Discuss: Do You Enjoy the Two-Part Episodes of M*A*S*H?

Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

Today’s topic is: Do you enjoy the two-part episodes of M*A*S*H?

M*A*S*H Cliffhangers

Back in December, we discussed the five hour-long episodes of M*A*S*H. Today we’re talking about the two-part episodes. There were only three two-part episodes:

  • “Comrades in Arms,” Parts 1 and 2 (Season 6)
  • “Good-Bye Radar,” Parts 1 and 2 (Season 8)
  • “Snap Judgement” and “Snappier Judgement” (Season 10)

When M*A*S*H went into syndication, the five hour-long episodes were edited into two half-hour episodes. The two-part episodes, on the other hand, originally aired on CBS over the course of two weeks.

Why were these episodes aired in two parts rather than the same night? Was it a creative decision by the writers and producers or did CBS make the call? I don’t know. Maybe CBS hoped to attract more viewers the second week by ending the first week on a cliffhanger. Particularly with “Good-Bye Radar,” the network may have assumed a two-parter would perform better in the ratings than an hour-long episodes.

Curiously, CBS aired “Good-Bye, Radar” as a special one-hour show on May 12th, 1980 during summer repeats after Season 8 ended. The network repeated both “Comrades in Arms” and “Snap/Snappier Judgement” in two parts.

Do you enjoy the two-part episodes? Do you wish M*A*S*H had used the two-part structure more often?

Let’s Discuss

“Snap Judgment” and “Snappier Judgement” are very weak episodes but the two-part format isn’t to blame. I don’t think there’s necessarily enough story in both parts to fill a single half-hour episode. Likewise, it’s hard to point to the two-part format for any problems with “Good-Bye Radar.” Gary Burghoff, for reasons that have been discussed to death by fans, played a very different Radar in his final two episodes. Did his departure from the series deserve a two-parter? Perhaps. Did it require a two-parter? I don’t think so.

As for “Comrades in Arms,” it may be the best of the two-part episodes, or at least it seems to work best within the two-part format. I haven’t watched the episodes in four or five years but I don’t recall feeling like they were padded to fill two episodes when one was enough.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

8 Comments

  • dhla says:

    I think they are unique animals. Snap/Snappier didn’t have enough story for a one-hour episode… it had enough story for 1.5 episodes. Cut down, it probably would’ve made a great single episode. I have no issues with Comrade In Arms – it deserved a two-part episode. And Goodbye Radar was probably two partners to milk Burghoff’s goodbye, but as noted, he played Radar very differently than he had in the past. It felt a little off.

    So I don’t think any of these circumstances can be explained simply by being two-part episodes. And since there were only 3, it is difficult to make generalizations.

    • Doug says:

      Didn’t the Powers That Be originally want to start the season with Radar leaving? The hour-long episodes usually started seasons. Still, of the three, I’d have to say Goodbye, Radar is the best. The other two are pretty weak–Comrades In Arms feels forced, and Snap Judgement/Snappier Judgements drags. It might have been better as a single episode. But I also agree with dhla, there isn’t enough of a sample.

      • BDOR says:

        Not quite. A version of “Good-bye, Radar” was written to end Season 7, but the network didn’t want to do that, fearing nobody would tune in for Season 8, but Gary clearly wanted to move on and wasn’t coming back, and Radar needed a proper send-off, so the network decided to instead redo it as a two-parter and have the first few episodes of Season 8 lead up to it.

  • 007 says:

    Not much a fan of any of the two-parter episodes. Comrades in Arms would be okay, if not for the romance crap with Margaret and Hawkeye. After how long they had been together in the show, and the history they had, even under those circumstances, the romance was stupid. And then what was even worse is Margaret being all googoo about him the next day. That completely belittles the already pretty crappy character they had built for Margaret throughout the majority of the shows run. Does she fall for every guy she sleeps with and hope for a life with them? Let’s also not forgot she was also still married during these episodes, despite how crappy Donald was.

    Good-Bye Radar could have been some awesome episodes, but by that time Gary Burghoff was so disgruntled with the show and absent so often, that honestly I kind of forgot he was still around. I really think of Radar as being a character through season 5. After that he’s only there barely half of the time. The way he plays Radar in most of this two-parter, being so pissed off and tired with everything really ruins the episodes. It’s like we were watching Gary Burghoff in those episodes, not Radar. Honestly when I watch those episodes, it’s hard to remember the good ol Radar, and all I can think about is this jerk on the screen that I wish would just leave already.

    Snap/Snappier Judgement not much to say about these episodes. There’s nothing really wrong with them, other than as pointed out, they didn’t need to be a two parter. We did at least get to see another of the good sides of Klinger when he uses his own money to buy back the stolen camera.

  • Larry P. says:

    I’m not a huge fan of any of the two-parters.The only one I could say I like is “Comrades in Arms,” and even then I still don’t *love* it.

    “Snap Judgement”/”Snappier Judgement,” meh, mediocre at best.

    Not a fan of Radar’s farewell either; as others have said, I don’t like how he’s portrayed throughout, and 007 nailed it with the “through season 5” comment; after that, I progressively grow tired of the character – when he’s there, anyway. And, I get that it’s supposed to show just how vital he is to the 4077th, but the bit where he directs everyone to operate outside with the jeep lights as illumination, I just find that cringe worthy; they were practically beating you over the head with the “look how important he is!” message.

  • BDOR says:

    Aren’t we overdue for a new monthly poll?

    • RJ says:

      I’ve put the monthly poll on hiatus, leaving the current poll up for the foreseeable future. Coming up with four or five weekly discussion topics and a poll question each month is too much.

  • UglyJohn says:

    The originally broadcasted one hour long episodes kinda worked because they had a story to tell and there was something to explain. The writers needed to tell you why Trapper left, why Hawkeye was in Toyko and who was going to come in as the new surgeon. How Charles deals with his new reality.

    The two-part episodes were in some ways a ratings exercise. They weren’t necessarily the worst of MASH, but they weren’t the best. Comarades in Arms is a wasted episode, sacrificed for ratings and melodrama and getting two antagonists on the same side all of a sudden.

    This episode had a lot of great possibilites for mixing humor and drama. Stuck behind the lines in hostile territory. Figuring a way out.

    Instead it’s central storyline becomes about temporarily turning Hawkeye and Margaret into a couple. Suddenly the major is dreaming about suburban lawns and white picket fences with a confirmed un-marrigable lothario.

    Goodbye Radar is an example of an actor who was troublesome enough that the sooner the cast saw him leave, the better. Burghoff was too old to be playing Radar at that point anyway. Why drag it on for two whole episodes?

    Snap/Snappier is a ridiculous episode meant to be a “Klinger gets rescued from his situation by good Saints at MASH”. Barely merited a single episode.

    It’s interesting because the Trial of Henry Blake always seemed to be a two-part episode, yet it isn’t. That’s the wonderful illusion the writers created by condensing Henry’s troubles into just one episode. But it doesn’t play that way.

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