Unproduced/Unfilmed M*A*S*H Scripts

15 Comments

For years someone (or multiple someones) has been selling four scripts said to be unfilmed episodes of M*A*S*H, with the following titles, writers, drafts and dates:

  1. “Father Hawkeye Knows Best” – Len Kaplan & Frank Ridgeway – 2nd Draft (March 3rd, 1972)
  2. “Peace is Hell” – Daryl G. Nickens – 1st Draft (November 1st, 1981)
  3. “The Contract” – Mac Ness – 3rd Draft (July 19th, 1978)
  4. “Toast to Mildred” – John Charles – 1st Draft (March 1st, 1981)

I haven’t read any of these scripts, so I can’t speak to their quality. A quick search of the Internet Movie Database reveals that Daryl G. Nickens began writing for television in the mid-to-late 1980s for shows like Benson, Webster and A Different World, while Frank Ridgeway is credited as a writer for The Mumbly Cartoon Show and The New Tom & Jerry Show in the mid-1970s as well as later programs. So at the very least these two are real people. I couldn’t find IMDb entries for Len Kaplan, Mac Ness or John Charles but it stands to reason they’re real people as well.

None of the authors of these “unfilmed” scripts are credited with writing an episode of M*A*S*H. So are these actual scripts that could have been filmed but weren’t? It’s possible that instead they’re “spec” scripts, written by aspiring scriptwriters to prove they can successfully write for an existing show, capturing the tone and feel of the characters. In other words, they were never intended to be filmed. Note that the script Daryl G. Nickens is said to have written, “Peace is Hell,” is dated November 1st, 1981. According to his Internet Movie Database entry, his first writing credit is for a 1983 episode of Benson. So “Peace is Hell” could have been a spec script he wrote while he was trying to get a scriptwriting job.

I can’t say with any certainty what these four so-called “unfilmed” scripts are. It’s possible they’re complete fakes. If anyone has purchased an “unfilmed” M*A*S*H script please let me know.

There were scripts written for M*A*S*H, paid for, and then never produced. In an April 2001 post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup, Larry Gelbart explained that during the first four seasons — his tenure on M*A*S*H — eight scripts were “paid for but never filmed, considered too poor” (read his post here). Quality is one reason a commissioned script may not be filmed. The potential cost of filming a script is another. So is controversy.

One unproduced script, “Hawkeye on the Double,” can be found on the second disc of bonus features released as part of the Martinis and Medicine Collection in 2006 (as well as the standalone Goodbye, Farewell & Amen/bonus discs set released in 2007). Written by Stanley Ralph Ross, the script is a revised final draft dated November 3rd, 1972, meaning it was written for the first season. In Suzy Kalter’s The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, Gene Reynolds states that this was the only script rejected by CBS because it “implied dalliance and we couldn’t do that” [1]. Personally, while the script was amusing, it made Hawkeye appear incredibly cruel, so perhaps its for the best that it was never filmed.

“Hawkeye on the Double” and a number of other unproduced scripts are part of the Gene Reynolds Collection of Television Scripts and Production Material, part of the Performing Arts Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library at the University of California, Los Angeles. Here are all titles for all the unproduced scripts that I found:

“War’s a Grind”
Ronald Rubin & Michael Zagor
Dated February 17th, 1972

“The Fighting 4077th” (Prod. J-341)
Richard M. Powell
Dated August 11th, 1972

“Hawkeye on the Double” (Prod. J-352)
Stanley Ralph Ross
Dated November 3rd, 1972

“Yankees 7 – North Korea 8”
Gary John Markowitz
Dated November 30th, 1973

“Hawkeye, Go Home”
Richard Powell
Dated April 20th, 1974

“A Matter of Time”
Allan Katz & Don Reo
Dated March 26th & April 3rd, 1974

“The Tub”
Elias Davis & David Pollack
Dated March 22nd, 1974

“The Key” (aka “Hawkeye for the Defense”)
Phil Hahn & Jim Mulligan
Dated May 24th, 1974

“Dear Everyone”
Tony Sheehan
Dated July 24th, 1974

“Up the Flagpole”
Rheinhold Weege
Dated April 14th, 1976

Notice that both “Hawkeye on the Double” and “The Fighting 4077th” have been given production codes like those used during the first season of M*A*S*H. That could mean they came close to being filmed, although the production codes in question (J-341 and J-352) would mean these would have been the 41st and 52nd episodes of the first season, respectively. The Larry Gelbart Papers, also held at the Performing Arts Special Collections at the Charles E. Young Research Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, includes final draft copy of “The Fighting 4077th”, dated May 26th, 1972, as well as revisions dated June 13th, August 11th and August 14th. All those revisions also suggest that the episode was being prepared for filming before getting tossed out.

It’s possible that some of these unproduced scripts were later retitled and filmed but there’s no way of knowing for sure without reading the scripts themselves. With the exception of the final unproduced script, all of the scripts are from the first four seasons of M*A*S*H and there are nine of them. Larry Gelbart said there were eight, so he was pretty darn close. None of the four “unfilmed” scripts sold on eBay are mentioned in either the Gene Reynolds Collection or the Larry Gelbart Papers, further suggesting that they were never going to be produced.

Are there other unproduced scripts out there? Probably not from the first four seasons but perhaps from later seasons not well represented in the Gene Reynolds Collection. UCLA also has a collection of M*A*S*H scripts from 1972-1982 that were donated by producer Burt Metcalfe in 1985, but no online finding aid is available. I’d love to be able to read some of these unproduced scripts but California is really far away.

Works Cited:

1 Kalter, Suzy. The Complete Book of M*A*S*H. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985: Page 29.

15 Replies to “Unproduced/Unfilmed M*A*S*H Scripts”

  1. I can give you some insight into your questions.

    – The scripts that you cited were all “spec” scripts… there are 100s if not 1000s of them that have been written for M*A*S*H. If you see a script for M*A*S*H written by someone who has never written a produced script for M*A*S*H, you can virtually assume it was a spec script. Especially, as you astutely noted, from someone whose first produced script was 2 years later.

    – There were a bunch of unproduced scripts for M*A*S*H, particularly from the first 4 years. As you cited, most of them were not produced because they weren’t great, but often they were from writers who did wind up writing for M*A*S*H with other episodes (Richard M. Powell, Gary Markowitz, Katz & Reo, Davis & Pollock, etc.)

    – One notable exception is Stanley Ralph Ross, whose only M*A*S*H script was the unproduced “Hawkeye on the Double.” It was deemed too racy for television and there was no way they could have saved the story, per CBS. The script was written in 1972. Hawkeye was dating (and sleeping with) nurses on both the day shift and night shift. When they discovered his duplicity, they each pretended to be pregnant as a way to get back at him. Stanley was a pretty successful television writer – he wrote many episodes of Batman and a handful for Columbo and All in the Family.

    Hope that helps.

  2. I have several original scrips from the series and purchased these scripts several years ago because they were cheap and I was interested. They are strange scripts that would not have worked for the series. I have not read them in awhile, but if you like and I can pull them out and give a synopsis of each episode.

  3. The only name that I recognize from the list is Reinhold Weege – who created “Night Court”. There was even a memorable episode where Dan reveals that his middle name is Reinhold – I guess a type of tribute. He did actually write one episode for M*A*S*H, Souvinirs in Season 5.

  4. No wonder the two scripts by Richard M. Powell were never produced… he wrote regularly for Hogan’s Heroes, and we all know what a terrible show that was, making WW2 look like a party thrown by the Nazis.

    But then again, Laurence Marks wrote several episodes of M*A*S*H for the first three seasons, and he was head writer of Hogan. Not to mention, Gene Reynolds directed several episodes of Hogan, though expressed he didn’t want M*A*S*H to be another “hijinx at the front” type of show that Hogan was.

    It’s interesting to see that Allan Katz & Don Rio actually wrote an episode, because they were the producers of the show (along with Burt Metcalfe) during Season Five. I also find it interesting to see that Elias Davis & David Pollack wrote a script as early as 1974 (which could’ve been for either Season Two or Three), because they became the producers during the final seasons and were among the few responsible for ruining the show (along with John Rappaport inspite Reader’s Digest naming him one of the top ten greatest comedy writers, and Jim Mulligan who also wasn’t on staff until the latter seasons).

    1. I’m 63, and I remember my dad having similar arguments against Hogan’s Heroes, but we three kids loved the show.

      Dad said, this program is stupid because the germans were NOT that stupid.

      Still, I do enjoy Hogan, not enough to buy the seasons myself, but enough to borrow them from the library.

      John

  5. Dan and Chester, thanks for your insight into these unproduced episodes.

    Eric, if you want to write up summaries of the scripts you have, that would be great.

  6. Tony Sheehan created Mr. Belvedere, and I believe he credits Larry Gelbart with helping him develop as a writer.

    My guess is Eric’s scripts are spec scripts, as I previously described.

    Chester, for shows in the 1970s, it almost didn’t matter whose name was on the scripts – the M*A*S*H writing staff for the first 4 years was Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks. No matter who wrote the draft, it passed through their very capable hands and was substantially rewritten (without credit). That’s why you can see a writer from a show you don’t respect (in this case Hogan’s Heroes) and then see his name on a show you like (M*A*S*H).

  7. Dan you are right. They are certainly spec scripts and two of them would have never made it, but the other two are not so bad. I am working on summaries of the scrips now.

  8. As David Pollock’s long time writing partner it is my opinion that he and not David Pollack was among the few responsible for ruining MASH.

  9. MASH, ruined? I think not.

    MASH evolved but I wouldn’t say it was ruined. The last seasons of MASH bear little resemblance to the first few. It became a more modern show. In fact, I’m often reminded that the last few seasons of MASH often resemble Law & Order, specifically how the cast would assemble in Potter’s office, or Post Op, or the Mess Tent and take turns delivering exposition. It was a very modern approach to a show well beyond its life cycle.

    My only real complaints about MASH are these:

    * How Radar’s character devolved from a scheming, martini drinking ally of Hawkeye and Trapper into a “good golly willikers gee whiz” child. Never understood that transition.

    * Too much “Yes, your Colonel-ness” and “great galloping galoshes of goulash” in the later years. It really was a bit overboard.

    And if you will accept that if there is the single greatest dialog in a MASH episode, there also has to be the single worst line of dialog in a MASH episode. First, what I consider to the greatest (Sometimes You Hear The Bullet):

    HENRY
    …There are certain rules about a war. Rule number one is young men die – and rule number two is doctors can’t change rule number one.

    And what I consider to be the biggest groaner line of dialog in a MASH episode (Pressure Points):

    HAWKEYE
    I came as fast as I could, Margaret. I double-parked my martini.

    That said, of the later season episodes, I love “Pressure Points.” It’s one of Harry Morgan’s finest performances and such a beautiful scene between Sidney and Potter. Thank you Elias and David for writing it.

  10. Somebody is jealous to try to say that MASH was ruined. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree. Each time a major actor wanted to leave the series, they tried to replace him or her with a contrasting, not the same, type of character. If they had simply recast Henry Blake, it would have ruined the show.

    John

  11. I could probably list a few things I didn’t like about MASH if I thought about for any length of time but by far and away my biggest complaint is how Hawkeye dominated just about every episode. There were a lot of great people on this series from Blake, Burns, Mulcahey and Winchester all the way to Rizzo, Freedman, Zale and Sparky. And to me… That’s what makes a show great.. The supporting cast. It wasn’t just Sam that people wanted to see when they turned on Cheers… But it was Norm, Frasier and Coach that made me smile the most. I have always wondered in what episode of MASH does Hawkeye have the fewest lines or shortest Camera time. That would probably be my most enjoyable episode.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.