‘M*A*S*H’: Alan Alda Explains How Improvisation was Creatively Curated For the Classic Episode ‘The Interview’

by Atlanta Northcutt
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Many episodes of M*A*S*H are so fluid that they seem to be flawlessly improvised by the actors. However, there’s only one special episode that comes from pure improvisation.

“The Interview” is just that; an interview with the castmates of the show who answer questions and give off-the-cuff responses.

The 97th episode of the CBS series M*A*S*H was also the final episode of the fourth season, airing in February of 1976.

The M*A*S*H Episode “The Interview”

The episode follows War Correspondent Clete Roberts and a camera crew as the members of the 4077 are interviewed and answer questions.

The episode is in black-and-white. “The Interview” focuses on the men and women of the 4077 sitting down with Roberts as he asks a series of questions. These include, among others, staff morale, families of soldiers, the newest medical advances in treating casualties, recreational activities, including drinking, what is missed most about home, relationships formed within the unit, and more.

Unsurprisingly, Hawkeye makes anti-establishment remarks and commentary. He is sure to not let fans down during this special episode where the actors receive the chance to work improv into the scenes. He even curses on film at one point, which is very rare for that time period.

In that same way, the mobile surgery unit members give responses similar to that of what their characters’ would say.

Improv Responses by Cast Members

Hawkeye, B.J., and Col. Potter are sure to praise the work of the nurses at the 4077, commenting on how much hard work goes into the job.

“They give back life. Can you do better?” responds Klinger.

However, Frank describes them as being “competent.”

When it comes to heroes, Hawkeye doesn’t have any. Yet, Col. Potter responds with Honest Abe and Harry Truman, which seems fitting.

All of the staff members receive the chance to say something to family and loved ones in the U.S. Klinger responds happily, as he says hello to Laverne, his family, and all of his friends. Radar mentions his mother and uncle. B.J. says hello to his wife and daughter, and Father Mulcahy says “hello” to anyone who is watching.

Of course, Frank and Col. Potter decline giving any remarks.

On “The Interview,” Hawkeye comes in with the typical “Hawkeye” response, saying hello to Harry and Bess Truman.

Hawkeye’s Viewpoint On “The Interview”

Writer and director Larry Gelbart has been praised by Alan Alda, the actor who plays Hawkeye, for his work in combining improv and scripted material to create these smooth scenes on “The Interview.”

Here is something you may not have known about this very unique and clever episode. It’s actually based on a real documentary that covers similar topics in the same format while speaking with soldiers. “Inside North Vietnam” is by British journalist Felix Greene. It’s evident that “The Interview” takes bits and pieces of the famous documentary, which never actually appears on TV. “Inside North Vietnam” drew so much criticism that some congressmen even wrote a protest letter, calling it “communist propaganda.”

M*A*S*H may not be based on Vietnam. However, it is taking place during the Korean War. The overall synopsis of the show, as well as the episode, stands with the standpoint that any and all Wars aren’t particularly good. This is evident all the way throughout M*A*S*H. In fact, the final episode covers how the main voice and character of the show “Hawkeye” is institutionalized due to the atrocities of the war he’s seen as a military surgeon. The light-hearted, happy Hawkeye that we all know and love, ends up facing the harsh reality that many servicemen find after returning home from duty.

Outsider.com