Press Pass 13: “Ninth-Season Premiere Episode [Letters]”

Released October 28, 1980, this press release announced the season nine premiere episode, “Letters.” However, if you look at the DVDs and any M*A*S*H episode guide that is in broadcast order, you quickly notice that is wrong! According to the release, on November 17, 1980, M*A*S*H would premiere on CBS with that episode. However, “Letters” didn’t actually air until the next week. The episode “The Best of Enemies” was the actual season nine premiere. So what happened? The truth is, I don’t know. The episode “Letters” was produced before “The Best of Enemies,” but production order and broadcast order often don’t match. It is odd that they changed the season premiere episode in a time span of less than three weeks. Was a follow-up press release issued? Again, I don’t know, but I will keep an eye out for one!

As for the release itself, this is a great example of what an episode preview press release looked like. You got a the episode’s title, a brief summary, a brief overview of M*A*S*H, and a list of the primary cast along with guest stars for that episode. These would have not only previewed the upcoming episode, but they were a great way to tease big name guest stars in the series. At one page, this isn’t he longest press release, but it is what would have been the most common at the time. Not only were releases like this sent for M*A*S*H, but for all other shows. It was how the public learned what their favorite show was going to be about from week to week.

When I first chose this press release for this week’s post, I didn’t even notice the error. I wanted to discuss how this type of press release would have been very common at the time. But when I noticed the title of the episode, I realized there was a mistake. The press release didn’t match what we know now! I did some research, and I cannot find any reason why the episodes were switched. It could have been an executive at the network thinking that “The Best of Enemies” would be a stronger premiere episode, or it could simply be a case in which the editing for “Letters” wasn’t done in time. We may never know, but it is an interesting piece of M*A*S*H history and a look behind the scenes.

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