Monday, June 22, 2009

Episode 96 - The Interview

Season 4, Episode 96: The Interview
Original Air Date: 2/24/76
Written by: Larry Gelbart

Directed by: Larry Gelbart

A war correspondent, Clete Roberts, has brought a camera crew to the 4077th to interview the men and women of the unit, and to record their thoughts and experiences.

Hawkeye is his anti-establishment best, mocking the Army and its discipline, even cursing at one point, right on film. (He also propositions Bess Truman)

Klinger talks about the delights of home, B.J. talks of missing his family. Col. Potter talks about what its like being in command, and being so much older than everyone else in camp.

Radar talks about his hobbies, Father Mulcahy talks about how much being here has changed him, and Frank is his usual hard-line, pro-war, pretend-patriotic self. (When asked if the war has changed him, in any way, he answers, "Certainly not", amazed at the question)

Col. Potter talks about his career in the military, but admits that whatever medical advances are made in the war, its not worth all the destruction, the loss of life, the waste. When asked if anything of value will come from this war, Potter bluntly answers, "Not a damn thing."

Hawkeye, B.J., and Col. Potter make an extra effort to praise the nurses and how hard they work. (Frank describes them as "Competent...competent.")

When asked about heroes, Hawkeye says he doesn't have any. Col. Potter offers up Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman.

In the end, Hawkeye is at a loss for words as to how to describe what its like being here, what they have to do, and the war itself--"it's crazy."

Fun Facts: One of M*A*S*H's most format-busting episodes, this one is in the running by most fans as the best M*A*S*H episode ever.

This is the only episode of the series entirely in black and white.

Incredibly, Hot Lips does not appear in this episode. Given Loretta Swit's non-presence in so many episodes this season, I used to assume she was off filming Race With The Devil. But looking at that film's IMDB page reveals that the movie was released in June 1975, meaning it was probably filmed sometime in late 1974. So why did she miss so many episodes this season?*

This is the last episode of the fourth season, arguably the show's finest season. It is also writer (and in this case, director) Larry Gelbart's final show. Talk about going out with a bang!

Favorite Line: Hawkeye is asked if he brought any "creature comforts" over with him, and he says: "The Dictionary--I figure its got all the other books in it."

That line is so brilliant, I almost can't believe that Alda and/or Gelbart wrote it--it seems like something that just existed in the culture.

*(Update: Read the comments for this post--from Mr. Gelbart himself--to find out some details about this episode!)



Loretta Swit does not appear in "The Interview" because she was NYC, appearing in "Same Time, Next Year."

Alan Alda is the author of the dictionary line.

Larry Gelbart

rob! said...

Wow--Mr. Gelbart, its a huge honor to know you've read any part of this blog!

Thank you for the info, thanks for checking out the blog, and thanks for all the excellent work.

Russell said...

Yeah, Rob, this is one of my favorites and I always missed Margaret in it.

I'm assuming you know that it was only partially scripted, and that Larry had Clete Roberts spring questions on the cast without giving them any lines?
It's a testament to his talent (and theirs!) that you can't tell what is scripted and what isn't!!

What the Parrot Saw said...

Agreed- this is one of the very best episodes in the entire canon. The cast is simply peerless here. I've watched this perhaps a hundred time--enough to have much of the dialogue memorized--and there are still little details that seem as fresh as watching it the first time.

Some of this is, of course, due to the format here, but considering that the dialogue is partially ad-libbed, the blurring of script and improv works marvelously. This is due to the sheer talent of the ensemble.

To wit:

Roberts: "Shouldn't patriotism come from the heart?"
Frank: "I don't have that problem"

What might be a throwaway line in a typical episode is transformed into something at first funny- and then rather sad.

Klinger's ultimate seriousness in dressing in drag is revealed in his marvelously understated observation; "War [is not a "police action"]. War is just killing. That's all."

Too many highlights to list, including Hawkeye's bewilderment at Hemingway's willingness to go to war and Sherm's stubbornly touching refusal to say anything to Mildred over the air as it's not "dignified." (How times have changed!)

(Incidentally, WH Auden was quoted that he would take the OED to a desert island for similar reasons as Hawkeye's)

Finally- much respect, Mr. Gelbart.

Greenbuck97 said...

Wow! I knew I enjoy your blog. Regularly get my MASH fix here when I'm on the road and can't watch DVDs at home or find an ep on TV. We need and all M*A*S*H all-the-time network. Awesome to see that Mr. Gelbart checked in too!

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