MaryAn Batchellor wonders:
How did you come to write the Billfold Syndrome?
The Billfold Sydromee is an episode of MASH my partner David Isaacs and I wrote in 1978. It’s part of the 7th season if you want to find or rent a copy and watch it. And it’s probably airing right now on three cable channels.
There’s also a subplot where Charles learns he’s been passed over for chief of thoracic surgery at Massachusetts General because he’s in Korea. In frustration he vows never to talk to anyone in the camp again, which of course is laying down the gauntlet for Hawk & Beej who then go to outlandish lengths to get him to talk.
A terrific actor – Kevin Geer played the young medic. Alan Alda directed masterfully, wringing every laugh and tear out of the script.
The title “Billfold Syndrome” is a psychiatric expression: Someone looks at his I.D. or billfold and can’t place himself.
Because we knew it would be heavy subject matter we wanted to do a B-story that was comedic. We kept of file of notions and the Charles story seemed to fit the bill(fold).
David and I got together with a prominent Beverly Hills psychiatrist I knew and he walked us through the hypnosis process step-by-step. We used some of the doctor’s lines verbatim.
Hypnosis is such a tricky area. It can come off very sketchy. We all took great pains to treat it seriously and portray the scene accurately. Again, my thanks to Alan for directing that scene with such sensitivity.
It’s one of my favorite MASH episodes. As a comedy writer I’m often asked, “So can you write drama?” and I always point them to this. No, it’s not CSI:MIAMI but it’s all I got.