Saturday Single No. 239

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before.

This morning, I went to Netflix and added to my list of home-delivered DVDs the final episode of the television series M*A*S*H, the February 28, 1983, episode that ties off – as much as it can, I assume – the eleven seasons of the acclaimed (and pervasive) television series.

I’ve never seen it.

Actually, I’ve never seen most of the episodes of the show’s last six seasons, from the autumn of 1977 through that February 1983 finale. I was a reporter at the Monticello Times during those seasons, and the show was aired on evenings when I mostly had other things to do: In 1977-78, M*A*S*H was aired on Tuesdays (according to Wikipedia), and my Tuesday evenings were pretty well filled, what with covering high school games and other sports events, telephoning coaches for results of yet more events and helping to put the weekly newspaper together at the shop.

In the autumn of 1978, M*A*S*H moved to Monday evenings, where it stayed for the rest of its run. Starting that autumn, I had coverage of the Monticello City Council added to my responsibilities. The council met on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. That coverage came in addition to my covering the city council in the nearby city of Big Lake, which met the first and third Mondays of the month. If there were a month with five Mondays – and that happened four or five times a year – I’d get a Monday evening off, at least from that particular beat.

So when it came to M*A*S*H – or to anything else that regularly took place on Mondays – my being able to enjoy it was unlikely. Monday and Tuesday evenings were work nights. That’s just the way it was. I’d never been that much invested in television shows, anyway. Most of my television viewing during my college years had been news, sports and the occasional special.

I did work out one Monday evening arrangement during my years at the Monticello Times. My boss, DQ, was aware of my fervent interest in the Minnesota Vikings, and he and I came to an agreement that if the Vikings played on a Monday evening when I was scheduled to be at a Big Lake City Council meeting, I could stay home and cover the meeting after the fact, through telephone interviews. One condition of our agreement was that if I ever missed an important aspect of a Big Lake story by my absence, that arrangement would end. My attendance at Monticello’s meetings, however, was required.

As for M*A*S*H, I’d seen numerous episodes over the years and had enjoyed them, but the show was not essential viewing for me. The final episode, however, was a little bit different. The prospect of tying up the eleven years intrigued me. I wasn’t alone in that, of course: From that finale’s airing on February 28, 1983, until the February 10, 2010, Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, the M*A*S*H finale was the most-watched show in television history.

And I didn’t get to see it. It was the fourth Monday of the month, so I was at Monticello City Hall, where the council meetings started at 7:30 and usually ran until sometime around 10 o’clock. This particular meeting went until about 9:50. I made my way home, and as I entered the living room, I heard the music of Johnny Mandel’s “Song from M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless),” signaling the end of the show. The Other Half looked up from the couch. “It just ended,” she said.

I asked her not to tell me about it, certain that I would catch it in a rerun. Wikipedia says the episode is part of the show’s syndication package, but I know I’ve never seen the whole thing. I have vague memories of seeing bits and pieces of it, although that might have been in a retrospective on the entire series. I don’t know.

I do know that sometime this next week, a red envelope from Netflix will be in our mailbox, and I’ll spend some time – perhaps with the Texas Gal joining me – catching up on a show I missed twenty-eight years ago.

And given all that, the only possible choice for music is a version of “Song from M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless).” So here’s my favorite version of the tune. It was released by Grady Tate on his 1970 album After The Long Drive Home and it’s today’s Saturday Single.


4 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 239”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    I didn’t own a TV set until 1976 or 77, and then pulled the evening shift on WJON, so I missed most of M*A*S*H during those years. But I did catch the finale, along with an old radio bud who’d driven down from St. Cloud for an Oklahoma City visit.

    Sam Neely immediately recorded “The Party’s Over (Everybody’s Gone)”, a nice tribute to M*A*S*H’s final episode. MCA rushed the single out, and I promptly added it to the KOMA playlist. I’m not sure whether the label actively worked or even serviced the record to pop or adult contemporary, but it only charted country in Billboard. Peaking at number 78 during a four-week run, it, too, was soon gone. It’s now back on YouTube:

  2. jb says:

    You saw all of the necessary seasons of MASH–the ones that are funny. I’ll be interested to learn what you think of the finale.

  3. porky says:

    that show’s quality dropped fast. A tried and true hint: if Mike Farrell is sporting a mustache in the opening credits, it’s from the bad years.

  4. […] lesser-known cover of “Love Has No Pride.” Jazz drummer and singer Grady Tate has shown up here once before, with his 1970 cover of “Suicide Is Painless (Song from M*A*S*H).” He covered “Love Has No […]

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