Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hawkeye's speech

First off – a programming note: I will be making a rare on-camera appearance Wednesday night at 10 PM on TVLand. The program is called MY FIRST TIME (and no, it's not what you think). TV stars talk about their big break. My partner and I gave Katy Segal her first job on the Mary Tyler Moore comeback disaster we did called MARY. (A show that could be the subject matter for a series called MY WORST TIME.)

Since it appears my entire body of work is destined for TVLAND (if not there already), it is only appropriate that that's where I show up. I taped my segment over a year ago so God knows what I said or how I look. I hope I don’t regret alerting people to this.


Here’s the speech from our first MASH, “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” that took us a week and at least fifty drafts. But launched our career.

Hawkeye was temporarily blind, with no guarantee he’d ever see again. He dealt with it by staying very busy, even being a little manic. Finally, B.J. sits him down in Post Op and they have the following exchange:


Listen, Hawk, why don’t you just settle down for five minutes? I know what you’re trying to do, and I know how you really feel.

No you don’t.

You don’t want to have time to think about what might happen to you.

That’s not it. Sure, when Overman walks in tomorrow and unwraps my package, I hope to God I’ll have my sight back. But in the meantime, this crazy accident has taken on another meaning.


One part of the world closed down for me, but another part opened up. Sure, I’ve been seeing myself sitting on a corner with a tin cup selling thermometers. But things are happening that take me away from that. This morning I spent two incredible hours listening to a rainstorm. I didn’t just hear it, I was part of it. I’ll bet you never realized that the sound of rain hitting the ground makes the same noise as steaks when they barbeque, or that thunder seems to echo forever. And you can’t believe how funny it is to hear someone slip and fall in the mud. Had to be Burns. Beej, it’s full of trapdoors, but I think I’m using this thing to my advantage. I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.


stephen said...

Please! You keep teasing us with Mary Tyler Moore horror stories, but you never actually tell them. Just give us one...and then some more

Anonymous said...

I didn't think I would watch "My First Time"--those shows usually aren't my cup of tea--but I certainly will tune in to see the face attached to the voice. Thanks for the heads up.

Beth Ciotta said...

I can see why it took so long and so many drafts to write. So few words to pack such a huge punch. Thanks for sharing, Ken.

Anonymous said...

On another note -- Ken, the best reason I can think of why it took you and David two weeks to write that speech is that he and you must have walked around for those two weeks blindfolded. That speech is brilliant! How many of us "seeing" people (and I won't even say "people who have the advantage of sight" after reading that speech) would think about how the sightless would perceive their world and tune into the other senses they had so that something as basic as a rainstorm could make such an impression? Just out of curiosity, because I don't recall the episode right offhand (although I'm sure I have seen it at one time or another), was the time frame in the story between the onset of Hawkeye's blindness and that speech supposed to be a similar two-week period?

MaryAn Batchellor said...

"I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life."

What an amazing opportunity screenwriters have -- sewing oats of gold in a puddle of mud.


Here's to making it a conscious day.

Anonymous said...

Ken, can't wait to hear your MTM stories! Interviewed her many years ago. She was one of the coldest, most distant people I had interviewed. Remember the character she played im "Ordinary People"? Not far from her in real life!

Tom Dougherty said...

I'm really glad you posted this little moment. It's one of my favorites from the Burns era. It reads really nicely, but Alan Alda sold the line well too.

And let me add my voice to those begging for some MTM dirt. Just a little, please?

Anonymous said...

The 'blind sight' speech and Hawkeye's speech to B.J. in the fourth season episode when he's accidentally declared dead are probably my two favorite soliloquies by Alda during the run of the series. They're both serious, but they're not overbearing, as so much of the serious dialogue would become towards the end of M*A*S*H's run.

Of course, I also like Hawkeye's speech in the nurse's tent when Bigelow is undressing from the same episode, though I wish he had waited a little longer before making the button reference. :)

Anonymous said...

love all these mash stories. I remember the series always aired at midnight, in my country, Singapore, and it was my last show of the night. I would tape it and then watch it again tomorrow and then again in the middle of the week until i could memorize the dialogue. It as a master class in writing comedy.


how did the mash writers come up with character of winchester? it must have been hard to replace burns..or was it hard at all?

Blondie said...

I love that episode; and that speech always gives me goosebumps.
I laugh out loud every time he says it must be Burns who fell in the mud. Frank was a wacko, but he was a funny wacko!

Anonymous said...

I, too, must hear the MTM horror stories! What evil lurks behind that big toothy grin?

But Ken, "Mary" may have been a disaster to work on, but it was a pretty good show - I remember it. Now, "Small Wonder" - that's a disaster. Not "Mary".

Anonymous said...

Things must have been really interesting with MTM.


meow !

The Curmudgeon said...

Surely you're not going to say something bad about Mary Tyler Moore herself!

My lower lip is already trembling, my eyes are watering... Oh, Roooooob!

I mean, Oh, Kennnnnnnnn!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I get to make the first comment about Ken on "My First Tme" --"the older brother Marvin Hamlisch doesn't talk about"...:)
I'll also say that you and Nancy Plum are now probably neck and neck in the voice timbre stakes.

I don't know...I saw the face of a mature, intelligent, articulate member of the creative community, generously sharing his perspective on someone at the beginning of their career--someone he felt had much potential even then. Am I terribly foolish in wanting to hear the sweet lovable voice of the man on the radio--the one that even in a three-decade old aircheck, never fails to put a smile on my face no matter how often I listen to it?

I'm not dismissing any of your other wonderful accomplishments, Ken...but doesn't this prove the power and magic of radio? When Beaver Cleaver can reach across time and space and touch someone simply with the words he used and the way he used them?

By Ken Levine said...

Thanks, Paul,

I'll announce it more formally in the blog later in the week but this upcoming Monday and Tuesday I will be co-hosting the Stephanie Miller syndicated radio show with Elayne Boosler. 6-9 am on the west coast, 9-noon on the east.

I miss being on the radio. I'm still a radio geek at heart.

Anonymous said...