Press Pass 20: “Burt Metcalfe Promotes Quartet to M*A*S*H Creative Positions”

In the summer of 1981, M*A*S*H was headed into its tenth season, and executive producer Burt Metcalfe had been at the helm of the show since Larry Gelbart left the series after the fourth season. Metcalfe had creative control, and this week’s press release announces some decisions he made in the show’s creative staff. This press release may be short, but there are some important promotions to the M*A*S*H creative staff announced in it.

The first promotion announced was John Rappaport being named supervising producer. In addition to be credited as a producer and supervising producer, Rappaport wrote ten episodes of M*A*S*H between seasons eight and eleven including “Period of Adjustment” (08×06), and he was a co-writer of “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (11×16). The next announcement was the promotion of Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox, and Dennis Koenig to series producer. Wilcox and Mumford were writing partners and had been executive script consultants before the announcement. The duo are credited with writing 17 episodes from seasons eight to eleven (not counting the episodes for which they also served as executive script consultants). Koenig had previously been the executive story editor for the series before being promoted to producer. He was also a writer for the series being credited with 17 episodes from seasons eight through eleven (not counting the episodes for which he was credited as story editor). M*A*S*H worked to maintain top writing and creative talent for the final seasons of the series, and these promotions are evidence of that.

The final announcement mentioned, albeit briefly, was the the addition of Karen L. Hall as a story editor. Hall would later be promoted to executive story consultant on M*A*S*H. The series seemingly launched her career. Hall went on to write for hit television series such as Hill Street Blues, Judging Amy, and The Good Wife. She also served as a creative consultant for Grace Under Fire, Roseanne, and Judging Amy. She also wrote for M*A*S*H and is credited with writing nine episodes between seasons nine and eleven. She was part of the writing team for “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” along with Rappaport, Mumford, and Wilcox. Hall was one of very few women in the writers’ room at M*A*S*H, and so it is fitting that the first episode she wrote was “Father’s Day” (09×04). It is a Margaret centric episode in which we see her complex relationship between her and her tough-as-nails Army colonel father.

While this press release is only one page long, it discusses the promotions of four key members of the M*A*S*H creative staff. Mumford, Wilcox, Koenig, and Hall would remain key parts of production until the series ended in 1983. All four of these talented writers and producers would go on to work after their time on M*A*S*H. They were pivotal to the show’s final seasons, and I believe their work deserves to be highlighted. Especially today, it is important that we understand and respect the work of writers. They are the creative force behind all of our favorite shows, and they deserve to be recognized and fairly compensated for their talents. That was true in 1980, and it is especially true today as we are deep into the age of streaming. The creative staff on a series is just as important to the production as the actors we see on screen.

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