“M*A*S*H” did a good job of portraying a war zone. It took a season four episode to inspire the special titled “Our Finest Hour.”
Before that one aired, though, “The Interview” would foreshadow the hour-long episode. That one would be a season four episode that wrapped up the show for another year.
Using both color and black-and-white film, “The Interview” has reporter Clete Roberts speak with members of the “M*A*S*H” 4077th. It is a powerful way for the show to let its characters speak to the dangers and horrors of war.
“It (‘Our Finest Hour’) came out of it in the sense that we just stole from ourselves the same concept,” show director Burt Metcalfe said in an interview with the Academy of Television History. “But no, we made all-new footage, if that’s what you mean.
“It wasn’t that we used leftover footage,” Metcalfe said. “No, no, it was done in the fourth year and that episode (‘Our Finest Hour’) was done, I think, at the end of year seven. So it was three or four years later.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Uses L.A. Newsman In ‘Our Finest Hour’
Metcalfe said Roberts was a longtime anchorman in the Los Angeles television news market.
“And he came back that second time and we did it as an hour and we did a lot of the same techniques,” Metcalfe said. “Also, in that one, we actually used film from earlier episodes.
“In other words, took intact clips from earlier episodes whereas, on the original episode, everything that you saw was shot for that and that one episode only,” Metcalfe said.
Throughout “Our Finest Hour,” all of the show’s characters had clips shown from their work. That included McLean Stevenson, who played Col. Henry Blake; Larry Linville, who played Maj. Frank Burns; and Wayne Rogers, who Captain “Trapper John” McIntyre. Those three actors had left “M*A*S*H” by the seventh season, so it marks the only time the entire cast past and present appear in one episode.
With “M*A*S*H” already a big ratings hit for CBS, taking an episode across one hour instead of its usual half-hour timeframe was unique. That season four episode set the stage for one of the most memorable shows in its history.
Gary Burghoff Becomes First Star Cast For TV Series
One of the challenges for a show like “M*A*S*H” is to find actors that would fit its different roles.
They were able to snag one of the stars of film director Robert Altman’s version of “M*A*S*H” for the TV series.
Gary Burghoff, who played Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly in the movie, was signed on for the same role by TV show creator Larry Gelbart.
If you recall, Burghoff was the right-hand man to both Col. Henry Blake, played by McLean Stevenson, and Col. Sherman Potter, played by Harry Morgan, on the show. “Radar” had a unique sense of timing as in when to enter the colonel’s office.
Remember when “Hawkeye” Pierce, played by Alan Alda, and “Trapper John” McIntyre, played by Wayne Rogers, would bug Blake? It took them getting past “Radar” to get in there. The same goes for “Hot Lips” Houlihan, played by Loretta Swit, and Maj. Frank Burns, played by Larry Linville. No one paid attention to the man from Ottumwa, Iowa.
Yet Burghoff’s character is one people still remember to this day. They see him as part of “M*A*S*H” reruns all over the world.