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: M*A*S*H spin-offs you wish had happened.
Igor the Pig Farmer? Rizzo’s Breeding Frogs?
M*A*S*H produced one true spin-off, a sequel and continuation called AfterMASH. It starred Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher. The sitcom ran for 30 episodes on CBS between 1983 to 1985; a 31st episode never aired in the United States. A second potential spin-off called “W*A*L*T*E*R” starring Gary Burghoff never got past the pilot stage. It aired on CBS in July 1984.
While M*A*S*H was on the air, CBS tried twice to create a sitcom about a group of nurses stationed in Korea during the Korean War. The network aired two pilots but decided against picking either up as a weekly series. The first pilot, called “Handle with Care,” aired in May 1977. Marlyn Mason, Didi Conn, and Mary Jo Catlett starred. The second pilot, titled “The Fighting Nightingales,” aired in January 1978. Adrienne Barbeau, Ken Mars, Livia Genise, Erica Yohn, and Stephanie Faracy starred.
To be clear, neither of these were spin-offs of M*A*S*H. Clearly CBS was inspired by the success of M*A*S*H. I want to say at one point Burt Metcalfe and/or Gene Reynolds were involved in the production of “Handle with Care” but I’m not 100% sure. I haven’t seen either of the pilots, although I’d like to.
(Then there’s Trapper John, M.D. The hour-long medical drama starring Pernell Roberts ran for seven seasons on CBS from 1979 to 1986. Legally, it is not a spin-off of M*A*S*H the TV series. A court ruling found it was a spin-off of the movie MASH. Somewhere I think I have the name of the court case written down.)
Between AfterMASH, “W*A*L*T*E*R,” and the two failed nurse sitcoms, there aren’t a lot of serious spin-off ideas left to discuss. If CBS wanted a true spin-off about nurses, the only possible way to make it work would be to transplant Margaret from the 4077th to another MASH unit and build a sitcom around her and her nurses.
Do you think anyone at CBS or Twentieth Century Fox gave any thought to crafting a spin-off around Hawkeye as he returns to Crabapple Cove and civilian life? Or Margaret as she continues her military career? Or B.J. as he picks up where he left of with Peg and the kids? Or Charles in Boston, trying to recover mentally from what he experienced at he end of the war?
Go on down the line of recurring characters and you can imagine even more potential M*A*S*H spin-offs, each more ridiculous than the last. Kellye in Honolulu, Rizzo breeding frogs in Louisiana, Igor working his pig farm.
Prior to the end of the show, perhaps there could’ve been a spin-off about Frank back in the States, ruining lives and making enemies. Maybe Frank and Trapper could’ve teamed up as doctors turned private investigators who use their medical knowledge (or lack thereof) to solve crimes.
On a more serious note, I’ve often wondered what AfterMASH would’ve been like if it was a drama rather than a sitcom. The same characters, the same setting, but rather than try to find laughs in the day-to-day operation of a VA hospital, focus on the reality of nurses, doctors, and a priest trying to put men and women who went through hell in Korea back together again.
Hit the comments with your thoughts.