A reader asked me about the “Goodbye Radar” episodes of MASH. They were the last MASH scripts my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote. We wanted to title the show “Goodbye Levine & Isaacs” but CBS nixed it.
The episode was originally scheduled to wrap up season seven but the network worked out a deal with Burghoff to come back season eight for six shows and do the finale as a two-parter during November sweeps. We left the series after season seven as well but agreed to return to write the two-parter.
The first problem was that this decision to push back the finale was made at the last second so we had to scramble for that final episode of season seven. David and I wrote “Night at Rosie’s” over a weekend and it began filming the next day.
When it finally came time to film “Goodbye Radar” Gary decided he didn’t want to wear his hat. This became a big issue and remains a sore spot with me to this day. Our contention was that without the hat he no longer looked like a kid, he looked like a balding man rocketing into middle age. Also, for reasons I still can’t fathom, he chose to play the character somewhat angry throughout.
Trivia note: in the show he hooks up with a future girlfriend. We named her Patty Haven, one of my former girlfriends.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with the final result. Charles Dubin’s direction really elevated it.
The one thing David and I wanted to avoid was a lot of schmaltz. We did not want long gooey farewell speeches with a lot of crying and hugging. So we devised a story where choppers arrived with injured patients just as Radar had to leave. Farewells were delivered on the run. And this is how we ended the show:
EXT. COMPOUND – NIGHT
Tired and sullen, Potter, Hawkeye, and B.J. (still in bloody surgical garb) EXIT. O.R. and head towards “The Swamp”.
Pierce, you were a good boy in there. You only threw one instrument, and two tantrums.
Well, the finger’s improved. It’s up to excruciating.
(looking up) Warm night. Maybe I’ll take a walk and unwind.
Sounds relaxing. I’ll get a couple of flashlights. You can look for minefields, I’ll check for snipers. (beat) Where do you think he is now?
Doesn’t matter. He’s away from here.
I really miss the kid, you know?
I’m going to name my first wife after him.
They reach “The Swamp”.
Well, I’ve walked enough.
Me too. Let’s see if the bar is open in this place.
INT. “THE SWAMP” – NIGHT
Potter, Hawkeye, and B.J. ENTER.
He’s probably halfway to Hawaii by now.
B.J. flops on his cot. Hawkeye is at the still, fixing three drinks.
(yawning) I don’t want to think about it anymore.
Potter stops, looking down at Hawkeye’s bunk.
CLOSE ON HAWKEYE’S BUNK
Lying on his pillow is Radar’s teddy bear.
BACK TO SCENE
Touched, Potter picks up the teddy bear, hands it to Hawkeye.
(to teddy bear) Good-bye, Radar.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
By Ken Levine at 11:23 PM