AfterMASH Episode Spotlight: Less Miserable

I’m reviewing every episode of AfterMASH, in original broadcast order, and asking fans to add their memories and opinions.

“Less Miserable” (#23, 2×01)
Originally Broadcast: Sunday, September 23rd, 1984 from 8-8:30PM ET
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs & Dennis Koenig
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

TV Guide Summary

[N/A]

The Hartford Courant Summary

On CBS at 8, in the season premiere of “AfterMASH,” Klinger gets back in drag to be in on the birth of his child. That ought to attract a few more viewers. Or will it?

Review

Picking up right where the Season 1 finale left off, “Less Miserable” starts with Klinger still in jail and Soon-Lee in labor. Desperate to be with his wife, Klinger comes up with a foolproof scheme: he switches places with his cellmate who is scheduled to be released but wants to stay behind bars.

Once he gets to General General, he puts on a nurse’s uniform. Yes, Klinger is wearing women’s clothing again. He’s just in time to see his baby born: a son. Potter and Father Mulchay try to convince him to turn himself in but Klinger can’t face two years behind bars for his various crimes. He goes on the lam.

Still from the AfterMASH episode Less Miserable showing Potter, Father Mulcahy, Klinger, and Soon-Lee.

Soon-Lee gives birth to a baby boy.

Meanwhile, Dr. Boyer tries to free up beds by operating on a number of hernia patients. Alma Cox isn’t happy but he’s able to distract her by flirting. Two of the hernia patients steal Dr. Boyer’s prosthetic leg in the hope of postponing their operations but he operates anyway.

There’s also a minor storyline in which Bob Scannell searches for Mel, his missing otter.

Throughout the episode, a man (played by Max Wright) is watching and taking notes of all the crazy things happening at General General. He works for the VA and informs Potter that Mike D’Angelo has been relieved of his duties at General General due to “gross mismanagement and erratic behavior” at the hospital. A new administrator will arrive by the end of the week.

To Be Continued…

Despite AfterMASH ending the 1983-1984 season ranked among the Top 20 shows on television, CBS decided to make changes for Season 2. The loss of Mike D’Angelo is no big loss. His replacement debuts in the next episode. The network recast Mildred Potter, replacing Barbara Townsend with Anne Pitoniak, who likewise makes her debut in the next episode.

CBS also wanted Klinger to wear dresses again, for reasons I can’t understand. As a fugitive, presumably he’ll wear various disguises to avoid being captured by the police, including dresses. It’s a big step backward for Klinger, who evolved as a character during M*A*S*H and continued to do so during the first season of AfterMASH. And now he’s back to wearing drag? I don’t like it.

Still from the AfterMASH episode Less Miserable showing Dr. Boyer.

Dr. Boyer angrily confronts the men who stole his prosthetic leg.

Dr. Boyer continues to underwhelm. On the one hand, his drive to provide the best care for his patients is good. On the other hand, his constant flirting with nurses is boorish at best. It didn’t always work on M*A*S*H, which was a very different show. It definitely doesn’t work on AfterMASH.

Notes

A new opening credits sequence is introduced in this episode featuring color drawings of the characters. David Ackroyd is now listed in the opening credits. Anne Pitoniak, who takes over the role of Mildred Potter, and Peter Michael Goetz, who plays the new hospital administrator, are also included in the opening credits but don’t appear in this episode.

Some online sources give the title of this episode as “Less Miserables” but entries at the United States Copyright Office state the title is “Less Miserable.”

Nurse Canfield (played by Alice Cadogan), first seen in the Season 1 episode “Little Broadcast of ’53,” returns in this episode.

References to the 4077th

While trying to comfort Klinger near the start of the episode, Father Mulcahy mentions Korea. Near the end of the episode, after seeing his baby and refusing to listen to Potter and Father Mulcahy, Klinger says he was better off in Korea.

M*A*S*H Connections

This is the ninth of 12 episodes directed by Burt Metcalfe.

This is the ninth of 13 episodes written or co-written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs.

This is the seventh of nine episodes written or co-written by Dennis Koenig. He provided the story for a tenth episode.

3 Comments

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    …and thus the rapid downward spiral of AfterMASH began…

    Your description of the network’ forced changes to the show remind me of the movie “The TV Set” starring David Duchovny. It tells the tale of TV show idea that becomes eviscerated by the network “suits” until the show no longer resembles the original story idea.

  • David G. says:

    Every word in the paragraph containing your assessment about Klinger is totally on point.

    Going by memory here, but I’m pretty sure my copy of one of the original production scripts for this episode also has the title as “Less Miserable” (no “s” at the end).

    This episode aired on a Sunday night (as the 1st season reruns had done for most of the summer) and my recollection is that this 2nd season premiere landed in the top 10 for the week. The ratings took a major, major nosedive when the next episode aired two nights later in the new Tuesday timeslot, opposite NBC’s powerhouse series “The A-Team.”

    Watch the opening credits sequence through the 2nd season. They change like 3 or 4 times during that shortened season as paintings of Anne Pitoniak and (I think) Peter Michael Goetz get added (among the mix of paintings of other specific things from the first few episodes of the 2nd season). Eventually that whole style is scrapped in favor of just cheaply edited clips from the 2nd season episodes. (I missed that fittingly nostalgiac 1st season opening credits sequence!)

  • Lady, You ARE A Piece of Cornbread says:

    Does Bob’ s otter Melvin lead to a Mel Ott joke?

Leave a Comment

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