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Season Four: 1975-76

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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Year-End Rating: 22.9 (14th place)

With the departure of Colonel Blake and Trapper John, the series enters a second, more subdued phase, as new recruits B.J. Hunnicut and Colonel Sherman Potter--played by Mike Farrell and Henry Morgan--are integrated into the tightly knit ensemble. The new characters are less zany than their predecessors, and far more noble--a development that gradually affects the tone of the show in this and in future seasons.

Larry Gelbart and the team of Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum write most of the season's scripts, with significant contributions from Simon Muntner, Jay Folb, and Burt Prelutsky, among others. Associate producer Burt Metcalfe, cinematographer William Jurgensen, and actor Harry Morgan all make their directing debuts, although most fourth-season shows are directed by Alan Alda, Larry Gelbart, or Gene Reynolds.

73 Welcome to Korea (one hour)    First Aired: September 12, 1975
Writers: Everett Greenbaum, Jim Fritzell, Larry Gelbart
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Robert A. Karnes, Arthur Song, Shirlee Kong

Hawkeye returns from a weekend in Tokyo too late to bid farewell to Trapper, so he welcomes the surgeon's replacement, Captain B.J. Hunnicut, instead.

We first see the new recruit at an airstrip, far from the familiar surroundings of the 4077th, as the producers wisely prevent any direct comparisons with his predecessor. In fact, Trapper John had almost nothing in common with his replacement. An outsider from the start, Trapper was a strong-willed fighter who also served as Hawkeye's chief partner in gambling, whoring, and insubordination.

Of course, by the fourth year, the show's emphasis had drifted away from the surgeons' carnal pursuits; there would be more humanism and less sleeping around from this point forward. The new Hawkeye required a different sort of partner, someone who would complement, rather than compete with, the undisputed anchor of the series. Enter B.J. A gentle family man from Marin County, California, he was undoubtedly one of the most sensitive men drafted into the Korean conflict. He and Hawkeye were a match made in story editors' heaven.

74 Change of Command    First Aired: September 19, 1975
Writers: Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum
Director: Gene Reynolds

Colonel Potter, the stern new commander of the 4077th, is eyed with suspicion until Hawkeye and B.J. convince him to exercise a certain flexibility in his leadership at the 4077th.

75 It Happened One Night    First Aired: September 26, 1975
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Simon Muntner
Story: Gene Reynolds
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Christopher Allport, Darren O'Connor

On a bitterly cold night, Frank searches for love letters in Margaret's tent while the head nurse assists the surgeons in a marathon operation.

76 The Late Captain Pierce    First Aired: October 3, 1975
Writers: Glen Charles, Les Charles
Director: Alan Alda
Guest Stars: Richard Masur, Eldon Quick

After the Army erroneously lists Hawkeye as killed in action, he's tempted to exploit the error for a ticket home.

Hawkeye's ever-widening streak of nobility gets its first clear definition in this episode. The once-irreverent surgeon follows his survival instinct and tries to turn a military error into a one-way ticket home. But his conscience gets the better of him, and at the first sound of arriving choppers carrying wounded, he abandons all common sense and returns to the call of duty in the operating room.

This was written by two brothers, Glen and Les Charles, who later became writer/producers of Taxi and, eventually, co-creators of Cheers.

77 Hey, Doc    First Aired: October 10, 1975
Writer: Rick Mittleman
Director: William Jurgensen
Guest Stars: Frank Marth, Bruce Kirby, Ted Hamilton

The doctors demonstrate the fine art of wheeling and dealing when they perform a series of routine medical favors in exchange for a new microscope.

The tank commander is Frank Marth, a familiar face to Honeymooners' fans. As one of Jackie Gleason's stock players, Marth played dozens of roles on the rotund star's show throughout the mid-1950s.

78 The Bus    First Aired: October 17, 1975
Writer: John D. Hess
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Star: Soon Teck Oh

The men of the 4077th get stranded in enemy territory when their bus breaks down on the way back from a poker game.

While the other characters demonstrate a previously unseen level of maturity, Frank Burns displays his unfailing selfishness by cowering in the bus and hoarding Hershey bars from the stranded company. Burns' craven character defied growth; whatever decent instincts he may have had were buried too deep in his psychosis for the writers to unearth. Despite Larry Linville's accomplished performance, Burns would remain a one-note character even as the rest of the show outgrew him.

79 Dear Mildred    First Aired: October 24, 1975
Writers: Everett Greenbaum, Jim Fritzell
Director: Alan Alda

The personnel of the camp bring gifts to their new commander as he writes a letter home to his wife on their wedding anniversary.

80 The Kids    First Aired: October 31, 1975
Writers: Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum
Director: Alan Alda
Guest Stars: Ann Doran, Mitchell Sakamoto, Huanani Minn

The compound becomes a temporary refuge and maternity ward when a local orphanage is shelled.

81 Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?    First Aired: November 7, 1975
Writers: Burt Prelutsky
Director: Larry Gelbart
Guest Stars: Allan Arbus, Edward Winter, Alan Fudge

A guilt-plagued bombardier with a messiah complex arrives--arousing the interest of both Army psychiatrist Major Freedman and the CIA's Colonel Flagg.

Major Freedman's reassuring voice of reason frequently contrasted with the maniacal ravings of the chillingly dispassionate Colonel Flagg in their joint appearances, though Freedman eventually proved a more durable character. The Army psychiatrist would figure prominently in the series long after the writers retired the spy from active duty.

82 Dear Peggy    First Aired: November 11, 1975
Writers: Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum
Director: Burt Metcalfe
Guest Stars: Ned Beatty, Dennis Troy

In a letter to his wife, B.J. describes Hawkeye's attempt to break the world record for Jeep stuffing as well as his own efforts to rescue a patient from Frank's inept surgery.

83 Of Moose and Men    First Aired: November 21, 1975
Writers: Jay Folb
Director: John Erman
Guest Stars: Johnny Haymer, Lois Foraker, Jeff Maxwell

Hawkeye's in deep when he splatters mud on an angry colonel; and B.J. counsels Sergeant Zale after his Stateside wife admits a lapse in fidelity.

84 Soldier of the Month    First Aired: November 28, 1975
Writers: Linda Bloodworth
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Johnny Haymer

Colonel Potter sponsors a "soldier of the month" contest to boost sagging morale; and Frank comes down with a raging fever.

85 The Gun    First Aired: December 2, 1975
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds
Director: Burt Metcalfe
Guest Star: Warren Stevens

Frank steals a wounded colonel's vintage Colt .45.

86 Mail Call Again    First Aired: December 9, 1975
Writers: Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum
Director: George Tyne

Letters from home arrive with bad news for Frank: His wife knows about Margaret.

87 The Price of Tomato Juice    First Aired: December 16, 1975
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Star: James Jeter

Radar engages in elaborate negotiations to secure regular rations of tomato juice for Colonel Potter.

88 Dear Ma    First Aired: December 23, 1975
Writers: Everett Greenbaum, Jim Fritzell
Director: Alan Alda
Guest Stars: Redmond Gleeson, Byron Chung, John Fujioka

A camp-wide foot inspection is one of the subjects of Radar's letter home.

89 Der Tag    First Aired: January 6, 1976
Writers: Everett Greenbaum, Jim Fritzell
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Joe Morton, John Voldstad, George Simmons, William Grant

Colonel Potter convinces Hawkeye and B.J. to treat Frank with a touch of kindness.

90 Hawkeye    First Aired: January 13, 1976
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Simon Muntner
Director: Larry Gelbart
Guest Stars: Philip Ahn, Shizuko Hoshi, June Kim, Susan Sakimoto

Hawkeye seeks help from a family of uncomprehending Koreans after he's wounded in a Jeep accident on the road to camp.

Hawkeye has to stay alert until help arrives to treat his concussion, so he embarks on a nonstop stream-of-consciousness monologue that lasts the length of the program. Gelbart wasn't sure that the one-man script would play, but he later admitted that he was excited by the risk: "For me, the least satisfying episodes were the ones that we knew would work." Apparently, this one did--the experiment earned Emmy Awards for the writers and cinematographer William Jurgensen.

91 Some 38th Parallels    First Aired: January 20, 1976
Writers: John Regier, Gary Markowitz
Director: Burt Metcalfe
Guest Stars: George O'Hanlon, Jr., Lynnette Mettey, Richard Lee Sung, Ray Poss

A headstrong colonel insists on retrieving the bodies of soldiers killed in action, regardless of the risk to those still living; and Frank auctions off the camp garbage to local scavengers.

92 The Novocain Mutiny    First Aired: January 27, 1976
Writers: Burt Prelutsky
Director: Harry Morgan
Guest Stars: Ned Wilson, Johnny Haymer, Patricia Stevens

In temporary command during Colonel Potter's absence, Frank lodges formal charges against Hawkeye for mutiny.

93 Smilin' Jack    First Aired: February 3, 1976
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Simon Muntner
Director: Charles S. Dubin
Guest Stars: Robert Hogan, Dennis Kort, Michael A. Salcido, Alba Francesca

The doctors try to ground a diabetic chopper pilot who's determined to set a military record for carrying in the greatest number of wounded.

Inspired by their Army research, the producers were anxious to emphasize the efforts of the chopper pilots. "They play a much bigger role than we realized," Gelbart observed on his return from a trip to Korea, "and they're more romantic than doctors." During the fourth year, the producers wove the helicopters into storylines--with a vengeance. They soon realized that the choppers were a device more wisely used sparingly, but not before it got to the point where the poor medics couldn't go to the latrine without getting buzzed by the untimely arrival of those damn choppers.

94 The More I See You    First Aired: February 10, 1976
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds
Director: Gene Reynolds
Guest Stars: Blythe Danner, Mary Jo Catlett

When his medical-school sweetheart is transferred to the 4077th, Hawkeye is anxious to relive the exquisite pain all over again.

95 Deluge    First Aired: February 17, 1976
Writers: Larry Gelbart, Simon Muntner
Director: William Jurgensen

An unexpected border advance by the Chinese results in a flood of casualties far beyond the capacity of the overworked 4077th.

96 The Interview    First Aired: February 24, 1976
Writers: Larry Gelbart
Director: Larry Gelbart
Guest Star: Clete Roberts

A documentary look at the lives and work of the men and women of the 4077th, as seen through the eyes of a U.S. war correspondent.

Larry Gelbart was convinced he'd run out of storylines for the series, until Gene Reynolds suggested that they create a quasi-documentary as the season's final episode. The writer fashioned a script based on the actors' actual responses to a series of questions about the war, and then surprised them with additional unrehearsed questions, which were sprung on them after the cameras started rolling. Clete Roberts, a Southern California newsman and former war correspondent, was enlisted to conduct the interview.

The results were edited, in black and white, into one of the show's most effective stylistic departures. A passionate and often chilling look at war through the eyes of reasonable men and women who find themselves stuck in a most unreasonable situation, "The Interview" sums up perfectly Gelbart's four years with the show. The writer retired from the series after this valedictory episode, exhausted but proud.


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