Monday, January 08, 2007

the MASH 30 year reunion special

The Hallmark Channel recently ran a MASH marathon, which means they were showing MASH 18 hours a day instead of the normal 16 (and I LOVE them for it. Those $.74 residual checks just keep rolling in).

They also showed the 30th ANNIVERSARY MASH SPECIAL that aired on Fox in 2002. As one of you readers mentioned, I was featured… for six seconds. And that was more than any of the other writers got.

When they were putting together the special they invited groups of us longtime MASH writers to be interviewed. They broke us up into two groups of five. My group was interviewed for two hours. Same with group two. We all told great anecdotes, had wonderful concise overviews of the show filled with insight, great pith, and social perspective. We were funny, charming, articulate, dazzling – you would have been proud of us. The end result: my six second sound byte and one master shot of us sitting at a table like loxes made it to air. And I imagine the production company had to be arm wrestled into using that much.

Fortunately, in the round table discussion with the actors, Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds, and Burt Metcalfe were included. You never see them in any cast photo but these three men really were the heart and soul of MASH. I always maintain that when my partner, David and I were head writers during the middle seasons we were just allowed to take the wheel and drive daddy’s car for awhile. But it was Larry, Gene, Burt, and later, Alan Alda who really established the series, gave it its tone, humor, humanity, and voice.

The actors roundtable segment was seemingly done on the MASH set. In truth, it was a replication, filmed not on Stage 9 at 20th Century Fox but on some rented sound stage in Hollywood. But walking on that set, seeing those familiar tents, and reuniting with the people who were so much a part of my life for so long, it was very eerie. And impossible to even fathom that 30 long years had passed.

I was six when I was on MASH so of course I still looked good, but I was happy to see how well everyone else looked.

It was a wonderful reunion. We writers told the same sparkling stories we did at the interview, desperately hoping someone would listen. Thank you, Jaimie Farr, for indulging us.

Being a part of MASH was like being a member of a Superbowl winning team. It was an experience I will always cherish.

Networks are so intent on shaking up the sitcom format. They’re frantically grasping for anything different and new. Maybe instead of looking forward they should be looking backwards…

30 years.

26 comments:

OhioRuthie said...

My two favorite episodes:
When Henry died and the very last one...the stones spelling out goodbye...my dad had to watch every week...those are the two the stand out for me.

Jesse Wendel said...

Ken -

Can we get a larger photo of the three writers? Possibly have the existing one link through to a bigger one when we click on it or something? I'd really like to see whom it is that did the work.

Thanks much.

Tony said...

jesse,
The originating site uses frames, so you can't link to the picture in context, but if you poke around (Pics, then People, then Reunion) you can find that picture and some others: http://helmi.home.pages.at/mash/english/index.html

Mike Barer said...

What a Blockbuster Saturday night when MASH, All In The Family, and Mary Tyler Moore were all on in the same night on the same network.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

How true...I believe you are right, that the networks should be looking to the past...
I am pretty "old"...well, not as old as some, but...Dear Gene is my nrighbor and a good friend, too....I first met Burt back in the early 60's just before I met Gen....and Larry G., well, he has such a magnificent history in TV....like WOW!
And his dear wife Pat is a wonderful singer who has been a part of an AIDS Benefit that I was involved with for 20 years, besides having a really rich history at MGM, "back in the day"....Isn't that an interesting phrase that has come into out culture....?
I am so enjoying reading your blog, Ken....I got here through Ray Richmond's blog...! (My real name is Naomi..)

benson said...

And Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett in that Saturday night "Murderer's Row" lineup.

Funny thing is, I guess I've changed, because I just can't watch "All in the Family" anymore. I don't know if it's the politics of it, or more likely, the fact that I just want people get along with each other, or that I now know it's not as simple as one side being always right.

Anonymous said...

2 things-
one, I think it was TV Land and not Hallmark Channel. At least, TV Land was where I saw it. And two-- does that raw interview footage still exist anywhere? Isn't that why something like the Museum of TV & Radio exists, to have a place for footage like that, that didn't get aired but which we should really hold on to for posterity's sake?

baabaanne said...

My favorites: Henry's death; the best finale I have ever seen on television; and the one I watched last week (yes, on Hallmark), the one where Hot Lips gets engaged to Donald (last name I cannot spell)and Frank Burns starts to REALLY lose it.

Anonymous said...

That same MASH Marathon you mention rejunvenated my love for the program, and caught my 15-year-old daughter's attention, as well. I posted on an earlier thread with a question I'll ask again here: After the show finished its run, we saw spin offs with several characters, including a pilot for the Radar character and Trapper John,M.D. Why did we never see or hear of shows featuring a post-Korea Hawkeye?

Paul Duca said...

It looks like TV Land and the Hallmark Channel will be running episodes concurrently (the way you can see ROSEANNE on both Nick at Nite and Oxygen), so that means $1.48 residual checks for you, Ken. Did you catch the TV Land promo(voiced by Harry Shearer, naturally)showing the similiarities between M*A*S*H and HAPPY DAYS? And speaking of residuals, what is your opinion of the suit the cast members filed a few years ago against Fox? This was when there were as many as eight episodes a day running on FX, and their concern was the damage this would do to future residual streams.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

anonymous at 6:05 a.m.: I obviously can't speak for Ken since I don't have his talent for daily writing or his personable manner, but my guess, just from a M*A*S*H nut's standpoint is that any spinoff involving Hawkeye wouldn't have worked without Alan Alda and he most likely wanted to move on to other projects.

It's like how Bea Arthur wanted out of The Golden Girls and that show eventually ended, and they tried a spin-off, The Golden Palace, with just Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty (and adding on Don Cheadle, Cheech Marin, and that annoying made-for-TV kid they had in the early episodes). The series bombed because the anchor of the previous show, Arthur, wasn't there. There was a well-established dynamic that was never toyed with during those seven seasons of The Golden Girls and The Golden Palace proved just how much of a dynamic that was.

And I only bring up those four women from Miami because my dad's favorite sitcom is The Golden Girls. He literally watches it every night on Lifetime, no matter how many times he's seen whichever episodes the channel is showing. Through me, he also has six seasons of the show on DVD, but that doesn't make a difference. ;)

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Ironically, the only time The Golden Palace ever sparked was in a two-parter which featured Bea Arthur. as Dorothy.

Jesse Wendel said...

Thanks Tony.

jwe

Cully Hamner said...

You know, I enjoyed the spate FRASIER anecdotes so much. I wouldn't mind something similar about MASH...

Jack Ruttan said...

Durn writers, get no respect. If actors are "camera meat," I wonder what derogatory nickname they use for writers when we're not around?

Shakespeare? Keyboard Monkey?

The worst I've gotten is "the creative," with a certain roll of the eyes.

theprofessor said...

Caught a MASH rerun with one of Hawkeye's old flames showing up. For a second I thought, wow, how could Gwyneth Paltrow be on that show? Wouldn't she have been too young? Then, of course, I realized: Blythe Danner (her mom). Look so much alike. Though Blythe's husky voice is far sexier. Sexy episode, too.

janice said...

Ken-
I'm glad to hear those residuals are rolling in - MASH, in my opinion, is the best show ever broadcast. I can watch the episodes from now until the day I die and I will always find them entralling (Thanks to dvd - although I was bit upset when 20th century fox got me to buy each season individually and then came out with the entire series in one set along with extras you can not purchase such as the 30 year reunion.) But, like any other diehard MASH fan, I continue to stay true to my love and collect original MASH memoribilia. That's great work you did and the next generation is discovering also (such as my 11 year old son.)

Dhppy said...

It amazes me how many men, even the ones who avoid "chick flicks", get a kick out of the Goldern Girls.

There's a Columbo (love the early ones) with Blythe Danner where she's married to an evil philandering Conductor (I think it's Cassavetes), and she looks just like Gwyneth.

So, Ken, I saw the special, and now I finally get to put a face to the name. For awile there I confused Wilcox with Isaacs. I thought "Wow, two tall guys with full heads of hair, they must have been the envy of the writers' room".

janice said...

Oh - and Ken- if you're ever cleaning out your closets and need to get rid of some old MASH scripts - well, I would feel like I had died and gone to heaven if you sent an autographed one my way.

Dhppy said...

Don't you dare send me any of those.

I have a hard enough time thinking about the few working writers I know now.

I have terrible visions of life a year from now of me flipping through a great classic script signed by one of the best writers with my grubby little hands after a night of working as the world's oldest stock girl at Jons.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but any episode of "M*A*S*H" with an Alan Alda writer or director credit should be avoided - it's guaranteed to be trite or schmaltzy. Same thing with "All in the Family"/"Archie Bunker's Place" after Carroll O'Connor gained control, and "Roseanne" after Roseanne Barr gained control. Actors should not be in charge of their TV series, with very few exceptions (Jerry Seinfeld and Desi Arnaz, to name two).

Mike Barer said...

Maybe I like Troyt and schmalzy.

Neil said...

Really enjoying your blog Ken. I was a huge fan of MASH through my teenage years and here in the UK, we were lucky enough to have the BBC remove the canned laughter from the show. It made the whole viewing experience much more powerful and, crucially, much much funnier.

WF said...

I was 12 when "Abyssinia Henry" first aired in March '75 (aye carumba). My parents were out for the evening and when they came home I remember yelling "Mom! They killed Henry!" and she just wouldn't believe me.

Great show, except for the laugh tracks. You lucky Brits. Are they optional on the DVDs?

Anonymous said...

i just watched the finaly for the first time, i'm 15, i cant get it out of my mind, it's sooo good and sad!

Anonymous said...

Great Great Show! My wife and I do not have any type of TV Service and rely on an episode of Mash almost nightly! Tonight we found a value packed DVD at WALMART for a very very low price! It included the 30 year reunion which I have never seen. Mash is relaxing and so enjoyable especially after a long 12 stressful day at my job. THanks to any and everyone who helped in any part produce or develop the show and series. Nothing will ever replace it! (Golden GIrls does run a very close 2nd, but not my #1!-MASH)