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Neither Shakespeare nor M*A*S*H, but also not so bad
After MASH tried, and for its first season, at least, it succeeded. Its creative people and primary actors knew what it wasn't, and so pursued stories based on its strengths. It used the nostalgia for the original, it used the way a veteran's life can be turned upside down if not shattered, even when they get home. Recent tales from Iraq and Afghanistan vets dealing with the VA show us that what Potter dealt with was truth. Klinger grew ever further away from the scam artist seeking to get out. The Padre didn't just shrug off his hearing problem, and in one instance, found himself screwed out of reimbursement for his later hearing restoration, but used this to aid a soldier also up against the bureaucracy. Mrs. Potter as played by Barbara Townsend was the woman we always knew she'd be. Rosalind Chao, a few years shy of going on to Star Trek, brings believeable charm to oft-naive immigrant war bride Soon-Lee Han Klinger. One problem that did come was that the humor and drama of Potter not being in charge of the Veterans' hospital rapidly dried up in the face of his Burns-ish opponent, making one wish Larry Linville himself had done the job. Also, the new extras were annoying. Screen time used for them could have easily gone to the five mains. But S1 was strong otherwise, and if the show had been permitted to find its own feet, I can honestly say five seasons was not an impossibility. If all guest spots had been handled like Radar's was, that could have been a strong draw. But then came S2, and a CBS determined to fix what wasn't broken. Goodbye, Max evolving. Goodbye, wise funny Mrs. Potter. Goodbye, adapting Soon-Lee. However, the annoying extras they kept and gave more screen time to. After MASH should not be a warning against the After Show. It should be a warning against Executive Meddling that, so long as those putting up the money think their ideas have worth, will sadly never be heeded.
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