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The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
Season One: 1972-73

SEASON ONE: 1972-73
SEASON TWO: 1973-74
SEASON FOUR: 1975-76
SEASON FIVE: 1976-77
SEASON SIX: 1977-78
SEASON NINE: 1980-81
SEASON TEN: 1981-82

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The Complete First Season of "M*A*S*H" on Video or DVD


Year-End Rating: 17.5 (46th place)

In their first season behind the lines of the Korean War, Hawkeye and Trapper John spend considerably more time chasing skirts than patching wounds in the operating room. But by the end of the year, producer Gene Reynolds and co-creator Larry Gelbart have evolved the bawdy and irreverent world of the 4077th mobile army surgical hospital into television's first true black comedy--a simultaneously grim and hilarious vision of war where laughter is the most potent weapon of defense.

In addition to executive story consultant Larry Gelbart's contributions, first-year scripts from Laurence Marks, Carl Kleinschmitt, and Sid Dorfman all help shape the series's early viewpoint. Burt Metcalfe is associate producer of the first four seasons, and William Jurgensen the director of photography for the first five. Stanford Tischler and Fred W. Berger are the show's regular editors for the first four years.

1 M*A*S*H Pilot    First Aired: September 17, 1972
Writer: Larry Gelbart
Director:Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Karen Philipp, Patrick Adiarte, G. Wood, Timothy Brown, Linda Meiklejohn, Laura Miller, George Morgan

Iconoclastic Army surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre throw a drunken bash to raise money to send their Korean houseboy to a U.S. college.

A remarkable episode that established the show's major characters in a black comedy of absurd proportions. In one fell blow, the barracks buffoonery of Sergeant Bilko and Gomer Pyle was rendered hopelessly and shamefully irrelevant.

Karen Philipp appeared--briefly--as Lieutenant Dish, one of the characters from the film who failed to survive the transition to the small screen. Timothy Brown's Spearchucker Jones, the 4077th's black surgeon, was another prominent movie hold-over in early episodes; he even bunked with Hawkeye and Trapper John before he was quietly shipped out midway through the season. Writer Larry Gelbart maintains that the black doctor was dropped after research revealed that there simplyweren't any black surgeons in Korea. But whatever the reason for Spearchucker's demise, it's clear that the show's writers had no idea where to go with the blandly written character from the very start.

2 To Market, To Market    First Aired: September 24, 1972
Writer: Burt Styler
Director:Michael O'Herlihy
Guest Stars: G. Wood, Robert Ito, Jack Soo, John C. Johnson

Hawkeye hopes to replenish dwindling medical supplies when by trading Henry's antique desk for a shipment of black-market hydrocortisone.

Jack Soo plays a Korean black-marketeer here, though the late character actor would be better remembered as Japanese detective Nick Yemena on Barney Miller.

3 Requiem for a Lightweight    First Aired: October 1, 1972
Writer: Bob Klane
Director:Hy Averback
Guest Stars: Marcia Strassman, Sorrell Booke, Mike McGirr

Trapper John is sorely mismatched when he faces a massive opponent in an intercamp boxing tournament.

Hawkeye and Trapper John both vie for the attention of Nurse Margie Cutler, whose tour of duty at the 4077th barely outlasts the first season.

4 Chief Surgeon Who?    First Aired: October 8, 1972
Writer: Larry Gelbart
Director:E.W. Swackhamer
Guest Stars: Linda Meiklejohn, Jack Riley, Sorrell Booke, Timothy Brown, Odessa Cleveland, Jamie Farr

Jealous when Hawkeye is appointed chief surgeon, Frank summons a flabbergasted general to look in on the unorthodox leisure activities of the new head doctor.

There's a gag in this episode about a GI so desperate for a psychiatric discharge that he wears women's clothes--inspired, according to Larry Gelbart, by Lenny Bruce, who attempted a similar gambit to get thrown out of the Navy. The sight gag would eventually blossom into financial security for bit player Jamie Farr, but it very nearly got left on the cutting-room floor. In director E.W. Swackhamer's first cut, he had Farr play the transvestite as an effeminate swish--a cliché that sent the producers scrambling for a retake. Reynolds did reshoot it. The second time the actors played it straight, the bit was much funnier, and in no time at all, Corporal Max Klinger was a fixture on the series.

5 The Moose    First Aired: October 15, 1972
Writer: Laurence Marks
Director:Hy Averback
Guest Stars: Paul Jenkins, Virginia Lee, Craig Jue, Barbara Brownell, Patrick Adiarte, Tim Brown

Incensed when a GI arrives with a Korean teenager he bought as a slave, Hawkeye conspires to emancipate the girl and restore her self-respect.

The writers often drew stories from actual historical detail, such as this one, in which a Korean family's practice of arcane indentured servitude rituals spurs the characters to action. The unstinting research paid off: Letters commending or correcting the show's accuracy began to pour in from veteran MASH doctors, most of whom were anxious to share their own wartime experiences. Over the years, these rich and detailed first-hand accounts of war would form the basis for some of the show's strongest episodes.

6 Yankee Doodle Doctor    First Aired: October 22, 1972
Writer: Laurence Marks
Director:Lee Philips
Guest Stars: Ed Flanders, Bert Kramer, Herb Voland

The doctors rebel when they discover that the Army plans to make a propaganda film glorifying the depressing conditions of war.

7 Bananas, Crackers, and Nuts    First Aired: November 5, 1972
Writer: Burt Styler
Director:Bruce Bilson
Guest Star: Stuart Margolin

Hawkeye acts even crazier than usual after he's denied a weekend pass to Tokyo.

8 Cowboy    First Aired: November 12, 1972
Writer: Bob Klane
Director:Don Weis
Guest Stars: Billy Green Bush, Alicia Bond, Rick Moses, Joe Corey

The 4077th copes with a shell-shocked helicopter pilot who turns to violence after Henry denies his discharge back to the States.

Don Weis, one of the first-season directors of The Andy Griffith Show, would continue as a M*A*S*H director for four of the first six seasons.

9 Henry, Please Come Home    First Aired: November 19, 1972
Writer: Laurence Marks
Director:William Wiard
Guest Star: G. Wood

When Colonel Blake's transfer to Tokyo leaves Frank Burns in command, Hawkeye and Trapper wage a campaign to get their beloved--and tolerant--commanding officer back in the fold.

10 I Hate a Mystery    First Aired: November 26, 1972
Writer: Hal Dresner
Director:Hy Averback
Guest Stars: Bonnie Jones, Linda Meiklejohn

Hawkeye decides to play detective when he becomes the chief suspect in a rash of petty thefts.

Hy Averback started out as a radio announcer before he distinguished himself as one of the most prolific television directors of the 1950s and 1960s. He would be the only early M*A*S*H director to continue with the show throughout its run.

The producers weren't as happy with some of the other first-year directors, most of whom had made their reputations directing a mixed bag of one-camera sitcoms during the 1960s. After a few run-ins with unsympathetic--or just plain confused--directors, Gelbart, and later Reynolds and Alda, added directing to their other duties. Together they would nurture the show through its first fledgling seasons, along with a handful of returning first-year directors, including Averback, Don Weis, William Wiard, and Jackie Cooper.

11 Germ Warfare    First Aired: December 10, 1972
Writer: Larry Gelbart
Director:Terry Becker
Guest Stars: Robert Gooden, Karen Philipp, Byron Chung

Frank is the unwitting donor in an emergency blood transfusion when Hawkeye extracts a pint from the major while he sleeps.

12 Dear Dad    First Aired: December 17, 1972
Writer: Larry Gelbart
Director:Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Bonnie Jones, Lizabeth Deen, Gary Van Orman

During a lull in surgery, Hawkeye composes a Christmas letter to his dad describing the simple joys and endless dread of daily life in a war zone.

In one of his earliest attempts to stretch the narrative boundaries of situation comedy, Gelbart allowed the audience to look at life through the surgeon's eyes, as Hawkeye narrates the episode as a letter he's written to his dad. The script was more influential than anyone guessed at the time; it established Hawkeye as the show's empathetic voice, just as Gelbart was discovering his own voice in the character.

13 Edwina    First Aired: December 24, 1972
Writer: Hal Dresner
Director:James Sheldon
Guest Stars: Arlene Golonka, Linda Meiklejohn, Marcia Strassman

The nurses band together to find a date for an accident-prone nurse.

14 Love Story    First Aired: January 7, 1973
Writer: Laurence Marks
Director:Earl Bellamy
Guest Stars: Kelly Jean Peters, Indira Danks, Barbara Brownell, Jerry Harper

Trapper and Hawkeye offer Radar a crash course in music and literature when they fix him up with a nurse who's culturally inclined.

Though few were aware of it at the time, four years earlier guest star Kelly Jean Peters had originated the role of Gloria in the earliest pilot for the series that would become All in the Family.

15 Tuttle    First Aired: January 14, 1973
Writers: Bruce Shelly, David Ketchum
Director:William Wiard
Guest Stars: Herb Voland, Mary-Robin Redd, James Sikking

The medics create a fictitious captain so that they can donate his Army salary to an orphanage.

16 The Ringbanger    First Aired: January 21, 1973
Writer: Jerry Mayer
Director:Jackie Cooper
Guest Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Linda Meiklejohn

Trapper and Hawkeye conspire to have an overzealous commander shipped back home to protect the troops from his military enthusiasm.

Director Jackie Cooper was a former child actor who had grown up to star in two successful sitcoms of the 1950s, The People's Choice and Hennesey, which he also produced. It was on the latter series that the actor gave Gene Reynolds--himself a retired child actor--an opportunity to direct. Reynolds returned the favor on M*A*S*H, where Cooper would eventually direct the majority of episodes in the series's second year.

17 Sometimes You Hear the Bullet    First Aired: January 28, 1973
Writer: Carl Kleinschmitt
Director:William Waird
Guest Stars: James Callahan, Ronny Howard, Lynnette Mettey

Hawkeye mourns the sudden death of an old friend on his operating table.

Alan Alda cited this episode as the series's first real groundbreaker. "It was the first time on our show that a sympathetic and charming character had died," the actor wrote in TV Guide. It was a breakthrough that was largely lost on the confused executives at CBS, most of whom were unaccustomed to having death sprung on them between the toothpaste commercials of a half-hour situation comedy. The producers held their ground by insisting that a soldier's sudden and unexpected death was an entirely appropriate subject for a comedy set in war. When the episode finally aired, it drove yet another nail into the coffin of the superfluous situation comedy of the 1960s.

A decade earlier, writer Carl Kleinschmitt had been a prolific contributor to the original Dick Van Dyke Show.

18 Dear Dad . . . Again    First Aired: February 4, 1973
Writer: Sheldon Keller, Larry Gelbart
Director:Jackie Cooper
Guest Stars: Alex Henteloff, Gail Bowman, Odessa Cleveland

In another letter home, Hawkeye explains how he survives the perverse insanity of war by staying just one step ahead of the butterfly net.

19 The Long-John Flap    First Aired: February 18, 1973
Writer: Alan Alda
Director:William Wiard
Guest Stars: Kathleen King, Joseph Perry

A coveted pair of long-johns arrive during a Korean cold spell and find their way into more than one M*A*S*H footlocker before day's end.

A handful of TV actors had directed episodes of their own series before, and a few had even written scripts that could actually be filmed; but Alan Alda is probably the only actor ever to simultaneously direct, write, and star in a long-running television series. Not surprisingly, his early scripts reflect Gelbart's strong influence, though Alda would quickly develop his own voice, both as a writer and as a director.

20 The Army-Navy Game    First Aired: February 25, 1973
Writer: Sid Dorfman
Story: McLean Stevenson
Director:Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Alan Manson, David Doyle, Tom Richards

The medics' enjoyment of the radio broadcast of the Army-Navy game is seriously compromised when an undetonated bomb lands in the middle of camp.

21 Sticky Wicket    First Aired: March 4, 1973
Writers: Laurence Marks, Larry Gelbart
Story: Richard Baer
Director:Don Weis
Guest Stars: Wayne Bryan, Lynnette Mettey, Bonnie Jones

Hawkeye accuses Frank of incompetent surgery, only to discover that one of his own patients has suffered a mysterious relapse.

22 Major Fred C. Dobbs    First Aired: March 11, 1973
Writer: Sid Dorfman
Director:Don Weis
Guest Stars: Harvey J. Goldenberg

Frank is about to ship out of the 4077th, but Hawkeye and Trapper John trick him into staying on after they discover that his transfer doubles their workload.

The producers hadn't yet quite got their bearings, as this uncharacteristic episode proves. The script violates the basic premise of the characters in an inconsequential plot that veers dangerously into stock sitcom territory. Larry Gelbart would be so embarrassed by this episode that in later years he would remember it as simply "the worst."

23 Ceasefire    First Aired: March 18, 1973
Writers: Laurence Marks, Larry Gelbart
Story: Larry Gelbart
Director:Earl Bellamy
Guest Star: Herb Voland

The 4077th makes premature plans to dismantle the camp when they hear rumors of a ceasefire.

The producers always kept an eye on the headlines as they fashioned their Vietnam allegory, so it's not entirely coincidental that this episode aired the same week that the United States began withdrawing troops from Vietnam. Surprisingly, the end of the fighting in Southeast Asia had very little effect on the show. The ceasefire might have dulled the show's urgency, but it didn't blunt its message. As Hawkeye observed in a Gelbart script aired two years later, "Wars don't last forever, only war does."

24 Showtime    First Aired: March 25, 1973
Writer: Robert Klane, Larry Gelbart
Story: Larry Gelbart
Director:Jackie Cooper
Guest Stars: Joey Forman, Harvey Goldenberg, Stanley Clay, Sheila Lauritsen, Oksum Kim

A song-and-dance man performs a USO comedy show in stark counterpoint to the bleak goings on in the operating room.


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