This month, several posts will relate to final days of filming the series in January 1983. We begin this week by looking at the script for the episode that was filmed last, “As Time Goes By.”
As we kick off 2022 and the 50th anniversary of M*A*S*H, I thought it would be best to spend January looking back at how the series wrapped in January 1983. The episode “As Time Goes By” (11×15) was the final episode filmed and it was the final scene of this episode, burying a time capsule, that was captured by hundreds of press photographers and reporters that were on set. I have a copy of the script in my collection as well as copies of the Call Sheet for that final day. Let’s review both and see how the penultimate episode of the series compares to the written script.
My copy of the script for “As Time Goes By” is marked “Final” on the cover meaning that it was printed before the episode went into production. As table reads and production began, revisions would then be made and sent to members of the cast and crew. Then after filming, a “Revised Final” copy of the script would have been sent to the production company and network since it would closely resemble the final episode. This copy does not have revised pages, so it may have gone unused. I would imagine that more copies of this script were printed since it was the final episode filmed and there were more people on set to observe as filming wrapped.
The episode was written by Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford and was printed December 20, 1982. This is pretty remarkable considering the episode was filmed in January and aired in February. The turn around time between the script being produced, filming being completed, and the final episode airing was just over two months! And M*A*S*H was shot on film with a single camera, so there was a lot of manual editing work to be done before the final episode was ready for CBS. Even in today’s digital world, this is still an incredibly fast timeline!
As I mentioned earlier, there are no revised pages in this script. There also aren’t any shooting schedules, call sheets, wardrobe pages, or handwritten notes. I am not sure who used this script, or whether it was used at all. But I do know that it was produced by 20th Century Fox Television for the series. There are a lot of scripts similar to this on eBay, but be wary as many of those scripts are photocopies. 20th Century Fox didn’t use bright white paper to print scripts. In fact, the paper has a green tint to it. Some scripts were even printed on blue, pink, or yellow paper, but never modern white copy paper. If you see a copy of a script for sale that has stark white pages, that is an immediate red flag. Just a little consumer advice!
While my copy of the script didn’t come with any call sheets, I do have two call sheets from the final day of filming, January 14, 1983, in my collection. I am sure many of these were printed (the Smithsonian also has a copy of in their collection). One copy belonged to Bob Hill, the stand-in for Mike Farrell (see my post about “Death Takes a Holiday” to learn more about Hill). The other copy belonged to Michael Hirsh, who was on set that day. Hirsh produced the PBS documentary Making M*A*S*H. The call sheet is like all the others in that it lists who needs to be on set that day, which scenes are being filmed, and includes a full second page of set requirements. It wasn’t until I was writing this post that I noticed a difference between the two copies. See if you can spot the change between the first two photos below:
The first image shows the original call sheet for January 14, which would have been based on the final copy of the script. But there was a change. Kelley Nakahara was listed as an extra to be in the shot during the time capsule scene, but in the revision, she was given a line. So in the second photo, we see that her name has been moved up and is under G.W. Bailey’s. Nothing else changed on the page other than the movement of her name, and as I watched the episode, I noticed that Kelley’s line was not in my copy of the script. This is a great example of why I really enjoy scripts and production documents! They give us a rare glimpse into the process of creating M*A*S*H.
The Final Episode
Of course this episode isn’t the finale, but it sets up “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” very well. The burying of the time capsule was a great way to wrap up the series. Former characters are mentioned including Col. Blake, Radar, and Frank Burns as items are added to the time capsule (or not added in the case of Burns). This episode has some iconic storylines. The chopper pilot who brings the wounded soldier to MASH despite the broken fan belt. The hilarious use of the dummy grenade by Rizzo then Charles. And, of course, the introduction of Soon-Lee, Klinger’s future wife. As a penultimate episode, “As Time Goes By” has held up very well.
As far as differences between the final episode and the script, there weren’t too many other than the typical minor word change here and there. Since this copy does not contain any revised pages, there are some line changes. The first appears when Hawkeye and Margaret are first discussing the idea of time capsule in the Officers’ Club. There are also a few line changes between Rizzo and Igor when the grenade changes hands. The biggest change came at the end as the time capsule was buried. In my script, there aren’t as many objects shown going into the time capsule as there were in the episode.
The final scene as they are all gathered around the time capsule is iconic. Knowing that they were together, filming for the final time. Knowing that all of the reporters were watching behind the scenes as they spoke their lines. Knowing that the cast buried a real time capsule on the Fox. This all makes this episode very special and one of my favorites. The emotions in that final scene are on par with those in the last half hour of the finale because it was truly the end of M*A*S*H.