The strength of M*A*S*H lies in its many memorable characters. From its “Pilot” in 1972 to its record-setting “Farewell” in 1983, the Korean War dramedy saw beloved faces come and go. Henry Blake perished aboard a plane at the end of season three. Trapper left; B.J. replaced him. Charles Winchester replaced Frank “Ferret Face” Burns. Radar heads home on a hardship discharge in season eight. A different actor portrayed Father Mulcahy in the first episode.
In the end, Alan Alda and Loretta Swit would somehow be the only actors to appear in both the first and last episodes.
But there is one episode that features every significant cast member of the series — we’re talking Hawkeye, Trapper, Potter, Klinger, Radar, Margaret, B.J., Blake, Burns, Mulcahy and Winchester. You can find it in season seven.
Okay, yeah, “Our Finest Hour” cheats a bit. The two-part tale follows the format of a vintage newsreel on black-and-white film. A war reporter arrives at the 4077th and interviews the doctors, nurses, officers and staff. In between these documentary-style conversations, we see flashbacks to favorite moments from early in the series. Thus, Blake, Trapper and Burns return, albeit in clips.
The man holding the microphone is worth noting, as well.
Clete Roberts was no mere character actor. The broadcast journalist had been a war correspondent in the real Korean War. So, he is playing himself on “Our Finest Hour.” Nor was this his only appearance on M*A*S*H. Three seasons earlier, he had been seen as simply “The Interviewer” in “The Interview,” a groundbreaking episode that paved the way for everything from This Is Spinal Tap to The Office.
Los Angeles viewers would have been far more familiar with Roberts — he anchored the evening news on KTLA at the time.
No wonder he turned up all over classic television as a broadcaster. Keep your eyes peeled from him as a newscaster in Mannix (“License to Kill – Limit Three People”), Cannon (“That Was No Lady”) and Columbo (“Dead Weight” and “Candidate for Crime”). He also turned up in similar roles on Bewitched and Simon & Simon.
The M*A*S*H universe would give Roberts his final acting role. The pilot episode for the Radar spin-off, W*A*L*T*E*R, again utilized Clete as an interviewer. The legendary newsman would die two months later.