A newly restored “Our Finest Hour” debuted on Hulu and iTunes last week. The hour-long episode mixed new black-and-white footage of Clete Roberts interviewing members of the 4077th with color clips from earlier episodes.
“Our Finest Hour” originally aired on CBS during Season 7 in October 1978 in an hour-long time slot. Like the other hour-long episodes, it was split into two half-hours when M*A*S*H went into syndication. Although none of the new black-and-white interview segments were cut for syndication, several of the clips from previous episodes were cut.
In the early 1990s, Columbia House released the episode on VHS in its original format. However, when 20th Century Fox released Season 7 on DVD in 2004, the syndicated, two-part version of “Our Finest Hour” was included. Why? Because “the original master materials were damaged and proved to be unworthy of DVD release.”
Earlier this year, 20th Century Fox set out to restore “Our Finest Hour” and now fans can watch the restored version on Hulu or purchase it as a digital download on iTunes. The restored version includes the scenes cut for syndication as well as remastered video and a new set of closing credits. “Our Finest Hour” is still in two parts, as are the other hour-long episodes, but these are the “network” versions rather than the shorter, syndicated versions.
A few months ago I was able to speak with the person overseeing the restoration. They weren’t able to go on the record but during our brief chat it was clear to me the restoration was a labor of love and an effort to give M*A*S*H fans the best possible version of “Our Finest Hour” to enjoy. Every attempt was made to match the original CBS broadcast but the restored episode may be off a few frames here or there.
If you watch the new version, you’ll notice the aspect ratio changes throughout the episode. The black-and-white interview segments are in 4:3 full screen while the clips from previous episodes are in 16:9 widescreen. The black-and-white segments were upconverted to HD during the restoration process but because they were shot on video rather than film, they don’t look as crisp and clean as the clips from previous episodes.
(Personally, I wish 20th Century Fox kept the original 4:3 aspect ratio for every episode when remastering M*A*S*H for high definition, but that doesn’t seem to be the way the industry is going these days.)
I don’t subscribe to Hulu at the moment and I’m not a fan of digital downloads so I haven’t had a chance to watch the restored “Our Finest Hour” but someone shared a few stills on Twitter last week:
— Ken Hommel (@TooCloseToTheTV) May 23, 2019
I’m planning on subscribing to Hulu this summer and when I do, I’ll check out “Our Finest Hour” and share my thoughts about the restoration. If you’ve had the opportunity to watch the restored version, what do you think?
I don’t know when or if the restored version will start airing on television. I also don’t know if Google Play and YouTube are selling the restored version or if it is only available on iTunes.
A big thank you to everyone involved in restoring “Our Finest Hour,” including the person who pushed to get the restoration underway and worked hard to ensure it looked as good as possible.