All About M*A*S*H Since 1999

AfterMASH: Series Overview

With input and inspiration from David Goehner.


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.


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.


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 tapered 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 time slot 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.


“‘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


  • 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.

  • 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! 😛

    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.

    • Laura Ressinger says:

      I would too- well, I don’t have the full set; I’m missing 2 seasons. I do have Aftermash and Walter burned on disc by my boyfriend’s brother.

  • 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

  • Gary Evans says:

    Good day,
    I am a MASH freak. I’ve been watching it since I was little and have the series set. I unfortunately have miss placed about 7 discs.
    Could you direct me as to where I might get these individual discs to re-complete my set.
    I take it that “Martini’s and Medicine” is the only set available?

    KIndest regards

    Gary Evans

  • Joe says:

    I remember reading an interview with Jamie Farr in that second season and he was talking about the changes they made to Klinger and even HE didn’t like them.

  • debbie miller says:

    I love ❤ mash I watch it every day on Netflix also I bought the set at WalMart I love Henry and frank but my favorite is Hawkeye and trapper John but I also have grown to like,bj

  • J. Sanchez says:

    I actually didn’t mind AfterMASH. Just watched it on YouTube. Season 1 was very good but could have been better, season 2 was catastrophic. So as a TV producer here are my observations and suggestions that I believe would have kept this show on the air for years:
    – They needed one more original MASH character, anyone will do, but one more would have felt like a strong continuation.
    – The drab and colorless VA hospital set needed to be a bit more warm and colorful. MASH colors were warm.
    – The 1st season show opening credits could have been awesome and inspiring, but instead felt cheap and forced. Keep the Suicied is Painless RIFT! Season 2 openings were absolutely horrid.
    – More references and even mild character guest appearance by original MASH characters. Maybe not the main ones but the minor ones.
    – Reduced laugh track. It got annoying every 3 seconds.
    – Deeper storylines, like MASH, AfterMASH should have felt with genuine issues. Not dance superficially around them.
    – I liked the D’Angelo character, but if anything the hospital leader role should have gone to Potter or (plot twist!), Frank Burns. That dynamic alone would have been great fun and story.
    – I liked Dr Pheipher and Boyer, should have kept both and created a new family of characters.
    – Whatever idiot tweeted the show and moved it to challenge A-Team should have been fired.

    I’m really upset because this show had now closure, but mostly because it was almost as if producers forgot how to make a winning show. They had the foundation, momentum and goodwill from audiences. The worst part of it all is that we’ll never know how it all really ended for these admired and loved characters. Feel free to follow me @FireballRun

    • Laura Ressinger says:

      I agree 100% with everything you say. To me, aftermash is awesome, but it is too much like a soap opera. They were realistic, since they dealt a lot with amputation and prosthetics, I wish I could get this on DVD- well, I have it on DVD, but it’s burned off the internet- lots of blips and break-ups.
      What would be cool is if old TV disc sets included ads from their day. Just saw a few on mine- TAB cola & Emmy Award show coming up next. Here’s one for Charles In Charge”. Just put one ad where the original ad breaks were.

  • Laura Ressinger says:

    Actually, my comment about Aftermash being like a soap opera is incorrect. It’s just a slight bit more serious than its predecessor. The episode where Klinger ends up in court has a lot of humor. I think it’s just a slightly different type, plus they’re in a civilized environment.

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