Episode Spotlight: Our Finest Hour

14 Comments

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.

14 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Our Finest Hour”

  1. 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.

    1. This episode was the source for clips that were used and played VERY heavily during my childhood… Back in late 1981 thru summer 1982 KY-3 TV (NBC) in Springfield Missouri had the syndicated reruns for MASH and aired almost all of the clips in this episode as promos all day and all evenings- A LOT- to hype their reruns at 6 30 PM weeknights….I noticed the oddly grainy, poor quality of them even then….Fascinating to learn the reason all these years later !! They used many in the promos… I will remember them forever….Radars “you are not being shelled young man”…. and “My shoes are full of water”… Hawkeyes “I will not carry a gun” and “I just flew in and boy are my arms tired” as Groucho….Klingers “out to the sea of Japan and then the Golden Gate!”inflatable boat gag…. the “half of the family dying other half pregnant” routine …Frank Burns egg in helmet /falling from the mess hall bench… the “we aren’t asking for a juke box or a pizza oven ” incubator request…the are all burned into my memory from ol’ KY 3….

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. I turned 12 in 1978. It was before and during this period I became a mash fan, watching reruns of during the day and new episodes on Monday nights.

      I wanted to be like Hawkeye. Loved by all (except incompetents), especially the ladies, fighting the good fight, always with the perfect quip, brilliant, indispensable surgeon, the character played so well on TV. It took me years to realize that in reality nobody likes a self righteous, arrogant smartass. It probably didn’t help that I wasn’t a brilliant surgeon 8^P

      Been watching the series on Hulu. Still know all the lines. Got to wondering what happened to some of the minor actors and found this sight. Very cool, thanks.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. In regards to the “original master materials being damaged”, they are referring to the final network version of the episode.

    Since all the new interview segments are in fine shape, there is absolutely no reason they can’t go back to the original episodes for the clips and rebuild “Our Finest Hour”. Speaking as a professional video editor, it would take a day or two tops, since they have the Columbia House version to use as a reference.

  7. As I recall, reruns of M*A*S*H in syndication started when the show was in its sixth season. It was commonplace for shows to run five years and then hit syndication markets for the earlier episodes.

    In Philly, the syndication episodes aired on WTXF Channel 29 from 7 to 8 PM, much like what MeTV does today.

    I remember seeing the earlier episodes in repeats and realizing just how much the show had changed over its life thus far. The wacky humor of the early episodes had morphed through five+ years into something much more sophisticated.

  8. Random but just noticed while watching this that there’s a “goof”, kinda, in part 2. When it’s showing the flashback to Henry saying bye to everyone in “Abyssnia Henry” it shows him talking to Hawkeye, then Trapper, then he nods and says “Gwen” like in the actual episode, but in Our Finest Hour, it then cuts and makes it look like the person he said “Gwen” to was Jennifer Davis, before talking to Klinger.

  9. Apologies for posting this in two spots… I read the article comparing the DVD and the VHS version. The VHS was the network version. There’s a reference in the article to a clip from “Some 38th Parallels” where Frank admonishes Radar for wasting food. I rewatched “Some 38th Parallels” and can’t find that scene. Does anybody know which episode that scene comes from? Thank you in advance.

    1. I’ve updated my article comparing the VHS and DVD versions. The scene is from “Movie Tonight” and not “Some 38th Parallels.”

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