I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
Season Four: 1975-76
THE FOURTH SEASON
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The personnel of the camp bring gifts to their new commander as he
writes a letter home to his wife on their wedding anniversary.
The compound becomes a temporary refuge and maternity ward when a local
orphanage is shelled.
A guilt-plagued bombardier with a messiah complex arrives--arousing
the interest of both Army psychiatrist Major Freedman and the CIA's
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.
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.
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.
Colonel Potter sponsors a "soldier of the month" contest to boost sagging
morale; and Frank comes down with a raging fever.
Frank steals a wounded colonel's vintage Colt .45.
Letters from home arrive with bad news for Frank: His wife knows about
Radar engages in elaborate negotiations to secure regular rations of
tomato juice for Colonel Potter.
A camp-wide foot inspection is one of the subjects of Radar's letter
Colonel Potter convinces Hawkeye and B.J. to treat Frank with a touch
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.
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.
In temporary command during Colonel Potter's absence, Frank lodges
formal charges against Hawkeye for mutiny.
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
When his medical-school sweetheart is transferred to the 4077th, Hawkeye
is anxious to relive the exquisite pain all over again.
An unexpected border advance by the Chinese results in a flood of casualties
far beyond the capacity of the overworked 4077th.
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 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.