In unofficial conjunction with the Longbox Heroes After Dark podcast its time to discuss another failed TV spin off. Today I take a look at the failed M*A*S*H spinoff starring Radar, Walter!
If you would like to hear the After Dark discussion on the episode, head over to their SITE on Friday when the episode goes live.
Way back in Season 8 of M*A*S*H there was a two part episode titled “Good Bye Radar”. The actor who had played Radar in the original movie and the series was ready to move on to something else. He received a spin off in 1984. Season 8 of M*A*S*H was 1979. This was less of a spin off and more of a “hey you guys got any more of that M*A*S*H”?
Personally, I never got into M*A*S*H. Nothing against the series. I understand it’s appeal, quality, and what it means to both America and pop culture. But when I was younger it was always the show that was on at the babysitters or family member’s house when I wanted to watch something else. It was boring to a child. That is just so deep in me I never went back to really watch it from the beginning. At some point though, I think an anniversary prime time replay, I did watch the final episode and fully understand the legacy of it. “It wasn’t a chicken,” is arguably one of the most powerful lines ever written in any medium.
Other than that, this was definitely my first time watching “random” episodes of M*A*S*H. There isn’t a chance of me writing anything that hasn’t been said hundreds of times before. I’m sure not every episode is a hit, but for these two the power, the quality, the gallows humor, the one liners intertwined with the absolute seriousness that is war. When I think of when this originally aired, things going on in the world, and the fact that it still airs today. I have no idea when I could possibly find the time but I think I need to watch all of M*A*S*H at some point in my life. The only knock against it is the laugh track. Partly a product of its time, but also I think the track is permission. Hey, its OK to laugh at this even though its a really messed up situation.
Then there’s Walter. In the pilot for Walter, aired as a “special”, Radar is back in his hometown. He and his mom sold the farm, he got married and divorced but still has not known a woman, he’s a police officer, a mentor for a street punk, flirting with the local pharmacy clerk, and missing his brothers from the 4077. All of this in a half hour, minus commercials. It’s a lot of explanation, exposition, and set up. In fact, it’s too much for twenty something minutes and that’s where it falls apart.
At the end of the episode the show finally finds itself, but too late. A show about the young boyish Radar becoming the man Walter and taking all that he has learned and all of his experiences in order to grow past his mentor status quo and become the leader is a great idea. A father figure, a lover, a pillar of the community, a positive example of law enforcement. An audience is built in to watch the culmination of adulthood for a character they saw grow over 8 seasons.
However between sitcom logic, trope side characters, and even an impromptu dance number on top of a luncheon counter – it all falls apart. While M*A*S*H could raise hopes in the middle of darkness, Walter feels like a chop to the chest.