AfterMASH: Main Article

With input and inspiration from David Goehner.

Introduction

AfterMASH can be considered a spin-off of M*A*S*H, or a sequel, or a continuation, or all of the above. Like M*A*S*H, it was a half-hour sitcom aired on CBS. Unlike M*A*S*H, it was never well-received by critics. And although the first season was highly rated, AfterMASH was unable to draw as many viewers as M*A*S*H had. A total of thirty-one episodes were produced but only thirty were broadcast. The final episode, which was not a proper series finale, has never been aired.

Genesis

The idea for AfterMASH was born as M*A*S*H was coming to an end. In February of 1983, during the media frenzy over the anticipated and movie-length series finale of M*A*S*H, the first reports of a spin-off began circulating. The key facts: it would be set after the war at a stateside veteran’s hospital and would star Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr and William Christopher as Sherman Potter, Maxwell Klinger and Father Mulcahy, respectively. According to a TV Guide article from November of 1983, when the cast of M*A*S*H got together to decide if they wanted to continue for an eleventh season in 1982, Morgan, Farr and Christopher were the three most in favor of continuing. An abbreviated eleventh season would air from 1982 to 1983, ending in February.

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But CBS and 20th Century-Fox, the production company behind M*A*S*H, were not keen on seeing the series — and its high ratings — come to an end. For 20th Century-Fox, M*A*S*H was an increasingly valuable source of revenue in the syndicated market. However, with Alan Alda and the majority of the cast wanting to end the show, M*A*S*H ended. Larry Gelbart, who created the television version of M*A*S*H back in 1972, was approached by CBS and 20th Century-Fox to create a new series. Gelbart, of course, left M*A*S*H in 1976 after the conclusion of its fourth season and with his last foray into network television having crash and burned (NBC’s United States in 1980) he was at first reluctant to return to the medium and the universe of M*A*S*H.

“The challenge is all that interests me,” Gelbart told The New York Times in February of 1983. “If I hadn’t felt it was a good idea, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it.” What he agreed to do was develop AfterMASH and pen the first three episodes, calling them a “transition from what was to what will be.” Gelbart would ultimately write more than just those first three episodes.

Production

Burt Metcalfe, who had been with M*A*S*H since the beginning and was serving as executive producer during the final seasons, also signed on for AfterMASH. He brought David Isaacs, Ken Levine and Dennis Koenig along with him, three writers/producers from M*A*S*H. Scripting began in April of 1983. Michael Hirsch (who produced Making M*A*S*H) served as a researcher and came up with some 500 potential story ideas, according to TV Guide. And an article in The Hartford Courant from June of 1983 stated that the price tag for each episode of AfterM*A*S*H was a cool $500,000, supposedly the highest price for a half-hour sitcom ever paid at the time.

By August of 1983, a total of ten scripts were finished, out of thirteen episodes that CBS initially ordered, and casting began. Rosalind Chao, who played Klinger’s Korean wife Soon-Lee in the final episodes of M*A*S*H, was already set to return in AfterMASH. Several new characters, including Colonel Potter’s oft-mentioned but never seen wife, Mildred, were also created. Barbara Townsend was cast as Mildred Potter and John Chappell, Brandis Kemp and Jay O. Sanders were cast as hospital administrator Michael D’Angelo, his secretary Alma Cox and doctor Gene Pfeiffer, respectively.

CBS Promotional Image with the First Season Cast
CBS Promotional Image with the First Season Cast

The series was given the Monday at 9:00PM timeslot (all times Eastern) that M*A*S*H had formerly occupied. An hour-long series premiere (two episodes aired back-to-back) was scheduled for September 26th, with a special 8:00PM airtime. On the eve of the premiere, an article in The New York Time quoted Larry Gelbart as saying about his new show, “We are really dealing with men coming home from war, not dealing with men at war.”

The First Season

CBS kept details of those first two episodes under strict lock and key prior to broadcast and even reviewers were unable to get their hands on any details. The secrecy, coupled with general viewer interest, translated to an impressive 31.0/47 rating, ranking first for the week. According to TV Guide, that was the highest-rated premiere for a new sitcom since Laverne & Shirley bowed on ABC in 1976. The premiere saw Sherman Potter, Maxwell Klinger and Father Mulcahy (no longer deaf thanks to an operation) together again at General Pershing Veterans Administration Hospital (more commonly known as General-General) in River Bend, Missouri in September of 1953.

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The following episode, aired October 3rd, slipped to a 37 share, still a very strong performance, and was again ranked first for the week. By November, although the ratings had tappered somewhat, AfterMASH was still performing solidly and CBS picked up the series for the remainder of the season, adding an additional nine episodes to the original order for a total of twenty-two. For the first ten weeks of the 1983-1984 season, AfterMASH was tied with the ABC Sunday Night Movie for the fifth spot on the ratings chart, actually doing better than M*A*S*H was during its last season, according to The Hartford Courant.

On December 5th, 1983, an episode titled “Fallout” was aired. Perhaps the best installment the series had to offer, it was written and directed by Larry Gelbart and saw both Sherman Potter and Dr. Pfeiffer considering leaving General-General. When they stumble upon a connection between the leukemia seen in a patient and exposure to atomic testing, they reconsider. The plight of the “atomic veterans” was, and is, a real one: soldiers who fell ill after being exposed to radiation from atomic tests. The episode, and Larry Gelbart, was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series.

A Familiar Face

In January of 1984, having survived the first half of its freshman season, AfterMASH experienced some growing pains. The character of Dr. Pfeiffer, played by Jay O. Sanders, was phased out “because the character just wasn’t working,” according to TV Guide. A new character, Dr. Boyer, played by David Ackroyd, was introduced in the same episode, which also had a cameo from actor Gary Burghoff as Walter “Radar” O’Reilly. Burghoff had left M*A*S*H at the start of its eighth season.

Burghoff would guest star in the following week’s episode, which dealt with Radar’s upcoming marriage. As Potter, Mulcahy and Klinger prepare to head to Iowa for the wedding, Radar shows up at Potter’s house in Missouri, pre-wedding jitters having gotten the best of him.

CBS Promotional Image for the First Season Episode 'It Had To Be You'
CBS Promotional Image for “It Had To Be You” with Gary Burghoff

Rumors about Burghoff’s appearance foretelling yet another M*A*S*H spin-off were not exactly true: his guest role on AfterMASH may have “tested” the waters some but it did not serve as a pilot for a potential series (that would have to wait for W*A*L*T*E*R later that year).

CBS Orders Changes

AfterMASH ended its first season on March 12th, 1984 with its 22nd episode, in which Klinger tries to buy a house and instead buys himself a ton of trouble. The series was replaced for several weeks before repeats began in late April. CBS announced it was renewing AfterMASH for a second season in early May; however, despite ranking 15th for the season, network executives were not entirely pleased with AfterMASH and instituted several changes.

First and foremost, AfterMASH would be moving to Tuesdays at 8:00PM to serve as “counterprogramming” to NBC’s hit series The A-Team due to its audience skewing older. Additionally, the series would have “more energy, more drama” and would become “more colorful,” according to TV Guide. Klinger would be back in women’s clothing, on the run due to an incident with a realtor at the end of the first season. The character of hospital administrator Michael D’Angelo, played by John Chappel, was replaced by Wally Wainright, played by Peter Michael Goetz.

Furthermore, Mildred Potter would no longer be played by Barbara Townsend. Instead, Anne Pitoniak was brought in to make Mildred “more of a Gracie Allen type.” Potter would now have Alma Cox as his secretary — the two did not get along — and the role of Dr. Boyer would be expanded. All of these changes were made because CBS was trying to “recapture some of the zaniness and desperation of the early years of the original M*A*S*H,” said TV Guide.

Season Two

The second season premiere aired as a special presentation on Sunday, September 23rd, 1984 at 8:00PM, prior to the 36th Annual Emmy Awards, and did quite well in the ratings. When AfterMASH moved to its regular Tuesday timeslot on September 25th, however, the ratings plummeted. Despite Jamie Farr being back in drag, viewers were not tuning in. The October 9th, 1984 episode brought back another familiar face from M*A*S*H, this time Edward Winter as the paranoid Colonel Flagg. Klinger, back in jail, was trying to use insanity as a defense and Flagg was brought in to testify.

All the changes CBS had instituted for the second season — and the increased competition facing The A-Team — were too much for AfterMASH, which was officially cancelled on Wednesday, October 24th, 1984. The series had fallen as low as 66th on the rating charts. Harvey Shephard, senior vice president of programs for CBS Entertainment, told The New York Times that the problem stemmed from a “tendency toward too much heavy drama,” and that the balance between comedy and drama that M*A*S*H had struck eluded AfterMASH.

Executive producer Burt Metcalfe told The Hartford Courant that he thought “there was this inevitable comparison with ‘M.A.S.H.,’ and, naturally, by those standards, we were going to suffer.” He also wondered if viewers were still missing Hawkeye Pierce and actor Alan Alda. In any case, AfterMASH was the first CBS series to be canceled during the 1984-1985 season.

The End

One final episode was broadcast in October and then the series was put on hiatus through November. It returned in December, but only one episode aired. Two more were scheduled to air but were pulled. Almost six months later, on Friday, May 31st, 1985, the final two episodes were supposed to air from 8:00PM to 9:00PM. However, only the first was shown; the second was pulled at the last minute and has never aired.

CBS Promotional Image for the unaired final episode, 'Wet Feet'
Rare CBS Promotional Image for “Wet Feet” (Unaired Final Episode)

The unfortunate legacy AfterMASH is left with contends that, nine times out of ten, taking characters from a popular television series and putting them in a spin-off isn’t a very good idea. Prior to AfterMASH, the best example of this phenomenon was probably the high-profile Joanie Loves Chachi, a failed spin-off of Happy Days. Today, AfterMASH serves as the “worst” benchmark for potential television spin-offs, with the successful Frasier (a spin-off of Cheers) holding the distinction of “best” spin-off.

In 2002, TV Guide ranked AfterMASH as one of the ten worst television shows of all time.

References:

“‘AfterMASH’ Big Spender.” Hartford Courant 28 Jun. 1983, C10.
Bedell, Sally. “After ‘M*A*S*H’ Comes ‘AfterMASH’.” New York Times 21 Feb 1983, C15.
Fraser, C. Gerald. “Television Week: Producing for Kids.” New York Times 25 Sep 1983, A3.
Gelman, Steve. “Will AfterMASH Survive?” TV Guide 5 Nov. 1983, 19-23.
“Ratings Kill ‘AfterMASH’.” Hartford Courant 26 Oct. 1984, D5.
Smith, Sally Bedell. “TV Notes: NBC News Planning Visit to Vietnam.” New York Times 29 Oct. 1984, C19.
Turner, Richard. “AfterMASH Tops First Week.” TV Guide 15 Oct. 1983, A-2.
Turner, Richard. “Hotel and AfterMASH Are Picked Up.” TV Guide 25 Nov. 1983, A-1.
Winfrey, Lee. “With ‘Dallas’ On Top, CBS Leads Ratings.” Hartford Courant 13 Dec. 1983, C12.

Published July 31st, 2007
Last updated July 20th, 2010

43 Comments

  • Donald Newton says:

    AfterMASH is a great show….how dare them do that.

  • John Robert says:

    AFTERMASH was sa great Idea and great show, with superb writing. If this format and type show is not for you, then it becomes terrible. Howevr, when MASH , and SEINFELD first aired, I thought the shows were a waste of my time,and I did not like them. Since I have been in the theatre & TV business I thought I had seen all of this many times before. But, now, I have “visited” these shows again after all of this time..and Ihave collected all shows and looking forward to AFTERMASH on DVD. I taped one AFTERMASH show when It as aired, and loved it…glad I did,and have the rare home recording. The comments and critics are those that probably like souercraut,liver and onions and drink a lot of cheap wine and whiskey. I don’t like that stuff, so that makes those critis right and me wrong, or me right and them wrong on what I like ..MASH,SEINFELD,..and AFTER-MASH..? Everyone to their onw thing. Give us AFTERMASH on DVD! And yes for many years I was a newspaper film-tv critic,not lking those shows art first..but now I have grown to love them and all of us sometimes make mistakes!

  • Mark Perez Oregon says:

    although it has been proven some spin-offs
    work some dont, there has to be alot of work
    in a spin-off. I would have preferred to have
    seen in a after mash spin-off where the first couple of episodes a type of state side reunion
    and possibly at radar’s farm. then everyone
    mentioning their next place of doing things.
    the only place of change would be sherman potter running a vets hospital interim only to
    to pass it off to others who had come back
    from the war, with totally new successful actors who could pass it off or with successful
    new comers. I think then it would have worked. mash was great I watch the resydnication. :) :) :) :)

  • Mark Perez Oregon says:

    for donald newton and john robert
    some who dont like what happened to aftermash it is a business and that is what happens in business enjoy the resydnication
    of mash

  • Mark Perez Oregon says:

    if anyone out there are mash fans great
    ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • M*A*S*H rocked! Sure it was liberal at times, but I really like it. I’ve seen all the episodes, even the one with Andrew Dice Clay!

  • Lisa says:

    I am amazed at how relevant M*A*S*H and AfterMASH are even today. With all the wars, threats from North Korea and Vets returning home all the episodes show us how damaging war can be. It gives those of us at home more of a perspective on what they have to go through. I am grateful for that.

  • Barek says:

    I love Mash! I have only seen the pilot of AfterMASH off youtube. Where can I find a copy of both seasons! I need to see it! Can Anyone help?

    • Ed B says:

      There’s some pretty LOW quality bootlegs out there for sale and for download, but I’ve seen almost every episode and what you have to remember is that these bootlegs were probably recorded in the early 80s since After M*A*S*H was never, to my knowledge, replayed anywhere. Therefore, if you watch these, it will probably just make you yearn for an official release. People like you and me who want to see an official release are not alone in wanting high quality, cleaned up DVDs to be released of this EXTREMELY underrated series. There’s a whole group of us out there and what I’d recommend is contacting 20th Century Fox and anyone else who may have ancillary rights on this TV show and tell them to release it. M*A*S*H has already released the original series twice, so it must be popular. Even if After M*A*S*H sold half as well as the original series, the companies would make plenty of money. Maybe if enough of us bug these companies they will release the series.

  • Hawkeye says:

    Actually seasons 1 & 2 are on YouTube at least all of season
    1 and up to ep. 5 of season 2 not bad picture quality :) enjoy!

  • Sue says:

    I loved M*A*S*H, and AFTER MASH. I have as TV LAND to show the episodes of AFTER MASH. They have yet to do that. They have run episodes of “Golden Palace” (Spin off of The Golden Girls). So why not “AFTER MASH”?

  • Ralph says:

    I think “AfterMASH” suffered from a rush into production; I believe it would have profited from being a mid-season replacement or a 1984-1985 season series.

    Sure wish they’d put the whole run out on DVD or at least on iTunes/Amazon as a download.

  • Migdalia says:

    I will like to have a copy of the series “after mash”. Have never seen it. I am a long time fan of Mash 4077. Love all the actors and actresses, even Frank Burns, RIP Larry. Where can i get a copy?

  • Trekster says:

    Aftermash should have been more light-hearted with a little drama. They seemed to do this but in reverse.
    The Klinger storyline I did not care for in the 2nd season. I would have preferred to see him up and coming, making something out of himself.
    Replacing potters wife was a mistake as well.

    Oh well at least we got so see some of a homecoming that we was robbed of in the final M*A*S*H* episode. It was fun to see potter coming home.
    It was fun to see Klingers family as well, it would have been truly heartwarming to see the rest of the mash cast homecoming.

  • Quentin Patrick says:

    I wonder where I was in 1984? I was a big fan of the original M*A*S*H show and I served in a mobile evacuation hospital unit. But until running across this website, I never even knew there was a show called After M*A*S*H. Sounds interesting and I am sorry I missed it. Thanks for all the information.

  • MASHGuy says:

    I have the whole series myself. It’s a great show!

  • MASHGuy says:

    It’s strange, I have “Wet Feet” but it didn’t air? They must have aired it in reruns, how else would I have it?

    • RJ says:

      Are you sure you have a copy of “Wet Feet?” Most of the DVD sets floating around are missing it, “By the Book” and “Ward is Hell.”

      Also, I am not aware of AfterMASH airing in syndication, at least not in the United States.

      • David G. says:

        Here’s a clue that just adds to the mystery: On YouTube, there’s been a clip up for quite a while of the final version of the 2nd season opening theme, immediately followed by about 10 or so seconds of the opening part of an episode. Based on the dialog, I’m just about totally convinced that these few seconds are from “Wet Feet.” Here’s where it gets interesting: There’s a closed-caption symbol in the corner of the screen during this clip. These captions did not exist on TV programs during the time “AfterMASH” originally aired. I’ve got two theories on this. (1) The series actually did go into reruns someplace — not in the United States, though — sometime after the closed-caption symbol became commonplace on TV programs. Or (2) “Wet Feet” aired in another country that might’ve already started using closed captioning (Canada? U.K.?) during late 1984 or early 1985; a non-U.S. country wouldn’t have pre-empted the episode with that Dan Rather CBS news special that aired with no prior announcement that fateful Friday night at 8:30 p.m. in May of 1985 when “Wet Feet” had been scheduled to air. (I distinctly remember all this because I was watching that intended back-to-back block of the final two episodes that night! And, for the record, the next-to-last episode where Klinger’s son finally gets a name never did air in December of 1984, as some sources say; CBS pre-empted that one just a couple of days from its original intended airing, and didn’t show it until that night in May of 1985. Again, I had my TV tuned on CBS that Tuesday night in December of 1984 when the next-to-last episode did NOT air!)

      • MASHGuy says:

        I am sure I have it. I’ve watched the episode myself. At the beginning of every episode of the AfterMASH set I have, in the bottom right-hand corner you can see the logo PGR. Is this a channel? I’m from Canada so I wouldn’t know. PGR had to have aired it in reruns.

      • MASHGuy says:

        I’ve checked everywhere for “By the Book” and I’ve yet to find it, however I do have “Ward is Hell”. “By the Book” isn’t even listed on IMDb! Most lists don’t have it for some reason. I’ve asked all the sellers I came across, they’ve never even heard of it!

  • RJ says:

    MASHGuy, according to Wikipedia “PGR” could stand for “Parental Guidance Recommended,” a television content rating from New Zealand.

    I know there are copies of “Ward is Hell” floating around. I am not sure about “By the Book” nor do I know why it is not included in most episode guides. I cross checked TV Guide with television listings in a few newspapers and confirmed it did air (unless it was pre-empted at the last minute and broadcast at some later date — but I am not sure when else it could have aired).

  • MASHGuy says:

    So “Wet Feet” shouldn’t be considered an unaired episode then?

    • RJ says:

      It did not air in the United States, its country of origin, so in that respect it is unaired. But it obviously aired somewhere.

  • MASHGuy says:

    RJ, you’re right about PGR. At the end of the episode you can hear an Austrailian guy announcing the next show. It probably aired on the same night as the American was suppose to, except it wasn’t pre-emted. I don’t think it would have aired in Canada either because here in Canada we get the same CBS you guys do.

    • wayne says:

      AFTERMASH aired on aussie TV in the mid-eighties and was well liked. MASH is constantly replayed in Aussie. Unfortunately the 21st century idea of TV shows is a dull candle compared to the brilliant sun that was MASH. The utmost respects to all who were involved.

  • MASHGuy says:

    Before the show got cancelled another episode was set to be produced called, “All Day All Night, Mary Ann”. So “Wet Feet” wasn’t a conclusion.

    • Andrew says:

      Hey..Any idea where I can find “Saturday’s Heroes” episode to watch? Seen pretty much all of them that I could find besides that one. Most torrents I have found or dvd collections don’t have it.

  • imitigob says:

    Alan Alda appears in After M.A.S.H.? If yes, in which episode?

  • Andrew says:

    Anybody know where to find “Saturday’s Heroes” episode to watch? I have seen all them but this one… Please email me if u know how to find it. I can’t find a torrent of it or anything

  • Hailey says:

    I love M*A*S*H and I love AfterMASH too, but the change in time slot going into the second season plus the need for “drama” killed it a little, klinger was always at his best when we was being real not being crazy in dresses (klinger vs klinger- the monologue about his wife giving up everything to be with him makes me cry every time) though I must admit I love Dr. Boyer so that was a very good change. I was so upset that this series never got a proper ending

  • Jim says:

    Still looking for by the book, wet feet, and saturday’s heros in english. I have the rest of the aired episodes plus walter that I cleaned up to make more viewable and can peer to peer them if anyone wants them. email me disp2030@gmail.com

  • Dr. Habibi says:

    I found the original script for Saturday’s Heroes up for sale on Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B003MP1GPS/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used

    Would anybody be interested in buying it and uploading it for posterity, given that the episode is so hard to find?

  • Dr. Habibi says:

    Also, if anyone speaks Czech and can translate this non-English version of By The Book, that would be greatly appreciated. The episode is missing from the torrent.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAfC8Ssd590

  • Dr. Habibi says:

    I haven’t seen Saturday’s Heroes, but photo evidence suggests that Rosalind Chao’s Soon-Lee had been recast for Saturday’s Heroes, and subsequently recast AGAIN in Wet Feet.

    Could this be the reason the last couple of episodes were pulled?

    I read a review however that in Saturday’s Heroes, Klinger’s baby is finally named. Cy Young Klinger, after the baseball player.

  • ericnucera11 says:

    Still Waiting for AfterMASH The Complete Series Collector’s Edition DVD!!!!:)

  • Dr. Hbibi says:

    A mistake on my part suggesting Soon-Lee was recast in Saturday’s Heroes. I drew the wrong conclusion from a promotional image of the episode.

    I just assumed they’d do the same thing they did to Barbara Townsend. You know those executive types! :P

    However, I believe the script is still up for sale if you google it, so if nothing else someone may be able to transcribe the elusive episode!

  • Joshua Goldberg says:

    I’m currently watching AfterM*A*S*H (having admittedly downloaded it.
    I have to say that the first season is GREAT!
    What they did to it in the second season is what killed it.
    I pity the fool who put it opposite the A-Team. That alone was enough to set it up for failure.
    That and the drastic format change was a terrible idea. Why would they want or need to recapture the frantic comedy of early M*A*S*H when the first season had proven that this format worked just fine for AfterM*A*S*H?
    And putting Klinger back in a dress was a mistake. That was something the character had outgrown. He only wore the dress in early seasons of M*A*S*H because he was bucking for an insanity discharge. Working as a VA Hospital Clerk, with a happy life with his wife, finding a contrived reason to put him back in a dress was a bad idea.

  • Tom Bunch says:

    Put a combo everything pack the together, The original movie all they way through AfterMASH and I would buy the set a 3rd time.

  • Rosie says:

    I have all the M*A*S*H shows and have seen them all more then 20 times each I love this show !! Put it back on the air for the people that need a laugh or cry or any thing u can find it on M*A*S*H !! Please

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