Today is the anniversary of “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the final episode of M*A*S*H. It was 37 years ago that TV’s version of the Korean War ended and all the personnel shipped home, in a cloud of series-finale-worthy tears and hugs. As you may know, I like M*A*S*H a lot; recently we lost its co-creator Gene Reynolds, a lifelong Hollywood figure who produced, wrote, and directed dozens of the shows.
Reynolds had an immeasurable influence on M*A*S*H, the way he did on the many other TV series he made. (“Blossom,” anyone??) He was one of a small handful of people, Alan Alda among them, who saw M*A*S*H through its brilliant middle seasons, preserving the serious overtones necessary in a war narrative without losing the show’s black-comedy foundation. My absolute favorite of his episodes is “Hanky Panky,” which sees BJ Hunnicutt experience a morality lapse, suffering guilt after cheating on his wife with a company nurse.
When I met a group of M*A*S*H fans online, I was surprised to learn this was an unpopular episode with them–BJ is known for his devotion to his wife and family, and being a “good guy” in general, so this seemed out of character. But that’s why I like it. Good guys do make mistakes, and many guys also react the way BJ does the next day, turning icy around his one-night stand and refusing to talk to her, because this is somehow more “good” or virtuous than being her friend. Gene Reynolds wrote and directed this show, on which he was also the executive producer. The actress Ann Sweeny, who played Carrie Donovan, married Reynolds in 1979 and they were together until his death.
2020 has also taken M*A*S*H’s Kellye Nakahara Wallett, whose Nurse Kellye was a part of the series for all 11 seasons. In learning about M*A*S*H, I was always happy to find that Nakahara gave every indication of being like her TV alter ego. In interviews, she was funny, down-to-earth, and sweet, with a strong core of independence. While she did not work much as an actor post M*A*S*H, she continued with her original vocation as a painter. She was a dearly beloved member of the cast, with a robust fan following too.
See a gallery of Kellye’s work here, along with a nice biography.
And here, read MeTV’s article about Kellye’s origins on the show and as an actress.