Episode 1: W*A*L*T*E*R
Original Air Date: 7/14/84
Written by: Everett Greenbaum, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf
Directed by: Billy Bixby
W*A*L*T*E*R opens in St. Louis, Missouri, as Walter "Radar" O'Reilly, and cousin Wendell (Ray Buktenica) are preparing for Radar's first day as a uniformed police officer.
Its a big day for Radar, as a recently recorded interview he did with Clete Roberts (who came to the 4077th to interview the staff during the war) is airing on television today. Roberts mentions doing a series of "follow up" interviews. He has previously talked to Hawkeye, and now has found Radar.
Radar explains that he didn't feel right about continuing to take money from the government to not grow crops (as a program of the time was doing), so he tried his hand at making the farm work again. It failed again, forcing Radar to sell it and move to St. Louis to find a job.
Turns out Radar's marriage (as seen in AfterM*A*S*H's First Season episode "It Had To Be You") fell apart even before the honeymoon, with his bride Sandy running back to Otumwa to be with a mutual friend of theirs.
Radar, stranded in St. Louis, considered killing himself by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, though he seems hardly up to the task. He meets a nice clerk at the pharmacy named Victoria (Victoria Jackson), and it gets him off his suicidal mission.
Radar and are watching the rest of the Clete Roberts interview on a TV in a department store window, and the crowd around them recognize Radar as the man on the set. He gets mobbed for autographs and pictures, but he's uncomfortable with the attention. A few moments later, he notices his wallet is missing--someone from the crowd must have lifted it!
Radar is horrified, since, aside from his police I.D. and his money, his wallet contained a picture of him, Hawkeye, Col. Blake, and Major Houlihan, which is nearly a sacred item to him.
On the trail of the wallet, they investigate a disturbance backstage at a burlesque theater--a stripper with a bird for a partner is distraught because the bird has gone missing! After a frantic search, Radar's radar (and his knowledge of animals) comes in handy, as he's able to hear the bird and lure it to his shoulder.
Resuming the search, they spot a kid from the crowd who, despite wearing an arm cast, was able to pat them on the back as he left. They give chase, finally catching up to him. The kid, named Elston, claims to be innocent of the crime. As Radar talks to him, we learn that Elston is essentially an orphan, living with his grandmother and scraping to survive.
Radar takes pity on the kid, and buys him some ice cream floats at the pharmacy. He talks to Victoria about his missing wallet, and mentions that the only thing he misses it his picture from Korea. Elston, feeling guilty, gives up the wallet, admitting that hid Dad was killed in Korea.
Radar lets the kid go, but asks Elston to meet him at the pharmacy the same time every week, so they can talk and Radar can keep tabs on him. Elston leaves, and Victoria tells Radar how nice it is of him to look after the kid, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
Fun Facts: The police chief is played by Noble Willingham, who played the owner/bartender of The Recovery Room on AfterM*A*S*H.
There's a scene where Victoria Jackson does her trademark silly song and dance bit, which she did on Saturday Night Live many times. Its so out of place, it stops the show dead in its tracks. The camera has to carefully cut around the fact that, during her handstand, Victoria's waitress skirt rises (falls?), so you can see her underwear, something so out of place for a 1950s small town public place that its absurd.
There is one tiny, quiet moment--when Radar is showing Wendell his picture from the 4077th (which we don't see), he mentions that Col. Blake got killed. Actor Ray Buktenica does a quick little turn of the head, taking notice of the resigned sadness in Radar's voice.
Favorite Line: Despite being at least partly written by Everett Greenbaum, one of M*A*S*H's best writers, I didn't find a single line in this show funny, or even memorable. I can see why CBS didn't greenlight this a series.
Don't get me wrong; W*A*L*T*E*R's heart is in the right place: Radar, as written here, is the same befuddled but endearingly gentle character that we loved from M*A*S*H. But, unlike AfterM*A*S*H, which I think from the get go established a different feeling from its predecessor, W*A*L*T*E*R feels like its trying to milk the warm feelings the viewers had for the original show without adding anything new to it.
Plus, at the time of this pilot being shot (around early 1984), AfterM*A*S*H wasn't exactly burning up the airwaves, so I could see why CBS would think a second M*A*S*H spin-off on the air would be too much of a lukewarm thing. Like AfterM*A*S*H, W*A*L*T*E*R remains an odd, almost completely forgotten coda to the long, celebrated history of the original series.
Okay, even though I said this before, this is the ostensible ending to AfterMASH.blogspot.com. Thanks to M*A*S*H fan What The Parrot Saw, the rotation points needed for this blog to end got increased, so it needed to stick around long enough to talk about AfterM*A*S*H and W*A*L*T*E*R.
I appreciate everyone who did stick around, and said such nice things about my humble little effort here. And like I said the first time this was supposed to end, you never know when I'll have something new to say about M*A*S*H--which, for me, is a pretty regular event. If I do, I'll say it here.
Until then, goodbye, farewell, and amen!