W*A*L*T*E*R was a pilot for a spin-off of M*A*S*H made in 1984 that was never picked up. It starred Gary Burghoff, Ray Buktenica and Victoria Jackson, who was two years removed from joining the cast of Saturday Night Live.
The show related the adventures of Corporal Walter (Radar) O'Reilly after he had returned home from the Korean War. The woman he had romanced during his final appearance on M*A*S*H was nowhere to be found. More importantly, he was no longer calling himself "Radar" and he had moved away from Iowa. Taking root in St. Louis, Missouri, he had become perhaps the world's gentlest police officer.
Difficulties in showing
Since the pilot was never picked up by CBS as a series, it was shown as a "CBS Special Presentation" in July 1984. It was shown once in the Eastern and Central time zones of the United States, but pre-empted on the West Coast by CBS News coverage of the 1984 Democratic National Convention. This is the only known broadcast of the pilot.
The episode takes place after the series finale of M*A*S*H, and immediately following a two-part guest appearance on AfterMASH, in which Walter was forced to leave the family farm.
The episode opens with Walter (formerly Radar) O'Reilly in his apartment with his cousin, Wendell Micklejohn. They are getting ready for their workday while watching the start of a television interview. The interview shows journalist Clete Roberts following up on the members of the M*A*S*H 4077th. Last week Roberts interviewed Hawkeye Pierce and this week he is catching up with Walter. At the police department and on the street in front of stores, Walter and Wendell catch bits and pieces of the television interview, giving viewers a chance to sample the potential series and to build a bridge between the events of M*A*S*H and W*A*L*T*E*R:
Viewers learn that Walter had returned to Iowa, where he failed at farming. He sold the farm and the animals and sent his mother off to live with his aunt. After the events of the AfterMASH episode 'It Had To Be You', Walter's bride Sandy ran off with his former best friend Claude Greevy, the same man she cheated on Walter with before they were married.
Hitting rock bottom emotionally, Walter, after wandering the streets for a time, went into a drug store to get an overdose of sleeping pills (and some aspirin because the sleeping pills give him a headache), but he is befriended by the drugstore worker, Victoria, who cheers him up. His cousin Wendell helps Walter to get a job as a beat cop for the St. Louis Police Department, and Walter proves to be quite valuable in resolving smaller situations: he ends a dispute between two strippers, and later gets his wallet back from a young would-be thief whose older brother was killed in Korea.
The pilot seems to show that W*A*L*T*E*R would have been light-hearted, simple comedy, in keeping with the Walter/Radar's character on M*A*S*H, but without the social value and heavier drama of the parent show.
- Gary Burghoff as Walter O'Reilly
- Ray Buktenica as Wendell Micklejohn
- Victoria Jackson as Victoria
- Noble Willingham as Sergeant Sowell
- Meeno Peluce as Elston Krennick
- Clete Roberts as The Interviewer
- Sam Scarber as Haskell
- Lyman Ward as Bigelow
- Sarah Abrell as Judith Crane
- Larry Cedar as Zipkin
- Francine Gable as Pretty Girl
- Victoria Carroll as Bubbles Sincere
- June Berry as Dixie Devoe
- Bobby Ramsen as The Singer
- Dick Miller as The Theater Owner