Discuss: Could “Hawkeye” Have Worked with a Different Character?


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: Could “Hawkeye” have worked with a different character?

Lots of Talking

“Hawkeye” is an episode many M*A*S*H fans don’t like. Personally, I don’t love or hate it. I appreciate it for what it was: an experiment to see if an episode could be built around a single character talking practically nonstop for 20+ minutes straight. Hawkeye, suffering from a concussion, knows he needs to stay conscious so he starts talking and doesn’t stop, even though the Korean family that found him after his jeep overturned can’t understand him.

Larry Gelbart co-wrote “Hawkeye” with Simon Muntner, with input from Alan Alda. Gelbart also directed the episode.

Do you think the episode could’ve worked with any of the other characters? I’m not asking whether you think other members of the cast could pull off an episode-long monologue. This is about characters and their backgrounds and histories and what sort of material Gelbart and Muntner could’ve worked with to craft an episode like “Hawkeye” but featuring a different character. Could Klinger have rambled on about Toledo for 20 minutes? Could Margaret have talked about growing up a military brat? Could B.J. have shared stories about his family?

“Hawkeye” aired near the end of Season 4, but free to shift it to an earlier or later season to accommodate cast changes.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

7 Replies to “Discuss: Could “Hawkeye” Have Worked with a Different Character?”

  1. The one character who would pique my interest in this regard is Col. Potter. He loves a good speech, has hundreds of old stories (war and otherwise), and he has a great compassion for others. I think it would have been a great chance to have him do an episode like this one as he would have been treated VERY differently (than Hawkeye) by the family due to his age. I could see him truly connecting with the old farmer on a personal level due to their similar ages.

  2. I think there are characters that it could work for, and some that it could not. The one I think it would work the best for is Winchester. To have someone sit there and ramble on for hours (show time, not real time) takes a certain level of arrogance and high opinion of one’s self to maintain IMO. This is where Winchester would be perfect as he could just go into his history and how he was as a child, and his time in medical school and all his accomplishments, etc. He’d be talking more to himself than anything, which is exactly what Hawkeye was doing in the episode.

    Frank I think could work for the same reason, but of course he’d ramble on about how hard he had it and how nobody ever liked him. BJ maybe could work but it would be much less interesting.

    Trapper, Klinger, Margaret, Potter, and especially Mulcahy, I just don’t see it working. Their character on the show just doesn’t fit and the arrogance required to ramble on about themselves and their accomplishments to an audience of none just isn’t there.

  3. I agree with both penguinphysics and 007. It would’ve been interesting to hear what Potter would have to say. Frank probably could’ve done it…..but, it would’ve been painful towards the end of the episode, listening to his whining….But, my first thought would’ve been Winchester – we all know how he loves to talk about himself, especially during the beginning of his tenure. He would not have had a problem going the entire episode. Plus, it might have made for a better episode than with Hawkeye….

  4. I agree with penguinphysics. Col Potter was a natural storyteller. It would have been a good opportunity to hear about his military experiences and more about him personally. I also agree he would have connected more with the old farmer.

    Potter also had a great storytelling manner that would suit an episode like this.

    I don’t see the story working with any other character as it would get irritating. Just think of Frank’s whinning, Radar’s bumbling, Margaret’s shrillness, BJ’s complaining, Winchester’s ego for 30 mins non-stop. Klinger is a good storyteller but how much Toledo can one take.

  5. I think it would have been wonderful if the episode had been titled “Francis” and had been about my favorite character, Father Mulcahy! 🙂

  6. I’m not sure any other character would have worked in this situation. I think it required a combination of Hawkeye’s somewhat manic persona and Alda’s acting style to keep the episode interesting all the way through.

    The main thing is that M*A*S*H was always the Alan Alda Show, so I doubt that the writers would ever feature one of the others in their own episode. In fact, in the one episode where Hawkeye barely appears (“Temporary Duty”) they still felt the need to bring in a pinch hitter (Goober Lindsey), rather than let the rest of main cast carry the show.

    Maybe a 23 minute pairing of a couple of the other main characters could have worked. Potter/Charles, Potter/Burns, Charles/early Klinger, Burns/Radar all have possibilities. However, the writers always limited any such pairings to subplots.

    Here is my assessment of the other main characters going solo:
    1. Charles: This could have been interesting because of Winchester’s ability to talk about himself and his snooty attitude. Plus, as we sometimes saw, Charles also had a kinder, somewhat sentimental side that he might have been willing to show in front of the Korean family. He is the only other main character that maybe could have done it.
    2. Potter: He does have a lot of stories to tell, but his laid-back way of telling them probably would have gotten boring.
    3. Burns: This is the only main character who can approach and surpass Hawkeye’s manic behavior. It probably wouldn’t have worked, but it could have been one bizarre episode for sure.
    4. Radar: He could probably relate to the Korean family, but it would be tough to come up with enough things for him to say.
    5. BJ: Early BJ didn’t have all that much to say. Mustachioed BJ endlessly talking about his family and spewing an inevitable flood of puns would have driven the Koreans to madness, even though they didn’t speak English.
    6. Henry: He seemed to have a lot of stories, but his sometimes scatterbrained way of speaking would have gotten old.
    7. Mulcahy: See the entry for Henry.
    8. Klinger: Klinger from seasons 1-7 might have been able to pull it off; he cared about other people. Seasons 8-11 Klinger would have tried to con the Koreans out of their meager belongings.
    9. Trapper: No. Deep down, the TV version of Trapper was basically a man of few words.
    10. Margaret: No. She was mostly a character who reacted to others (although in some episodes, she seemed to speak fluent Korean).

    Other characters:
    11. Rizzo, Kellye, Zale, Igor, Ugly John, Spearchucker, Ginger, Margie, etc.: Highly doubtful, since their characters were never fully developed. Rizzo might have been the best candidate, but he would have gotten annoying about 10 minutes in.
    12. Sidney: He’s a great but limited character. Would the material be interesting enough to carry a whole episode? Doubtful.
    13. Flagg: Like a solo Burns episode, this could have been very bizarre and interesting, if done right. A whole episode of Flagg might have been too much, but I sort of wish it had happened.

  7. Definitely. I still stand by my opinion that, given the time period of the show, this episode would have been better suited for one of the new kids on the block like B.J. or Potter: it’d be a nice opportunity for we, as viewers, to get to know these new kids a little better and learn more about them.

    If not them, it could have been a chance to see an already-established character in a new life, and see them maybe experience a little tiny amount of growth or development in the situation. For example: it’d prompt Radar to really have to use his ingenuity and resourcefulness to figure out a way to get in contact with the 4077th for help or how to get himself back to camp now that his jeep is wrecked. Or Klinger could use it as a golden opportunity to hide out from the rest of the war with a family who can’t believe their eyes of the sight of a weird, hairy man, running around in dresses, until somebody eventually finds him.

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