So, after you've spent the last eleven... ahem, three years depicting an Army hospital in The Korean War, what can you possibly do for an encore? Why, come back to the U.S. and restage the whole shebang in a veterans' hospital, of course! With the show's least interesting characters and Expies of the ones whose actors refused to come back! How could it fail?
Fail it did. Why? For starters, the wrong hands got a hold of the franchise and decided to overplay the comedic elements of the original series. What was once a Comedy Drama devolved into pure Slapstick, and from there, things just smoldered out.
It didn't help that, after the first season did reasonably well in the ratings (enough to be renewed for a second), CBS executives decided to program the second season directly opposite The A-Team, thinking it would be the one to topple that up-and-coming Goliath. They even commissioned print ads of Klinger shaving off the iconic mohawk off Mr. T, for crying out loud! The ratings tanked, and the show went off the air.
The three M*A*S*H regulars to return were Col. Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy, although Radar and even Flagg dropped by as Special Guests. What's that, you ask? Didn't Klinger Choose To Stay in Korea in the parent show's Grand Finale? Well, don't worry; that was Hand Waved away in the pilot, because Soon-Lee's parents turned up safe and sound. Oh, and Mulcahy got his hearing back because we can't have deaf people on television. (Actually, Klinger and Mulcahy end up returning to resolve some lingering plots from the M*A*S*H finale.) Anyway, the result is essentially the same show as M*A*S*H except without the war. Too bad the war was the dramatic driving force behind the whole thing.
AfterMASH provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Father Mulcahy became one of these after returning home, which is why he moves to Missouri to make a fresh start with his old pals from Korea.
- Christmas Episode: "All About Christmas Eve"
- Cliffhanger: The first season ended with Klinger put in jail just as his wife, Soon-Lee, is going into labor.
- Courtroom Episode: Season 2's "Trials", which sees Klinger defending himself on assault charges (and old "friend" Col. Flagg brought in as a witness for the prosecution).
- Disguised in Drag: Klinger dons a nurse's uniform to elude the cops in one episode.
- Dr. Jerk: Subverted with Boyer, who's initially rather caustic to staff and patients alike but soon softens considerably.
- Expy: Several of the supporting characters were these for former M*A*S*H regulars.
- Gene Pfeffier/Dr. Boyer = Hawkeye/Trapper/BJ
- Mike D'Angelo = Henry Blake
- Wally Wainwright = Frank Burns
- Alma Cox = Early-seasons version of Margaret Houlihan
- Local Hangout: A bar is conveniently across the street from the hospital.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: A pair of these are the main source of conflict now that the war's over.
- Photo Montage: Used for the opening credits in season 1.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Mike D'Angelo, the hospital administrator in season 1.
- Pun-Based Title: AfterMASH! It sounds like "aftermath"!
- Put on a Bus: Neither Pfeiffer nor D'Angelo made it past the first season. The former actually disappears without explanation, while the latter is transferred to a different hospital in Montana.
- Repetitive Name: Potter works at Gen. Pershing Veterans Hospital, familiarly known as "General General".
- Retool: The second season. Season one went quite well. The show recognized its limits, and ended up placing 15th — great for a brand-new show — unless you happen to be CBS, which wanted the numbers its predecessor always pulled (in later seasons — early on, it too took a while). So Klinger went back into drag, Soon-Lee became a caricature, and Barbara Townsend's sturdy competent Mildred Potter was replaced by Anne Pitoniak's shrewish airhead, meant to make her "more like Gracie Allen". S1 had 22 eps and placed 15th; S2 had 8-10 eps and placed 90th.
- Running Gag: The hospital sits beside a railroad, so trains are frequently heard rumbling past.
- Shoot the Television: On the episode "All About Christmas Eve", Father Mulcahy gets a TV so that the long-term patients at the Missouri Veteran's Hospital can have it for Christmas and beyond. However, the airing of a soap opera with a story about a cheating wife infuriates a vet who fears that his wife is running around on him, and he summarily shoots the TV. Some vets are still staring through the hole in the set when all is done.
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Alma Cox, although the "sugar" side is mainly reserved for her unrequited crush D'Angelo.
- Thanksgiving Episode: "Thanksgiving of '53"
- Wrap It Up: The three main characters seen from the parent show come back and get resolution for their greatest troubles:
- Soon-Lee finds her parents, allowing Klinger to finally go back to America with his wife and in-laws in tow.
- Father Mulcahy has struggled with depression after losing his hearing, but Potter helps him go in for surgery that will fix it.
- Potter has a long-awaited reunion with his beloved wife.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Klinger finally returns to Toledo, but his family and friends reject him for marrying a Korean.