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…