M*A*S*H (TV series)
|Based on||M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker|
|Developed by||Larry Gelbart|
David Ogden Stiers
|Theme music composer||Johnny Mandel (written for the film)|
|Opening theme||"Suicide Is Painless"|
|Ending theme||"Suicide Is Painless" (big band version)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||11|
|No. of episodes||256 (list of episodes)|
|Location(s)||Los Angeles County, California (Century City, Malibu Creek State Park)|
|Running time||30 minutes with commercials, except "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (2 hours with commercials)|
|Production company(s)||20th Century Fox Television|
|Original network||CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System)|
|Original release||September 17, 1972– February 28, 1983|
|Related shows||Trapper John, M.D.|
M*A*S*H is an American television series that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1983. It was developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, which, in turn, was based on Richard Hooker's 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The series, which was produced with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS, follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the "4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War (1950–53). The show's title sequence features an instrumental-only version of "Suicide Is Painless", the original film's theme song. The show was created after an attempt to film the original book's sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, failed. The television series is the best-known of the M*A*S*H works, and one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Episodes
- 5 International broadcast
- 6 Reception
- 7 Home media
- 8 Spinoffs and specials
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
M*A*S*H aired weekly on CBS, with most episodes being a half-hour (25 minutes) in length. The series is usually categorized as a situation comedy, though it has also been described as a "dark comedy" or a "dramedy" because of the often dramatic subject matter.[a]
The show is an ensemble piece revolving around key personnel in a United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War (1950–53). (The asterisks in the name are not part of military nomenclature and were creatively introduced in the novel and used in only the posters for the movie version, not the actual movie.)[clarification needed] The "4077th MASH" was one of several surgical units in Korea.
As the show developed, the writing took on a more moralistic tone. Richard Hooker, who wrote the book on which the television and film versions were based, noted that Hawkeye's character was far more liberal in the show than on the page (in one of the MASH books, Hawkeye makes reference to "kicking the bejesus out of lefties just to stay in shape"). While the show is traditionally viewed as a comedy, many episodes had a more serious tone. Airing on network prime time while the Vietnam War was still going on, the show was forced to walk the fine line of commenting on that war while at the same time not seeming to protest it. For this reason, the show's discourse, under the cover of comedy, often questioned, mocked, and grappled with America's role in the Cold War.
Episodes were both plot- and character-driven, with several narrated by one of the show's characters as the contents of a letter home. The show's tone could move from silly to sobering from one episode to the next, with dramatic tension often occurring between the civilian draftees of 4077th – Hawkeye, Trapper John, and B.J. Hunnicutt, for example – who are forced to leave their homes to tend the wounded and dying of the war, and the "regular Army" characters, such as Margaret Houlihan and Colonel Potter, who tend to represent patriotism and duty (though Houlihan and Potter could also represent the other perspective at times). Other characters, such as Col. Blake, Maj. Winchester, and Cpl. Klinger, help demonstrate various American civilian attitudes toward army life, while guest characters played by such actors as Eldon Quick, Herb Voland, Mary Wickes, and Tim O'Connor also help further the show's discussion of America's place as Cold War warmaker and peacemaker.
M*A*S*H maintained a relatively constant ensemble cast, with four characters – Hawkeye, Father Mulcahy, Margaret Houlihan, and Maxwell Klinger – on the show for all 11 seasons. Several other main characters departed or joined the program during its run, and numerous guest actors and recurring characters were used. The writers found creating so many names difficult, and used names from elsewhere; for example, characters on the seventh season were named after the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Note: Character appearances include double-length episodes as two appearances, making 260 in total.
|Hawkeye Pierce||Alan Alda||Captain||Chief surgeon||251|
|Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan||Loretta Swit||Major||Head nurse,
(Recurring seasons 1–3, regular 4–11)
later company clerk
(recurring seasons 1–4, regular 5–11)
|George Morgan (pilot episode), replaced by William Christopher||First lieutenant,
|Trapper John McIntyre
|Wayne Rogers||Captain||Surgeon||72 + 1 uncredited voiceover ("Welcome to Korea")|
|McLean Stevenson||Lieutenant colonel||Commanding officer,
later lieutenant colonel (off-screen)
|Surgeon, executive officer
temporary commanding officer (following the death of Henry Blake)
(one episode as second lieutenant due to falsified promotion)
|B. J. Hunnicutt
(replaced Henry Blake;
|Harry Morgan||Colonel||Commanding officer (after Lt. Col. Blake),
|Charles Emerson Winchester III
(replaced Frank Burns;
|David Ogden Stiers||Major||Surgeon, executive officer (after Major Burns)||137|
Main character timeline
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- Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
Pierce was born and raised in New England, most often mentioning Crabapple Cove, Maine, with a few references to Vermont. The character refers to having a sister but at other times identifies himself as an only child. His mother is deceased, and he is close to his father (in the novels lobsterman/fisherman "Big Benjy" Pierce, in the TV series Dr. Daniel Pierce). In the film Hawkeye is married with children, but in the TV series he is a bachelor and something of a ladies' man. He was given the nickname "Hawkeye" by his father, from the character in the novel The Last of the Mohicans, "the only book my old man ever read." His birth name is taken from a member of Hooker's own family named Franklin Pierce.
He attended Androscoggin College. In the book and the film, Hawkeye had played football in college; in the series, he is non-athletic. After completing his medical residency, he was drafted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps and sent to serve at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War, an assignment he openly resents. Alda said of Pierce, "Some people think he was very liberal. But he was also a traditional conservative. I mean, he wanted nothing more than to have people leave him alone so he could enjoy his martini, you know? Government should get out of his liquor cabinet".
Hawkeye has little tolerance for military red tape and customs, feeling they get in the way of his doing his job, and little respect for most Regular Army personnel. He does not wear rank insignia on his fatigues or polish his combat boots, and on the rare occasions he wears his Class A uniform, does not wear any of the decorations to which he is entitled (which include the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, a couple of Army commendation medals, and the Army Distinguished Unit Citation, four Purple Hearts, and the Combat Medical Badge). On occasions, he assumes temporary command of the 4077th due to the absence or disability of Colonel Blake or Colonel Potter. Although he acquits himself well, it is plain he is not comfortable with the responsibility that goes with being the commanding officer.
As a surgeon, he does not like the use of firearms. He refuses to carry a sidearm as required by regulations when serving as Officer of the Day. When Potter orders him to carry his issue pistol on a trip to an aid station, and they are ambushed on the road, he fires it into the air rather than at their attackers.
In the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", Hawkeye experiences a mental breakdown when a Korean woman responds to his frantic demand that she quiet her infant child lest enemy soldiers hear it and discover them, by suffocating it. When the Korean Armistice is announced, he states his intention to return to Crabapple Cove, to be a local doctor who has the time to get to know his patients, instead of contending with the endless flow of casualties he faced during his time in Korea. In Hooker's two sequels, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine and M*A*S*H Mania, Hawkeye returns to live in Crabapple Cove.
- "Trapper" John McIntyre
Wayne Rogers ("Trapper" John McIntyre) was planning to return for season 4, but abruptly withdrew over a disagreement about his contract. He disliked having a supporting role to Alda, and had been threatening to leave since season 1. His departure was unexpected and there was no onscreen farewell. Rogers felt his character was never given any real importance and that all the focus was on Hawkeye.
Rogers's replacement, Mike Farrell, was hastily recruited during the 1975 summer production hiatus. In the season's first episode, "Welcome to Korea", Radar informs Hawkeye that Trapper was transferred to a stateside assignment while Hawkeye was on leave, and B. J. Hunnicutt is Trapper's replacement. Radar describes Trapper as so jubilant over his release that "he got drunk for two days, and then he ran naked through the mess tent with no clothes on." Radar says Trapper made him promise to give Hawkeye a kiss as a farewell message.
- Margaret Houlihan
When Margaret Houlihan became engaged to a fellow officer, Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot, she had a falling-out with Frank and became much friendlier to Hawkeye, B.J., and her subordinate nurses. She later married Penobscot, but the union did not last long. The "Hot Lips" nickname was rarely used during the last half of the series. In early seasons Margaret speaks of the war in glowing terms, and its potential end as a bad thing, but by "Temporary Duty", when a friend comments that the war can't last forever, she says, "It already has." Later she regards it as major factor in her eventual divorce, crying, "It's my fault. Look at the place I picked to have a marriage." Loretta Swit wanted to leave the series in the eighth season to pursue other roles (most notably the part of Christine Cagney on Cagney & Lacey), but the producers refused to let her out of her contract. Swit originated the Cagney role in the made-for-TV movie that served as the pilot of the series.
- Frank Burns
Larry Linville noted that his character was easier to make light of after head comedy writer Larry Gelbart departed after season 4 and Frank and Margaret parted ways in season 5. After season 4, Linville realized that he had taken Frank as far as he could, and he decided that since he had signed a five-year contract, he would leave the series after season 5. During the first episode of season 6, "Fade Out, Fade In", Frank suffers an off-camera nervous breakdown due to Margaret's marriage and is held for psychiatric evaluation. Hawkeye offers a toast to Frank's departure, pausing only a moment, then saying "Goodbye, Ferret Face." In an unexpected twist, Frank is transferred to an Indiana Veterans Administration hospital, near his home in Fort Wayne, and is promoted to lieutenant colonel. Unlike McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers, Linville had no regrets about leaving the series, saying, "I felt I had done everything possible with the character." Executive Producer Gene Reynolds also left after the production of season 5, and Burt Metcalfe and star Alan Alda took over the producing responsibilities. During season 6, Alda and Metcalfe consulted Reynolds weekly for help with their new jobs as executive producers. The two remained as executive producers for the remaining six seasons, as Reynolds was credited as a creative consultant along with Alda.
Frank Burns had four different middle names or initials during his time on the show: W. (on the punching bag in "Requiem for a Lightweight"), D., X., and Marion.
- Radar O'Reilly
Radar's real first name is Walter; in "Fade Out, Fade In", he introduces himself to Major Winchester as "Walter Eugene O'Reilly". In the book his name is J. Robespierre; in the film it is not revealed. Through a semi-intentional machination of Hawkeye and B.J., Radar was fraudulently "promoted" to second lieutenant for a short time, but discovered he disliked officers' duties and asked them to "bust" him back to corporal. Gary Burghoff, one of only two cast members of the original 1970 film to play the same character in the TV series, began to grow restless in his role by season 4. He appears in fewer episodes in each successive season and by season 7 is in barely half of the shows. Burghoff planned to leave at the end of season 7 (in 1979), but Alda and Metcalfe persuaded him to wait until the beginning of season 8, when they filmed a two-part farewell episode, "Good Bye, Radar" (originally intended to be season 7's finale), as well as a few short scenes that were inserted into earlier episodes (Radar is shown having a horrible R & R in Tokyo). The final nod to Radar came in the penultimate episode of the series, "As Time Goes By", when his iconic teddy bear (actually a different bear than was used throughout the show) was included in a time capsule of the 4077th initiated by Margaret, which Hawkeye says is a symbol of those who "came as boys and went home as men."
- Henry Blake
By season 3 (1974–75), McLean Stevenson had begun chafing at what he considered to be a supporting role to Alda and Rogers. Midway through the season, he informed the producers that he wanted to leave M*A*S*H. With ample time to prepare a "Goodbye, Henry" show, it was decided that Henry would be discharged and sent home for the season 3 finale, which aired on March 18, 1975. In the final scene of his last episode ("Abyssinia, Henry"), Radar tearfully reports that Henry's plane has been shot down over the Sea of Japan, and there are no survivors. This part of the script was kept secret from the cast. The producers wanted the reaction to be as much of a surprise as possible. The episode originally had Henry making it home, but the writers wanted to show that in war people sometimes don't.
- Max Klinger
Klinger frequently introduces himself by his full name, Maxwell Q. Klinger, but never says what the Q. stands for. He grows away from the cross-dressing reputation that overshadowed him, and drops his Section 8 pursuit when he takes over from Radar as company clerk. Both Jamie Farr and the producers felt that there was more to Klinger than a chiffon dress, and tried to develop the character. In the role of company clerk, Klinger became more of the wheeler-dealer Farr had been in the streets of Toledo, Ohio, using those skills to aid the 4077th. Farr stayed for the entire series. Klinger is promoted from corporal to sergeant (he and Father Mulcahy were the only two characters to be promoted on-screen in the entire series). In the final episode, Klinger is ironically the only character to stay in Korea, as he wants to help his wife, Soon Lee, find her parents. (He and Soon Lee marry at the end of the episode.) When Klinger announces that he is staying, Hawkeye says, "You don't have to act crazy now. We're all getting out!" In the short-lived spin-off AfterMASH, it becomes clear that Klinger and Soon Lee (Rosalind Chao) returned to the United States soon after the end of the war. After Soon Lee was subjected to discrimination in Toledo, the Klingers moved to River Bend, Missouri, where Max got a job similar to the one he had had as the 4077th's company clerk, working for Chief of Staff Dr. Sherman Potter, now head of the General Pershing VA Hospital there.
- Father Francis Mulcahy
Chaplain of the 4077th, Father Mulcahy plays the piano and likes to feel needed. He is a fairly good amateur boxer and poker player, and at one stage takes up jogging. A recurring story line in the series has him visiting and bringing supplies to local orphanages. An episode in season 7, "Dear Sis", is filmed from his point of view, as he struggles with feeling useless at the 4077th. William Christopher plays Mulcahy, replacing actor George Morgan, who played him in the pilot episode. Dago Red, Mulcahy's nickname from the book and film, was shortened to "Red" for television but used only in the pilot episode and "Dear Dad". In season 4, Colonel Potter started calling Mulcahy "padre", and that nickname stuck for the rest of the series. Mulcahy was promoted to captain in the episode "Captains Outrageous" after several attempts in previous seasons. Before the promotion, he was a first lieutenant.
In the finale ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"), Mulcahy tells Klinger that his full name is Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, in case Klinger might want to name any of his children after him. He also gives his full name as Francis John Patrick Mulcahy in the eighth-season episode "Nurse Doctor". But in all other episodes his name is John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, and he just wants to be called by his confirmation name, Francis.
- B.J. Hunnicutt
B.J.'s real name is the subject of an episode's secondary plot line. Hawkeye goes to extreme lengths to learn what "B.J." stands for, but all official paperwork indicates that B.J. really is his first name. Toward the end of the episode, B.J. says "My mother, Bea Hunnicut, and my father, Jay Hunnicut" gave him his name. A recurring joke in the episode is that upon being asked what B.J. stands for, B.J. merely replies, "Anything you want." Farrell asked that his character's daughter's name be Erin, after his real-life daughter (the character's name was originally going to be Melissa). When B.J. spoke on the telephone on camera, Erin or his then-wife Judy were on the other end.
- Sherman T. Potter
In the third episode of the fourth season, "Change of Command", Colonel Sherman T. Potter (Harry Morgan) arrives at the unit to assume command, replacing Frank Burns, who had taken over as commander after Blake's departure (season 3, episode 24). Morgan had previously guest-starred in the first episode of season 3, "The General Flipped at Dawn", as General Hamilton Steele.
Potter is a regular Army man, having served in both World War I and World War II, first in the cavalry and later as a doctor. He is passionate about horses, and keeps an old US Cavalry issue McClellan saddle in his office, which is later put to use when he acquires a horse, when Radar gives him one for his wedding anniversary after B.J. and Hawkeye are unable to catch it. This horse, which remained with Potter until the end of the series, was referred to as a colt (Potter remarks, "He can't be more than four years old") in its first appearance, after which it is named "Sophie" and referred to as a mare. In his spare time, Potter also enjoys painting.
- Charles Emerson Winchester III
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) was brought in as an antagonist of sorts to the other surgeons, but his relationship with them is not as acrimonious as Frank Burns's, though he is a more able foil. Unlike Frank, Charles does not care for the Army. His resentment stems in part from being transferred from Tokyo General Hospital to the 4077th, in part because his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Horace Baldwin, owed him a cribbage debt. Also unlike Frank, Charles is an excellent, technically superior surgeon, though his work sometimes suffers from his perfectionism when rapid "meatball" surgery is called for. As with many new MASH surgeons, Charles takes some time to adjust to the fact that faster, less precise work can save lives that more elegant, slower work might cost.
Charles is a snobby Boston blue blood, and though the others respect him professionally, they often conflict with him personally. Still, the show's writers occasionally allowed Charles's humanity to shine through, as when he deals with a young concert pianist who partially loses the use of his right hand, protects a stuttering soldier from other soldiers' bullying (it is revealed later that Charles's sister Honoria stutters), keeps a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father goes into surgery in the States ("Sons and Bowlers"), is willing to be officer of the day for Hawkeye when Hawkeye is offered three days in Seoul, gives blood to a patient even though he already donated blood five days earlier, or, in "Death Takes a Holiday", continues a family tradition of anonymously giving Christmas treats to an orphanage. Charles subjects himself to condemnation after realizing that "it is sadly inappropriate to offer dessert to a child who has had no meal." Isolating himself, he is saved by Klinger's own gift of understanding. Klinger scrapes together a Christmas dinner for Charles, with the provision that the source of the gift remain anonymous (Klinger had overheard Charles's argument with the orphanage's manager). In the episode's final moment, Charles says, "Thank you, Max," and Klinger replies, "Merry Christmas, Charles." In the series finale "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", Charles comes across a group of Chinese musicians who surrender to him. When Charles takes them back to the camp as prisoners of war and later listens to his record of Mozart's Quintet in A major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581, the musicians attempt to play the piece. While impressed that they can even attempt to play the music after only hearing it once, Charles cannot stand to hear them play it incorrectly and spends the next week coaching them. During this time, he is forced to use the little patience he rarely shows. When, to Charles's dismay and protest, the musicians are taken off to a prisoner of war camp in a prisoner exchange, they play the quintet correctly as a farewell to Charles. Later, one of the musicians returns to the camp mortally wounded on a Jeep. When Charles asks where the other musicians are, he is told that their truck was ambushed and there were no other survivors. In shock and disbelief, Charles returns to the Swamp to listen to the Mozart quintet, but removes the record and smashes it in anger. On the last night that everyone at the 4077th is together, Charles says that before the war music was a stress reliever for him, but that because of the Chinese musicians' fate, music will forever remind him of the horrors of war.
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Three MASH 4077 staff members suffered fatalities on the show: Lieutenant Colonel Blake, when the plane taking him back to the States was shot down over the Sea of Japan; an ambulance driver, O'Donnell, in a traffic accident; and a nurse, Millie Carpenter, by a land mine. "Capt. Tuttle", an imaginary person made up by Hawkeye to provide money for Sister Teresa's orphanage, was said to have died when he jumped from a helicopter without a parachute; Hawkeye gave him an ironic eulogy.
Among those wounded were Hawkeye Pierce ("Hawkeye", "Out of Sight, Out of Mind", "Comrades in Arms [Part I]", "Good-Bye, Radar [Part I]", and "Lend a Hand"), Radar O'Reilly ("Fallen Idol"), B.J. Hunnicutt ("The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan" and "Operation Friendship"), Max Klinger ("It Happened One Night", "Baby, It's Cold Outside", and "Operation Friendship"), Father Mulcahy ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" and "Bombed"), and Sherman Potter ("Dear Ma"). Henry Blake was injured four times: once by a disgruntled chopper pilot ("Cowboy"), once by friendly fire ("The Army-Navy Game"), and in season 3, episode 15 ("Bombed"), Henry is injured when he is blown up while in the latrine. (The gag of Blake being caught in an exploding latrine is also in the episode "Cowboy".) Henry is also injured when the latrine catches fire. Father Mulcahy is given a concussion on two separate occasions – first in the episode "Bombed", where he is in the latrine stall next to Blake when it is blown up; and again in "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" when he is knocked out by mortar fire which strikes close by him; he also suffers severe hearing loss as a result of this incident. Frank Burns is twice awarded Purple Hearts for spurious injuries: throwing his back out after he gave Margaret a dip and could not move – which was later covered up with a story that he slipped on the way to the showers ("Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", 1.17), and getting an egg-shell fragment in the eye ("The Kids", 4.8). Burns' Purple Heart medals were then given to more deserving people: a GI who was admitted with appendicitis and a Korean newborn infant who was hit by a bullet in utero.
At least three permanent 4077 personnel suffered emotional breakdowns: Hawkeye Pierce ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"), B.J. Hunnicutt ("Period of Adjustment"), and Frank Burns ("Fade Out, Fade In").
As the series progressed, it made a significant shift from being primarily a comedy with dramatic undertones to a drama with comedic undertones. This was a result of changes in writing and production staff, rather than the cast defections of McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville, Wayne Rogers and Gary Burghoff. Series co-creator and joke writer Larry Gelbart departed after Season 4, the first featuring Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan. This resulted in Farrell and Morgan having only a single season reading scripts featuring Gelbart's masterful comic timing, which defined the feel and rhythm of Seasons 1–4 featuring predecessors Rogers and Stevenson, respectively. Larry Linville (the show's comic foil) and Executive Producer Gene Reynolds both departed at the conclusion of Season 5 in 1977, resulting in M*A*S*H being fully stripped of its original tight comedic foundation by the beginning of Season 6 — the debut of the Charles Winchester era.
Whereas Gelbart and Reynolds were the comedic voice of M*A*S*H for the show's first five seasons (1972–1977), Alan Alda and newly promoted Executive Producer Burt Metcalfe became the new dramatic voice of M*A*S*H for Seasons 6–11. By the start of Season 8 (1979–1980), the writing staff had been completely overhauled, and with the departure of Gary Burghoff, M*A*S*H displayed a distinctively different feel, consciously moving between comedy and drama, unlike the seamless integration of its first five years.
The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 was a significant factor as to why storylines become less political in nature and more character driven. Several episodes also experimented with the sitcom format:
- "Point of View" – shown from the perspective of a soldier with a throat wound
- "Dreams" – an idea of Alda's, where during a deluge of casualties, members of the 4077 take naps on a rotation basis, allowing the viewer to see the simultaneously lyrical and disturbing dreams
- "A War For All Seasons" – features a storyline that takes place over the course of 1951
- "Life Time" – a precursor to the American television series 24, it utilizes the real time method of narration
Another change was the infusion of story lines based on actual events and medical developments that materialized during the Korean War. Considerable research was done by the producers, including interviews with actual MASH surgeons and personnel to develop story lines rooted in the war itself. Such early 1950s events as the McCarthy era, various sporting events, and the stardom of Marilyn Monroe were all incorporated into various episodes, a trend that continued until the end of the series.
While the series remained popular through these changes, it eventually began to run out of creative steam. Korean War doctors regularly contacted producers with experiences that they thought might make for a good storyline, only to learn the idea had previously been used. Harry Morgan admitted that he felt "the cracks were starting to show" by season 9 (1980–1981). Alda wished to make season 10 (1981-1982) M*A*S*H's last, but was persuaded by CBS to produce a slightly shortened 11th season, coupled with a farewell movie finale, because CBS refused to let the show go away so easily. In the end, season 11 had 15 episodes (although six had been filmed during season 10 and held over) and a 2-1/2 hour movie, which was treated as five episodes and was filmed before the nine remaining episodes. The final episode ever produced was the penultimate episode "As Time Goes By". The series finale movie, titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", became the most-watched television broadcast in history, tallying a total of 125 million viewers.
The 4077th consisted of two separate sets. An outdoor set in the mountains near Malibu, California (Calabasas, Los Angeles County, California) was used for most exterior and tent scenes for every season. This was the same set used to shoot the movie. The indoor set, on a sound stage at Fox Studios in Century City, was used for the indoor scenes for the run of the series. Later, after the indoor set was renovated to permit many of the "outdoor" scenes to be filmed there, both sets were used for exterior shooting as script requirements dictated (e.g., night scenes were far easier to film on the sound stage, but scenes at the chopper pad required using the ranch).
Just as the series was wrapping production, a brush fire destroyed most of the outdoor set on October 9, 1982. The fire was written into the final episode as a forest fire caused by enemy incendiary bombs that forced the 4077th to bug out.
The Malibu location is today known as Malibu Creek State Park. Formerly called the Century Ranch and owned by 20th Century Fox Studios until the 1980s, the site today is returning to a natural state, and is marked by a rusted Jeep and an ambulance used in the show. Through the 1990s, the area was occasionally used for television commercial production.
On February 23, 2008, series stars Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit and William Christopher (along with producers Gene Reynolds and Burt Metcalfe and M*A*S*H director Charles S. Dubin) reunited at the set to celebrate its partial restoration. The rebuilt signpost is now displayed on weekends, along with tent markers and maps and photos of the set. The state park is open to the public. It was also the location where the film How Green Was My Valley (1941) and the Planet of the Apes television series (1974) were filmed, among other productions.
The exhibit M*A*S*H: Binding Up the Wounds was at the National Museum of American History from July 30, 1983 through February 3, 1985. The exhibit was extremely popular drawing more than 17,000 in a single week, a record for any Smithsonian display.
On exhibit were The Swamp and Operating Room sets, one of the show's 14 Emmy Awards, early drafts of the pilot script, costumes from the show and other memorabilia. Sets were decorated with props from the show including the iconic signpost, Hawkeye's still and Major Winchester's Webcor tape recorder and phonograph. The exhibit also encouraged visitors to compare the show to real Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals of the Korean and the Vietnam Wars. 
Radar's teddy bear, originally found at the ranch set, was never on display at the Smithsonian. Following completion of production, the prop was kept by the show's set designer. It was sold several times including to Burghoff himself. It was sold at auction on July 29, 2005 for $11,800, it sold again on March 27, 2015 for $14,307.50 after 19 bids.
M*A*S*H was one of the first network series to feature brief partial nudity (notably Gary Burghoff's buttocks in "The Sniper" and Hawkeye in one of the "Dear Dad" episodes). A different innovation was the show's producers' desire not to have a laugh track, contrary to the network's desire to have one. They compromised by omitting laughter in the scenes set in the operating room. The DVD releases of the series allow viewers to select an audio version with no laugh track.
In his blog, writer Ken Levine revealed that on one occasion, when the cast offered too many nitpicking "notes" on a script, his writing partner and he changed the script to a "cold show" – one set during the frigid Korean winter. The cast then had to stand around barrel fires in parkas at the Malibu ranch when the temperatures neared 100 °F (38 °C). Levine says, "This happened maybe twice, and we never got a ticky-tack note again."
Jackie Cooper wrote that Alan Alda, whom Cooper directed in several episodes during the first two seasons, concealed a lot of hostility beneath the surface, and the two of them barely spoke to each other by the time Cooper's tenure on the show ended.
The helicopters used on the series were model H-13 Sioux (military designation and nickname of the Bell 47 civilian model). As in the film, some care seems to have been taken to use the correct model of the long-lived Bell 47 series. In the opening credits and many of the episodes, Korean War-vintage H-13Ds and Es (Bell 47D-1s) were used complete with period-correct external litters. A later (1954–73) 47G occasionally made an appearance. The helicopters are similar in appearance (with the later "G" models having larger two-piece fuel tanks, a slightly revised cabin, and other changes) with differences noticeable only to a serious helicopter fan. In the pilot episode, a later Bell 47J (production began in 1957) was shown flying Henry Blake to Seoul, en route to a meeting with General Hammond in Tokyo. A Sud Aviation Allouette II helicopter was also shown transporting Henry Blake to the 4077th in the episode "Henry, Please Come Home".
The Jeeps used were 1953 military M38 or civil CJ2A Willys Jeeps and also World War II Ford GPWs and Willys MB's. Two episodes featured the M38A1 Jeep, one of which was stolen from a General by Radar and Hawkeye after their Jeep was stolen. Two of the ambulances were WC-54 Dodges and one was a WC-27. A WC-54 ambulance remains at the site and was burned in the Malibu fires on October 9, 1982, while a second WC-27 survives at a South El Monte museum without any markings. The bus used to transport the wounded was a 1954 Ford model. In the last season, an M43 ambulance from the Korean War era also was used in conjunction with the WC-54s and WC-27.
Series creators Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds wanted M*A*S*H broadcast without a laugh track ("Just like the actual Korean War", he remarked dryly). Though CBS initially rejected the idea, a compromise was reached that allowed for omitting the laughter during operating room scenes if desired. Seasons 1–5 utilized a more invasive laugh track; a more subdued audience was employed for Seasons 6–11 when the series shifted from sitcom to comedy-drama with the departure of Gelbart and Reynolds. Several episodes ("O.R.", "The Bus", "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", "The Interview", "Point of View" and "Dreams" among them) omitted the laugh track altogether; as did almost all of Season 11, including the 135-minute series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". The laugh track is also omitted from some international and syndicated airings of the show; on one occasion during an airing on BBC2, the laugh track was accidentally left on, and viewers expressed their displeasure, an apology from the network for the "technical difficulty" was later released, as during its original run on BBC2 in the UK, it was shown without the laugh track. UK DVD critics speak poorly of the laugh track, stating "canned laughter is intrusive at the best of times, but with a programme like M*A*S*H, it's downright unbearable."
"They're a lie," said Gelbart in a 1992 interview. "You're telling an engineer when to push a button to produce a laugh from people who don't exist. It's just so dishonest. The biggest shows when we were on the air were All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show both of which were taped before a live studio audience where laughter made sense," continued Gelbart. "But our show was a film show – supposedly shot in the middle of Korea. So the question I always asked the network was, 'Who are these laughing people? Where did they come from?'" Gelbart persuaded CBS to test the show in private screenings with and without the laugh track. The results showed no measurable difference in the audience's enjoyment. "So you know what they said?" Gelbart said. "'Since there's no difference, let's leave it alone!' The people who defend laugh tracks have no sense of humor." Gelbart summed up the situation by saying, "I always thought it cheapened the show. The network got their way. They were paying for dinner."
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||24||September 17, 1972||March 25, 1973||N/A||N/A|
|2||24||September 15, 1973||March 2, 1974||4||25.7|
|3||24||September 10, 1974||March 18, 1975||5||27.4|
|4||25||September 12, 1975||February 24, 1976||14||22.9[b]|
|5||25||September 21, 1976||March 15, 1977||4||25.9|
|6||25||September 20, 1977||March 27, 1978||8||23.2[c]|
|7||26||September 18, 1978||March 12, 1979||7||25.4|
|8||25||September 17, 1979||March 24, 1980||4||25.3[c]|
|9||20||November 17, 1980||May 4, 1981||4||25.7|
|10||22||October 26, 1981||April 12, 1982||9||22.3|
|11||16||October 25, 1982||February 28, 1983||3||22.6[d]|
Final episode: "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was the final episode of M*A*S*H. Special television sets were placed in PX parking lots, auditoriums, and dayrooms of the U.S. Army in Korea so that military personnel could watch that episode, in spite of 14 hours' time-zone difference with the East Coast of the U.S. The episode aired on February 28, 1983, and was 2½ hours long. The episode got a Nielsen rating of 60.2 and 77 share and according to a New York Times article from 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H had 125 million viewers.
When the M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983, 83.3 million homes in the United States had televisions, compared to almost 115 million in February 2010.
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" broke the record for the highest percentage of homes with television sets to watch a television series. Stories persist that the episode was seen by so many people that the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department reported the plumbing systems broke down in some parts of the city from so many New Yorkers waiting until the end to use the toilet. Articles copied into Alan Alda's book The Last Days of M*A*S*H include interviews with New York City Sanitation workers citing the spike in water use on that night. According to the interviews at 11:03 pm, EST New York City public works noted the highest water usage at one given time in the City's history. They attributed this to the fact that in the three minutes after the finale ended, around 77% of the people of New York City flushed their toilets. These stories have all since been identified as part of an urban legend dating back to the days of the Amos and Andy radio program in the 1930s.
- Australia - Network Ten (1973–1998), Seven Network (1999–2011), One (2011–2017), 7TWO (2018–)
- UK - BBC Two - (1984-1995)
- Ireland - RTÉ2 - (1985-1996)
And many more international broadcasts.
Ratings and recognition
The series premiered in the U.S. on September 17, 1972, and ended on February 28, 1983, with the finale, showcased as a television film, titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", becoming the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers (60.2 rating and 77 share), according to the New York Times. It had struggled in its first season and was at risk of being cancelled. Season two of M*A*S*H placed it in a better time slot (airing after the popular All in the Family); the show became one of the top 10 programs of the year and stayed in the top 20 programs for the rest of its run. It is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations. The series, which depicted events occurring during a three-year war, spanned 256 episodes and lasted 11 seasons. The Korean War lasted 1,128 days, meaning each episode of the series would have averaged almost four and a half days of real time. Many of the stories in the early seasons are based on tales told by real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by the production team. Like the movie, the series was as much an allegory about the Vietnam War (still in progress when the show began) as it was about the Korean War.
The episodes "Abyssinia, Henry" and "The Interview" were ranked number 20 and number 80, respectively, on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time in 1997. In 2002, M*A*S*H was ranked number 25 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fifth-best written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the eighth-greatest show of all time. In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked it as the sixteenth-greatest TV show.
|Season||Ep #||Time slot (ET)||Season Premiere||Season Finale||Nielsen Ratings|
|1||1972–73||24||Sunday at 8:00 pm||September 17, 1972||March 25, 1973||#46||N/A||17.4|
|2||1973–74||24||Saturday at 8:30 pm||September 15, 1973||March 2, 1974||#4||17.02||25.7|
|3||1974–75||24||Tuesday at 8:30 pm||September 10, 1974||March 18, 1975||#5||18.76||27.4|
|4||1975–76||25||Friday at 8:00 pm (Episode 1)
Friday at 8:30 pm (Episodes 2–13)
Tuesday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 14–25)
|September 12, 1975||February 24, 1976||#15||15.93||22.9|
|5||1976–77||25||Tuesday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3–25)
Tuesday at 9:30 pm (Episode 2)
|September 21, 1976||March 15, 1977||#4||18.44||25.9|
|6||1977–78||25||Tuesday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3–19)
Tuesday at 9:30 pm (Episode 2)
Monday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 20–25)
|September 20, 1977||March 27, 1978||#9||16.91||23.2|
|7||1978–79||26||Monday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1–4, 6–26)
Monday at 9:30 pm (Episode 5)
|September 18, 1978||March 12, 1979||#7||18.92||25.4|
|8||1979–80||25||Monday at 9:00 pm||September 17, 1979||March 24, 1980||#5||19.30||25.3|
|9||1980–81||20||November 17, 1980||May 4, 1981||#4||20.53||25.7|
|10||1981–82||22||Monday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3–22)
Monday at 9:30 pm (Episode 2)
|October 26, 1981||April 12, 1982||#9||18.17||22.3|
|11||1982–83||16||Monday at 9:00 pm (Episodes 1–15)
Monday at 8:30 pm (Episode 16)
|October 25, 1982||February 28, 1983||#3||18.82||22.6|
M*A*S*H was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, winning 14:
- 1974 – Outstanding Comedy Series – M*A*S*H; Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds (Producers)
- 1974 – Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Alan Alda
- 1974 – Best Directing in Comedy – Jackie Cooper: "Carry On, Hawkeye"
- 1974 – Actor of the Year, Series – Alan Alda
- 1975 – Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series – Gene Reynolds: "O.R."
- 1976 – Outstanding Film Editing for Entertainment Programming – Fred W. Berger and Stanford Tischler: "Welcome to Korea"
- 1976 – Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series – Gene Reynolds: "Welcome to Korea"
- 1977 – Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series – Alan Alda: "Dear Sigmund"
- 1977 – Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Gary Burghoff
- 1979 – Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series – Alan Alda: "Inga"
- 1980 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Variety or Music Series – Loretta Swit
- 1980 – Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Variety or Music Series – Harry Morgan
- 1982 – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Alan Alda
- 1982 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Variety or Music Series – Loretta Swit
The show won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) in 1981. Alan Alda won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy) six times: in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. McLean Stevenson won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series in 1974.
The series earned the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series seven times: 1973 (Gene Reynolds), 1974 (Reynolds), 1975 (Hy Averbeck), 1976 (Averbeck), 1977 (Alan Alda), 1982 (Alda), 1983 (Alda).
The show was honored with a Peabody Award in 1975 "for the depth of its humor and the manner in which comedy is used to lift the spirit and, as well, to offer a profound statement on the nature of war." M*A*S*H was cited as "an example of television of high purpose that reveals in universal terms a time and place with such affecting clarity."
Writers for the show received several Humanitas Prize nominations, with Larry Gelbart winning in 1976, Alan Alda winning in 1980, and the team of David Pollock and Elias Davis winning twice in 1982 and 1983.
The series received 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations – 26 for Episodic Comedy and two for Episodic Drama. Seven episodes won for Episodic Comedy in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1981.
|DVD title||Ep No.||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2|
|M*A*S*H Season 1||24||January 8, 2002||May 19, 2003|
|M*A*S*H Season 2||24||July 23, 2002||October 13, 2003|
|M*A*S*H Season 3||24||February 18, 2003||March 15, 2004|
|M*A*S*H Seasons 1–3||72||N/A||October 31, 2005|
|M*A*S*H Season 4||24||July 15, 2003||June 14, 2004|
|M*A*S*H Seasons 1–4||96||December 2, 2003||N/A|
|M*A*S*H Season 5||24||December 9, 2003||January 17, 2005|
|M*A*S*H Season 6||24||June 8, 2004||March 28, 2005|
|M*A*S*H Season 7||25||December 7, 2004||May 30, 2005|
|M*A*S*H Season 8||25||May 24, 2005||August 15, 2005|
|M*A*S*H Season 9||20||December 6, 2005||January 9, 2006|
|M*A*S*H Seasons 1–9||214||December 6, 2005||N/A|
|M*A*S*H Season 10||22||May 23, 2006||April 17, 2006|
|M*A*S*H Season 11||16||November 7, 2006||May 29, 2006|
|Martinis and Medicine Collection
(Complete Series, including the Original Movie)
|256||November 7, 2006||October 30, 2006|
|Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen Collector's Edition||1||May 15, 2007||N/A|
In January 2015, it was announced that the first five seasons of M*A*S*H would be available on Netflix's instant streaming service beginning February 1, 2015. This marked the first time the series was made available on an internet platform. As of July 1, 2015, all 11 seasons were available; syndicated versions of hour-long episodes were utilized for streaming, splitting these shows into two parts. In contrast to the DVD sets, the Netflix streams did not have an option for disabling the laugh track on the soundtrack. On April 1, 2016, M*A*S*H was removed from Netflix due to its contract to stream the series expiring.
In November 2016, SundanceTV announced it will begin airing M*A*S*H and several other classic TV shows. M*A*S*H can be seen on Mondays at 6 am – 1 pm weekly, starting on November 14 with seven hours with the first 14 episodes from Season 1.
Spinoffs and specials
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M*A*S*H had two spin-off shows. The short-lived AfterMASH (1983–85) inherited the parent show's Monday night time slot and featured several of its characters reunited in a Midwestern hospital after the war.
Trapper John, M.D.
The more successful Trapper John, M.D. (1979–86) took place nearly three decades after the events of M*A*S*H and depicted Trapper John McIntyre as chief of surgery at a San Francisco hospital.
In an unpurchased television pilot, W*A*L*T*E*R (1984), Walter "Radar" O'Reilly joins the St. Louis police force after his farm fails following his return to the U.S.
Documentaries and reunions
A documentary special titled Making M*A*S*H, narrated by Mary Tyler Moore and taking viewers behind the production of the season 8 episodes "Old Soldiers" and "Lend a Hand", was produced for PBS in 1981. The special was later included in the syndicated rerun package, with new narration by producer Michael Hirsch.
Two retrospective specials were produced to commemorate the show's 20th and 30th anniversaries. Memories of M*A*S*H, hosted by Shelley Long and featuring clips from the series and interviews with cast members, was aired by CBS on November 25, 1991.
A 30th Anniversary Reunion special, in which the surviving cast members and producers gathered to reminisce, aired on the Fox network on May 17, 2002. The two-hour broadcast was hosted by Mike Farrell, who also got to interact with the actor he replaced, Wayne Rogers; previously filmed interviews with McLean Stevenson and Larry Linville (who had died in 1996 and 2000, respectively) were featured, as well. The two specials are included as bonuses on the Collector's Edition DVD of "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". Also included is "M*A*S*H: Television's Serious Sitcom", a 2002 episode of the A&E cable channel's Biography program that detailed the history of the show.
In the late 1980s, the cast had a partial reunion in a series of commercials for IBM personal computers. All of the front-billed regulars (with the three exceptions of Farrell, Stiers, and Stevenson) appeared in the spots over time.
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Although the cast was beginning to think that M*A*S*H was about to hit its stride, the series was still attracting a very small audience and it ranked 46 in the ratings.
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