Wednesday, January 13, 2010

AfterM*A*S*H and W*A*L*T*E*R

AfterM*A*S*H debuted on September 26, 1983, and starred Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher returning in their familiar roles. The show also starred Rosalind Chao as Soon-Lee, and Barbara Townsend as Mildred Potter.

The show ran for (almost) two seasons and 29 episodes, although the last show (last as in last filmed, not a series finale) was never aired.

The show apparently started off well, ratings-wise, but when those started to dip the dreaded "re-tooling" began--characters were dumped, new ones brought on, and some roles were re-cast (a second actress, Anne Pitoniak, took over the role of Mildred Potter--ah yes, that will turn it all around!).

The show's ratings continued to decline, and CBS essentially dumped the show unceremoniously, airing the last two episodes a full two months after the previous one.

In many circles, AfterM*A*S*H is considered synonymous with bad spin-offs, but from what I remember (admittedly, I haven't seen the show since it aired, and back then I enjoyed the Friday the 13th movies, too) the show wasn't that bad. Indeed, the premise--dealing with veterans after they've come back from a war--is extremely fertile ground for the kind of tough, no-nonsense comedy/drama combo that M*A*S*H was famous for.

Two other M*A*S*H veterans made guest appearances on the show--the late Edward Winter as Col. Flagg, and Gary Burghoff as Radar, which leads us to...

W*A*L*T*E*R was a pilot for a proposed series, starring Gary Burghoff once again as Walter "Radar" O'Reilly. Apparently rejected as a series, it aired as a one-off "special" on July 17, 1984. In it, Radar has become a police officer. I remember watching the show, still interested in all things M*A*S*H, even a year after the show went off the air.

July 17, 1984 was the same night that CBS was covering the 1984 Democratic National Convention, so W*A*L*T*E*R didn't even air in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Considering how badly the Deomcrats would lose in 1984, I'd say everyone would've been better off with W*A*L*T*E*R.

Like AfterM*A*S*H, W*A*L*T*E*R (boy, that's annoying, typing all those asterisks) has essentially never been heard or seen from since (although you can find pieces of the W*A*L*T*E*R pilot on Youtube).

Obviously there might--mostly likely were--be other issues involved, but I think it would've been nice for 20th Century Fox to include at least the two show pilots as part of the big M*A*S*H boxed set, if only for curiosity's sake.


Neal said...

I had high hopes for AfterMASH, but it just felt dull. The biggest problem for me was that the characters brought over from the original series were not the big humor instigators from the original series. Also, without the imminent threat of bombs falling on them, snipers shooting at them, or serious supply shortages, the inherent sense of tension that MASH had was lost. It looked like Happy Days Visits the VA Hospital.

As for W*A*L*T*E*R, it was just plain B*A*D. No wonder Gary Burghoff hasn't done anything since.

Radar Hat said...

AfterMash was a show which I intentionally stayed away from. I had zero interest in seeing the characters out of the environment I knew them from. It may have been interesting & well-done, but I had absolutely no interest in knowing what happened to them after Korea. To me, it would compete with the memories and emotions I'd had for so many years prior.

For the record, I'm that way with some film sequels as well. Sometimes, I don't want the story completed.

rob! said...

Spin-off wise, I've found that if the spin-off is its own entity, not trying to just be a copy of the original, then it can work (i.e. Frasier).

I now have the opportunity to watch the AfterMASH episodes, after not seeing them since they first aired, and I have to say so far I'm pleasantly surprised.

What the Parrot Saw said...

I've revisited episodes of this rather maligned spinoff (in part, inspired by the very title of this blog!) and find that it has held up quite well. I had written a lengthy post (for I truly rediscovered the series last year) but, If I may: some brief obervations:

Sherm is terrific throughout. Really. His meet and greet with the sardonic Dr. Boyer ("Yours Truly, Max Kilnger") is as edgy as anything in the parent series.

Farr's Klinger gets plenty of time- and its really a treat, overall. He's as adept at cutting bureaucracy as he was at the 4077th, but he's pitted against "Alma Cox" who, while fun, is rather sitcomish.

Gradually, he's boxed into (by the second season) to drawing more on his M*A*SH character- not to bad effect.

Mulcahy seems underutilized.

The second season, while seeming to over-emphasize connections to its parent, has some great promise in the development of Dr. Boyer, a sardonic amputee but gifted doctor (sound familiar) who might well have come into his own.

Diehards might well not be disappointed, even if the feel is more akin to the last seasons of MASH than the first five.

And, to be blunt, I'm not so sure that H*A*W*K*E*Y*E* or Hunnicut in Mill Valley would have been the next Frasier

Alas: we'll never know.

Phil said...

Glad to have discovered this site as I'm currently working my way through Season One of "afterMASH" and finding it quite enjoyable. Although I was aware of it at the time it debuted, I recall having no interest really in watching it and, in a strange way, I'm glad that this was the case. Viewing it now, so many years removed from the end of MASH and without really any expectations, I feel as though is best because I don't feel the need to judge it against MASH itself (something I likely would have done back in 1983-85). Plus, it's a treat to essentially be enjoying some "new" MASH-like material.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...