As I conduct my writing seminar this weekend here are a couple of MASH related posts. This is the story of how David Isaacs and I got our first MASH assignment.
We had sold a JEFFERSONS and a couple of episodes of another series, JOE AND SONS, cancelled one nanosecond after we turned in our second script. (Surprisingly, there are no JOE AND SONS tribute websites.) Our agents moved up to the agency that also represented MASH executive producer, Gene Reynolds. He read and liked our JEFFERSONS and invited us to come in and meet. My partner and I had met in the Army Reserves so we were very comfortable writing a military show. This was season five, Larry Gelbart, had just left, and Gene was looking for new writers. Forget for a moment that the two of us together couldn’t carry Larry Gelbart’s pencil sharpener, we jumped at the chance.
We had a good meeting, were loaded down with research material, and told to come back when we had some stories to pitch. I asked how many stories? At the JEFFERSONS writers were allowed to pitch only three. Gene said as many as we had.
A week later we were back in his office with FIFTY stories. There was no way we were going to walk out of there without a sale. Needless to say, he was a little overwhelmed. By idea number fifteen he put two of them together and gave us the assignment.
We were over the moon. (Quick aside, a little over a year later we became head writers of MASH and wound up using most of those fifty stories.)
The two stories for that initial assignment were:
A gas heater blows up and Hawkeye is temporarily blind.
And Frank bets on baseball games aired by Armed Forces Radio live in the middle of the night then rebroadcast during the day. Thus he bets knowing the outcome. (This came from a true story I heard about from the Far East Network in Viet Nam.) Our spin was that Hawkeye discovers this and he, B.J., Radar, and Klinger do a recreation of a game to fool him.
The episode was called OUT OF SIGHT/OUT OF MIND. Our draft was very well received and proved to be the turning point of our career.
It took us two weeks to complete -- one week to write just one speech. But that speech was key to the episode.
Tomorrow – that speech.