This is one of my favorite MASH pranks. I wish I had pulled it.
In those days we never had to get story approval from the network. All they asked is that we provide one or two sentence log lines for each episode (like what you’d see in TV Guide). Often we’d be tardy and eventually send them seven or eight at a time, usually after the fact.
In the 8th season, John Rappaport was one of the producers. CBS hounded him for the story synopses and he eventually complied. For one he wrote “Hawkeye is distraught when he learns of the stateside death of his good friend, Trapper.”
The network went nuts. They frantically called and said, “You can’t do that story!” Feigning innocence, John asked “why not?” “Because we have a show premiering in September called TRAPPER JOHN, M.D.” they said. John shrugged and asked why it was his problem. The network rep insisted they can’t do that episode. John said, “But we’ve already shot it.” The network almost exploded. Finally, to prevent any heart attacks, John revealed it was just a joke.
That story could never happen today because most networks demand that show runners send them not just the log lines but full detailed outlines to be approved. I just keep thinking back to the days when there was little or no network interference and it seems to me those shows turned out sort of okay. Good enough for there to be a TVLand. I fear the comedy shows of today will have to rerun years from now on TVLandMine.