It’s interesting, I think, how obituaries tend to focus on a single thing that people have been in and talk exclusively about that. For one thing, Gene Reynolds wasn’t just a producer. He had a career as an actor first. He was a writer and a director. And even beyond that, he did more than just M*A*S*H. I’m not going to lie; it’s my favourite of the shows he worked on. Fond memories of Blossom, sure, but I’ve never actually seen Lou Grant, for example. And yet I’m fairly sure literally everyone will be posting pictures of him in Malibu. Which is not to say that I’m not, but yeah.
Gene Reynolds, however, started in an Our Gang short in 1934. He appeared in a couple of Andy Hardy movies. He was in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. He did an episode of Lux Video Theatre. He was never a big name in acting, but he did a little, and he seems to have been making a success at it. I don’t know why he switched to working behind the camera, but he was still acting at the time.
In 1957, he helped create Tales of Wells Fargo, during the Western boom. It ran for a total of 200 episodes. He would go on to write and direct literally dozens of shows, as well as produce. His career lasted until 1998, when he directed the last of the three episodes of Touched by an Angel he did. I mean, it’s incredible. He shaped so much TV even without mentioning the big two he helped create in the ’70s.
But, yes, M*A*S*H. I’m one of those people who is of the opinion that the show got better the farther it got from its roots—I don’t, in fact, like the movie, which is awful and misogynistic. And as it happens, Gene Reynolds came up with the story of the moving “Heal Thyself” as well as the delightfully silly “Movie Tonight.” He wrote “The Price of Tomato Juice,” and he gave Hawkeye an interesting personality twist in “The More I See You.” He directed twenty-four episodes, from the pilot to “Margaret’s Marriage.”
Probably people who know Lou Grant could do the same “and here’s the impressive stuff he did on that show.” And it’s not getting the attention, I guess because M*A*S*H remains stronger on the public consciousness. Even I mostly think of the character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which I’m aware is a much different show. And I’m sure that Reynolds did as much to shape Lou Grant on it as he did to shape Hawkeye and the others on M*A*S*H, so I do kind of wish I’d seen it to talk more about it—his career was much more than a single show.