a return guest spot in later episodes. CBS got even, I guess.
    Mclean said that the last day of filming was so hard for him that he avoided going to the scheduled wrap party at Fox, and sat in his dressing room and cried. The friction between him and the network reached a boiling point during the last year he was on the show.

    • BDOR says:

      It’s been said that the network found Mac to be a meddler and a nuisance, because he was always speaking out against the poor working conditions the actors were facing – both on the Ranch, and on the sound stage – and that apparently got him into a lot of hot water; this is probably why the other actors were too afraid to speak up themselves. That lends itself to the urban legend that Henry Blake’s death was a ploy by the network to ensure they’d be rid of the meddling McLean Stevenson once and for all.

  • Sue says:

    Thanks for clearing up this issue I myself was confused

  • Hunter says:

    I forgot Henry died until watching the marathon tonight…was hear broken. But he didn’t! Col Blake is alive! Hes alive and i can sleep well now!

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