Monday Night March 12, 1979
It’s 9 o’clock. Time for M*A*S*H
Absolutes are hard to prove. So, let’s start with the word, “almost.”
Almost all of those who enjoyed television entertainment in the late 1970s, have forgotten the 8 PM and the 8:30 PM situation comedies that CBS broadcast on Monday nights, but everyone remembers that M*A*S*H came on at 9 o’clock. Just in case you’re one who has forgotten, at 8 pm there was Billy and at 8:30 came Flatbush. Both programs were failures and completely forgettable. Billy managed to find an audience for only two months (March and April 1979) and Flatbush, that chronicled the antics of five recent high school graduates from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, was as funny as a broken leg. It lasted for three episodes.
On that March evening in 1979, the M*A*S*H episode was entitled, “The Party.” The doctors had a long session in the operating room and were relaxing over some cups of coffee and some letters from home. Peg (B.J.’s wife, back home in California) wrote that she had ruined their stove because she burned the jam she was making. Colonel Potter suggested that Peg should get in touch with Mildred (the colonel’s wife) because Mrs. Potter makes a huckleberry-kumquat combination that is tasty.
It was then that B.J. had an idea of asking his fellow comrades-in-medicine to write home and suggest that their families have a “reunion” party at the Hotel Pierre in New York. All the standard M*A*S*H antics follow: his friends seem indifferent to the reunion, the team is forced into two bugouts, and while they try to agree on a convenient date a series of calendar conflicts occur. Then there was an issue about where the group picture would be taken. And when it was decided that the photo should be done under the camp’s signpost, Klinger, refuses to participate because Mrs. Klinger (his Arabic speaking mother) back in Toledo, thinks that Max is at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Finally, a date of March 28th is set. The families meet at the Hotel Pierre. The Winchesters are enamored with the O’Rielly’s, the Houlihans, put aside their divorce differences for the night and dance every dance together, and Dr. Pierce (Hawkeye’s father) and Mrs. Potter enjoy doing the Lindy together.
When the letters pour in on Hotel Pierre stationery, Radar reads Peg’s letter aloud in the operating room. And, as the publicists wrote in the review, forty-four years ago, “The hugs, tears, kisses, and love span the globe, wrapping the 4077 in a happy glow.”
The party that was the theme of this M*A*S*H episode, took place on March 28, 1953. It was in truth a Saturday night. In the real-world on that day, Jim Thorpe, America’s most famous all-round athlete died. Joseph Stalin, Russia’s most brutal dictator was buried in the Kremlin Necropolis. The weather in New York City that day was partly cloudy, the high temperature was 55 degrees and fair skies, and milder temperatures were predicted for Sunday.
On March 28, 1953, the fictional “back home in the states” families of the M*A*S*H characters gathered at the Hotel Pierre, in New York City. They were Margaret Potter, the wife of Colonel Sherman T. Potter, a “full-bird colonel” with 26 years in service as an army doctor who has never sent a bill to any patient; Dr. Daniel Pierce, a doctor from Crab Apple Cove, Maine; Peg Hunnicut, a California stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old; Mr. and Mrs. Winchester, a Boston blue-blood couple who left their winter home to attend; Mrs. Edna O’Rielly and her brother Ed, farmers from Iowa; Colonel (ret.) and Mrs. Alvin Houlihan, Margaret’s parents, who are in the midst of a nasty divorce; Father Mulcahy’s sister and nun, a highly skilled basketball player and saxophonist, and Mr. and Mrs. “Butch” Klinger, Lebanese-American immigrants living in Toledo, Ohio. If any of Max’s thirteen uncles on the “Abodeely” side of his family were present, they are not mentioned.
The M*A*S*H war time comedy-drama was aired on CBS-TV from September 17, 1972, to February 28, 1983. It was developed by Larry Gelbart as a spin-off series adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, which, in turn, was based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel.
In 1982, the year before the final episode, “Good-bye, Farewell, and Amen” aired, the American Postcard Company prepared a 24-card set of M*A*S*H cards showing scenes from previous episodes and the cast members who made the show so memorable. To this day the last episode holds the record for viewership of a scripted television show.
Oh, how things have changed!
This 1933 Curt Teich linen postcard shows the Pierre Hotel at the left edge of the photo. It pre-dates the Korean War by twenty years, but the skyline remained unchanged until early in the 196os.
Just for fun!
The M*A*S*H families stayed in the Pierre for at least one night and enjoyed the party and breakfast on Sunday. There is no mention of the expense associated with the event in the television program, but there is a likelihood that such an event would never happen in today’s world due to the cost.
A google-search at the Hotel Pierre’s online reservation site indicates that a “standard, king-size bedroom” for one night is now $952. If you wish to have a “signature grand suite” the price jumps to $13,552. Both rooms come with free breakfast.