Episode Spotlight: Our Finest Hour

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

“Our Finest Hour” (#148, 7×04)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, October 9th, 1978
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs and Larry Balmagia & Ronny Graham and David Lawrence
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Clete Roberts returns to the 4077 MASH for another visit.

I don’t have much to say about “Our Finest Hour” because there isn’t much episode to discuss. It’s a clip show. Clip shows have a bad reputation, for good reason. They often feature weak story lines that do little more than link clusters of clips together. “Our Finest Hour” uses interviews to introduce clips from earlier episodes. Despite decent writing and acting, the simple fact that this is a clip show makes the episode tough to sit through.

It certainly doesn’t help that this is a sequel to one of the most acclaimed M*A*S*H episodes of all time. With the clips removed, “Our Finest Hour” still pales in comparison to “The Interview.” The interview segments are too short. Between the clips and the newsreel footage, there isn’t much time left in the episode. I haven’t done the math but I wouldn’t be surprised if the episode features only 20-25 minutes of original content. Perhaps even less than that.

I do like some of the interview segments, like Charles explaining why he loves classical music or Radar saying he doesn’t want to talk about all the suffering he sees. I don’t like how the episode reuses Father Mulcahy’s “steam rises from the body” speech. He originally delivered it during “The Interview” so it’s in black and white like the other interview segments in “Our Finest Hour.” That means it doesn’t stand out as a clip. It almost feels like an attempt to trick the audience.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Our Finest Hour showing Radar
Radar doesn’t want to talk about suffering.

CBS originally aired “Our Finest Hour” as a one hour special from 8:30-9:30PM ET on Monday, October 9th, 1978. For those who may not know, only the two-part, syndicated version is available on DVD. According to a notice on the DVD, “the original master materials were damaged and proved two be unworthy of DVD release.” However, back in the 1990s, Columbia House released the episode uncut on VHS.

A decade ago, I compared the uncut version on VHS to the syndicated version on DVD and discovered roughly four minutes are missing from the DVD. Thankfully, only clips from earlier episodes are missing. None of the black and white “interview” segments are missing.

“Our Finest Hour” is the only episode of M*A*S*H to be edited on videotape rather than film. Bob Schneider receives a Video Tape Editor credit in the closing credits. Stanford Tischler and Larry L. Mills are also in the closing credits as Film Editors. The final broadcast version of the episode was edited on videotape in order to accommodate clips from earlier episodes. Presumably, these master videotape(s) are the “original master materials” that were damaged.

A team of outside producers were involved in crafting “Our Finest Hour,” including co-producer Phil Savenick and associate producers Doug Bleeck, Bonnie Peterson, and Susie F. Walker. Some day, I hope to learn more about how this episode came about.

7 Comments

  • SPC Smada says:

    I’ve always enjoyed this one. AMC never airs it for some reason though.
    One thing I find distracting is how the video quality varies from clip to clip.

  • penguinphysics says:

    This brings up a two-part question:
    1 – Will Hulu ever get off their butts and release M*A*S*H as was clearly stated in several press releases (or will they have to print an embarrassing retraction)
    2 – Assuming they do, will they be able to release the original cut (perhaps culled from the Columbia House release) or will it be the inferior DVD cut.

    Just asking.

  • BDOR says:

    I actually like clip shows myself, for a variety of different reasons: the fact that they’re retrospectives is like being treated to a series of “best of” moments from the show, not to mention when you think about it, they also kind of serve as a reminder of why you came to love the show. I actually think this was done rather well for a clip show, and the main reason for that is because it took the time to remember that once upon a time, Trapper, Henry, and Frank were part of the 4077th.

    With that being said, however, I can understand the mentality of people who don’t like clip shows: in this day and age of reruns, DVDs, internet, streaming, what have you, it’s quite easy to go back and relive your favorite moments from shows whenever you want, which pretty much renders clip shows useless, so I can understand where people are coming from at that angle.

    Nevertheless, I still enjoy this episode quite well, though I will agree that the videotape really suffers, and that’s mainly because videotape technology was still so very primitive in the 70s: it really wasn’t until the late 80s or so that videotape really finally began to catch up to film in terms of visual quality.

  • 007 says:

    The one thing I always at least did like about the episode was Charles finally getting a chance to be in an episode that is similar to the Interview. Oh and Laurie Bates gets called out by name in this episode!

    Other than that, not much to say about this episode.

    • Jon says:

      Margaret was also interviewed by Clete Roberts for the first time in this episode, since Loretta Swit missed the last few episodes of Season 4, including “The Interview”. She mentioned in an interview that she was allowed to leave the season a few episodes early that season to appear on stage in a version of “Same Time Next Year”, the same play where Alan Alda played the male character in the movie version. She also appeared very little in “Der Tag”, and that episode revolved around Potter asking Hawkeye & BJ to be nice to Frank because Margaret was away.

  • Daniel says:

    BDOR makes an excellent point. Today we watch any episode of MASH at will. When this episode came out, how else could you see previous shows, sans having them on VHS. Given that VHs hit the US in 1977….
    Were reruns playing while new episodes were still airing?

    For that reason, clip shows would have been amazing, a chance to see snips of past episodes you probably had only seen once before.

    I have a question though. I don’t know if it’s finest hour, but one episode shows a flashback of potter looking through binoculars, which leave black rings around his eyes. I don’t remember this from any episode. Did it happen, and get cut from the reruns currently playing? Or is that a clip that never playrd in an original episode, and was produced for the flashback?

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