I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
Season Five: 1976-77
THE FIFTH SEASON
Year-End Rating: 25.9 (4th place)
In the fifth season, the show continues to explore the comic depths
of military absurdity, but with a new seriousness of purpose. Margaret's
marriage caps a season of major growth for most of the show's characters,
with the notable exception of Frank Burns.
By now, the production values on the show exceed those of any sitcom
in prime time history; the lighting, editing, and cinematography are
all first-rate, and the show looks more like a feature film than a weekly
series. Still, die-hard fans would miss the grittiness of the early
years and wonder if the high-gloss finish was really an improvement
over the messy, often disjointed style that matched so perfectly the
show's often messy and disjointed subject matter.
Burt Metcalfe signs on as producer, joined by Allan Katz and Don Reo.
Gene Reynolds becomes executive producer, and writer Jay Folb handles
story duties as the new executive story editor.
Hawkeye, Radar, and Margaret are left behind to care for critical patients
when the 4077th moves out to avoid a threatened invasion.
Margaret returns from Tokyo engaged, and the entire camp eagerly awaits
Margaret's engagement came as a direct result of Loretta Swit's desire
to develop her character's identity separate from Frank Burns. The producers
acknowledged that she'd outgrown her childish relationship with Burns
by introducing her offscreen romance with Donald Penobscott--leaving
poor Frank to fend for himself.
Hawkeye sees the world with a clearer focus when he is temporarily
blinded in an accident.
Writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs were newcomers who had already
contributed numerous scripts to The
Jeffersons, The Tony Randall Show, and Joe
and Sons. After two seasons as M*A*S*H story editors and
three seasons on Cheers, they would create Mary Tyler Moore's
short-lived 1986 comeback series, Mary.
Radar wins a promotion in a poker game, but finds that life as a lieutenant
doesn't agree with him.
Margaret discovers a gap between herself and the nursing staff when
one of them defies her to spend the night with her newlywed husband.
This tale of Hot Lips' relationship with her nurses is a departure
that draws attention to how few stories were told from the nurses' point
of view. The situation improved somewhat as avowed feminist Alan Alda
gained more creative control, but the circumstance of these women stranded
in a forgotten corner of the war suggests a wealth of story possibilities
that were largely overlooked.
When Major Houlihan ventures into the village to help deliver a baby,
Frank causes a panic by announcing that she's been kidnapped.
Before they signed on as M*A*S*H writer/producers, Don Reo
and Allan Katz had written or produced shows as disparate as Mary
Tyler Moore, All in the Family, Cher, Laugh-In,
a Lily Tomlin special, and Rhoda.
Psychiatrist Sidney Freedman tries to escape his deep depression by
spending a few days observing the therapeutic antics of the 4077th at
Father Mulcahy goes AWOL to experience battlefield conditions firsthand.
B.J. and Hawkeye cover up the identity of a skilled North Korean surgeon
who's anxious to save lives on either side of the battle.
Colonel Potter and Hawkeye wage their own war of ideals when Pierce
refuses to fire at enemy soldiers during an ambush.
In this story, Reynolds and Folb touch on the two seemingly irreconcilable
sides of Colonel Potter--the surgeon and the career soldier. As a physician,
he shares with his draftee doctors the common goal of alleviating human
suffering. Yet his rank and career status imply his underlying acceptance
of the military machinery that's ultimately responsible for the suffering
in the first place.
The doctors treat Margaret and the colonel's horse when they each fall
prey to very different maladies.
Everything that can go wrong does after Colonel Potter
removes a Buddhist good-luck talisman from the compound.
After a series of unsettling dreams, Hawkeye wonders if he hasn't finally
Radar records his impressions for a correspondence course in creative
writing; and B.J. and Hawkeye stage a feud for Frank's benefit on his
Radar's signals get crossed when his shortwave call for help on a crossword
puzzle summons a Navy admiral expecting a dire emergency.
Colonel Potter confronts an old Army buddy whose military incompetence
has already cost too many lives on the battlefield.
Hawkeye tries to raise a former all-American football player's morale
after the GI loses a leg; and Klinger and Sergeant Zale settle a feud
in the boxing ring.
B.J. is plagued by guilt when his tender consolation of a nurse ends
in a one-night stand.
Father Mulcahy is quarantined with infectious hepatitis; and Hawkeye
suffers psychosomatic back pain.
Alda's script was inspired by real life. Actor William Christopher's
own bout with hepatitis caused him to miss a good many days of work
When technical problems beset the screening of Colonel Potter's favorite
film, the camp improvises a talent show in defiance of the obstreperous
Frank buys a priceless antique vase from a shady junk dealer as a war
An acute shortage of blood complicates another marathon tour of duty
for the doctors in O.R.
The chilling battle stories told by the recuperating soldiers were
culled from firsthand accounts and interviews with veterans of both
Vietnam and the Korean War. Producer Gene Reynolds acknowledged the
series's debt to its sources: "At least sixty percent of the plots dealing
with medical or military incidents were taken from real life. These
guys gave us details we never would have thought of. They kept us honest."
Donald Penobscott arrives at the 4077th to marry Margaret in an improvised
ceremony that calls for something borrowed--a wedding dress from Klinger--and
something blue: best-man Frank Burns.
As Margaret flies off on her honeymoon, blissfully unaware of the
cruel tricks that fate--and the show's writers--have in store, it spells
the end for Frank Burns. He could hardly continue on the series once
Margaret's marriage altered permanently his one tenuous connection to
Actor Larry Linville breathed a sigh of relief when he decided not
to renew his contract. "I wasn't tired of playing Frank Burns," he explained,
"I was tired of playing only Frank Burns."
"After Gelbart left," the actor told writer Suzy Kalter in The
Complete Book of M*A*S*H, "it was easier to run Frank into
a scene, dump on him, get a laugh, and run him out the door." It was
quite a letdown for the actor who understood so well the character's
dark function in the comedy of military absurdity. As Linville once
described Frank Burns in the pages of TV Guide: "He personified
the psychosis of war itself--mindless, random, hostile one moment, silly