Restored “Our Finest Hour” Available on Hulu and iTunes

11 Comments

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:

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.

11 Replies to “Restored “Our Finest Hour” Available on Hulu and iTunes”

  1. If I had the opportunity, yeah, I’d certainly watch and see for myself . . . unfortunately, Hulu stopped being good when it stopped being an alternative to YouTube ten years ago (and back when it was free) and became a competitor to Netflix.

    While we’re on the subject, I just want to share something real quick: I recently did a little experiment, and I believe I’ve discovered what the aspect ratio would be of 35mm film footage if it wasn’t cropped in either 4:3 or 16:9 – 211:135. To give you an idea of what this looks like, say the pixel size of a frame in 16:9 is 1920×1080 (in full HD); the pixel size of the frame in 211:135 would, instead, be 1920×1228, because the top and bottom wouldn’t be cropped out. I’ve decided that all of my future productions on YouTube are going to be in this ratio.

    1. Turns out I miscalculated. The resolution, as it turns out, would actually be 1920×1312, and the aspect ratio would be 22:15.

  2. Does it look like they totally redid “Our Finest Hour” by going back to the original source episodes for all of the color clips? As in, re-inserting the all of the material from the color episodes, not just the ones that were missing from the syndicated/DVD cut? One thing I’ve noticed about the DVD version is that all the color clips in that one are noticeably less sharp and more muted in color, since they were all dubbed down from the bits used from the earlier episodes.

    16:9 aspect ratios on older TV shows ….. man, that just makes absolutely no sense to me. I remember when I bought the HBO “From The Earth To The Moon” miniseries on DVD, and — while a great program — it just never looked right to me. I found out a few years later that the DVD artificially turned the whole series into widescreen by lopping off the tops and bottoms of the images. I would’ve preferred to have seen the whole image that was supposed to be there, of course. MeTV has been annoying to watch because of this, what with the too-close cropping done on the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” episodes, and all.

  3. As with the Simpsons (another show that has bastardized faux 16:9 HD releases) I’m almost certain they restore the original 4:3 versions than just lop off the top and bottom for streaming.

    That would make infinitely more sense than only restoring part of the picture.

    Hopefully Disney will be better with OAR (and allowing the laugh track to be turned off) for MASH when its on Disney+ or Hulu or whatever.

    1. I bet Hulu is going to hear complaints from people who don’t realize the episode is supposed to be in black-and-white.

      1. Don’t forget the episode starts with Burt Metcalfe saying “Filmed in Black and White.”

  4. The new restored hd version of “Our Finest Hour” is incredible. I still have the old syndicated version on my dvr and the comparison is unbelievable, it’s hard to believe they can change it that much. I absolutely love MASH on Hulu, they have it where you can go to any episode in any year in a snap, so easy and if you start one and don’t finish it, when you go back it picks up where you left off. It also automatically goes to the next episode without having to do anything. I hope they keep it on, i love it.

  5. My mom recently installed Hulu on her TV, so I decided to check out “Our Finest Hour” to see what the comparison is like, and here is my breakdown:

    – For whatever reason, for both parts, they used a poorly degraded print of the Season 6 intro (albeit with the appropriate Season 7/8 theme), but clearly they replaced the text, because it’s crystal clear and looks digital.
    – Replacing each individual clip was an idea I had as long as I can remember, so it’s nice to see that initative was taken . . . however, only the visual clips were replaced – they still use the poor syndicated audio . . . which, I suppose, makes sense, given then certain clips had some alterations from the source material (such as the “Excuse me, mister” dubbed into the “Officer of the Day” clip where Radar sees a Korean lady standing in the doorway).
    – There are at least three specific clips from Part 2 there were not replaced:
    1. The clip from “Pilot Episode” where Margaret and Frank are spying on Hawkeye and Dish through the binoculars . . . this is forgivable, considering this clip clearly came from an entire different print of that episode that we’ve never seen, given there’s an extra “Animals!” remark from Frank that’s not present in the actual episode (and the laugh track is different).
    2. Father Mulcahy’s speech from “The Interview” about doctors warming their hands over the open wounds of their patients . . . I’m guessing the editors figured it was part of the interview segments since it was in black-and-white.
    3. There’s a clip that last about one or two seconds of a tight shot of surgical instruments exchanging hands . . . it’s such a tiny, specific clip that probably wasn’t worth the hassle of replacing.
    – Visually, it looks amazing: the detail is so incredible, you can literally see every fiber on the clothing, every water and rust mark on the aluminum siding, every nail driven into the woodwork, every blade of grass, every leaf in the trees, every pebble in the dirt . . . heck, you can even see the actors’ shaving nicks! In a clip from “Abyssinia, Henry,” I saw a discarded cigarette butt as Henry’s chopper landed on the pad that I never noticed before! The overall picture quality for Seasons 4 and 5 (which look the worst on DVD) has greatly improved, but while the Season 5 clips have fixed that overly “orange” look they previously had on DVD, many Season 4 clips still have that really dark look to them, so I’m guessing that was more a lighting issue than film quality.
    – Still don’t like the clips being cropped in widescreen.

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