M*A*S*H (TV series)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2015)|
|Created by||Larry Gelbart
|Based on||MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker|
David Ogden Stiers
|Theme music composer||Johnny Mandel (written for the film)|
|Opening theme||"Suicide Is Painless"|
|Ending theme||"Suicide Is Painless"|
|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||24–25 minutes or 48–50 minutes (per episode)|
|Production company(s)||20th Century Fox Television|
|Original release||September 17, 1972– February 28, 1983|
|Related shows||Trapper John, M.D.|
M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH (which was itself based on the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker). The series, which was produced in association 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. The show's title sequence features an instrumental version of "Suicide Is Painless", the theme song from the original film. 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 version of the M*A*S*H works, and one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history.
The series premiered in the U.S. on September 17, 1972, and ended on February 28, 1983, with the finale, "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 military conflict, spanned 256 episodes and lasted 11 seasons.
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.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Characters
- 3 Changes
- 4 Production
- 5 Broadcast history
- 6 Episodes
- 7 Review
- 8 Home media
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes and references
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
M*A*S*H aired weekly on CBS, with most episodes being a half-hour in length. The series is usually categorized as a situation comedy, though it is also described as a "dark comedy" or a "dramedy" because of the dramatic subject material often presented. The show was an ensemble piece revolving around key personnel in a United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War (1950–1953). (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.) The "4077th MASH" was one of several surgical units in Korea. As the show developed, the writing took on more of a 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 were of a more serious tone. Airing on network primetime 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 against 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 episodes being 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 ideas of patriotism and duty (though Houlihan and Potter could represent the other perspective at times, as well). 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 Max Klinger — on the show for all 11 seasons. Several other main characters departed or joined the program midway through its run. Also, 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.
||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
|McLean Stevenson||Lieutenant colonel||Commanding officer,
later lieutenant colonel (off-screen)
|Surgeon, executive officer
temporary commanding officer (following the discharge of Henry Blake)
(one episode as second lieutenant)
(one episode ("Welcome to Korea") as the made-up rank of corporal captain)
|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)
- Nurse Kealani Kellye, a recurring character in the 4077th (appearing in 164 episodes), was played by Kellye Nakahara. A warm character, she had more to say than the other nurses. She is often seen dancing with Radar, and later, Charles. The first name "Kealani" was never used in the series. On several occasions, David Ogden Stiers and Loretta Swit have referred to her as "Nurse Nakahara" and "Lieutenant Nakahara", respectively.
- Jeff Maxwell appeared as the bumbling Pvt. Igor Straminsky in 75 episodes. In his earlier appearances, he was the camp cook's aide, complaining that, despite not cooking the food (SSG Pernelli was the cook, not revealed until season 9 as described below), he still had to listen to everyone's gripes about it. He was often the target of Hawkeye's wrath because of the terrible food, and the recipient of his "river of liver and ocean of fish" rant in "Adam's Ribs". His bumbling even gained the ire of Father Mulcahy, when he creamed the fresh corn Mulcahy grew in "A War for All Seasons". In at least two episodes, he was called a sergeant by Major Burns. In another episode, Burns asks his name and he replies "Maxwell," the actor's actual surname. Burns then replies with that name.
- Roy Goldman appeared in 35 episodes as Corpsman Roy Goldman.
- Odessa Cleveland appeared in 29 episodes as Lt. Ginger Bayliss, one of the nurses.
- Patricia Stevens appeared in 15 episodes, primarily as Nurse Baker (also as Nurse Mitchell, Nurse Stevens, Nurse Brown and Nurse Able)
- Rita Wilson appeared in two episodes as Nurse Lacey.
- Johnny Haymer played Staff Sgt. Zelmo Zale, supply sergeant for the 4077th, in 20 episodes. He made his first appearance in the season-2 episode "For Want of a Boot", and his final appearance in the season-8 episode "Good-Bye, Radar". Zale's name is mentioned for the final time in "Yessir, That's Our Baby".
- G. W. Bailey played the perpetually lazy Staff Sgt. Luther Rizzo, who headed the camp motor pool, in 14 episodes.
- Enid Kent played Nurse Peggy Bigelow in 14 episodes. She was quite often the target of Hawkeye's flirtations. In "They Call the Wind Korea", she gets injured by a falling water tower and is treated by the 4077th. In "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", when various members of the 4077th announce postwar plans, she blandly recounts her days as a nurse both in World War II and in Korea and simply says, "I've had it."
- Dr. Sidney Freedman, Major, a psychiatrist, was played by Allan Arbus, who appeared 12 times. In his first appearance, his name was Dr. Milton Freedman, but was subsequently changed. Dr. Freedman played a major role in the two-hour final episode.
- Colonel Flagg, a paranoid and jingoistic counterintelligence officer prone to using aliases, was played by Edward Winter. He appeared six times (and the actor appeared once as a very similar intelligence officer named Halloran).
- Marcia Strassman played nurse Margie Cutler six times during the show's first season. Her last appearance was in the episode "Ceasefire".
- Herb Voland appeared seven times as Henry Blake's commander, Brigadier General Crandall Clayton.
- G. Wood appeared three times as Brigadier General Hammond, the same role he played in the movie.
- Robert Gooden appeared three times as Private Lorenzo Boone.
- Robert F. Simon appeared three times as Major General Mitchell.
- Loudon Wainwright III appeared three times as Captain Calvin Spalding, who was usually seen playing his guitar and singing.
- Eldon Quick appeared three times as two nearly identical characters, Capt. Sloan and Capt. Pratt, officers who were dedicated to paperwork and bureaucracy.
- Sergeant (later Pvt) Jack Scully, played by Joshua Bryant, appeared in three episodes as a love interest of Margaret Houlihan.
- Pat Morita appeared twice as Capt. Sam Pak of the Republic of Korea Army.
- Karen Philipp (singer with Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, 1967–70) appeared twice as Lt. Maria 'Dish' Schneider during the first season.
- Sorrell Booke appeared twice as Brigadier General Bradley Barker. Booke was an actual Korean War veteran.
- Robert Symonds appeared twice as Col/Lt Col. Horace Baldwin.
- Robert Alda, Alan Alda's father, appeared twice as Maj. Borelli, a visiting surgeon.
- Catherine Bergstrom appeared twice as Peg Hunnicutt, B.J.'s wife, back in the U.S.
- Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot appeared twice (played by two different actors), In "Margaret's Marriage" (#5.24), Penobscot was played by Beeson Carrol, and was her fiancé at the time (they were married during the episode). In "The M*A*S*H* Olympics" (#6.10), he appears as her husband, he takes part in a M*A*S*H Olympics; he is played by Mike Henry.
- Staff Sgt. "Sparky" Pryor, a friend of Radar and Klinger, was the telephone operator usually called by the 4077th MASH. He was seen only once, played by Dennis Fimple, in Tuttle (season 1, episode 15), but was sometimes faintly heard on the phone when he yelled.
- Sal Viscuso and Todd Susman played the camp's anonymous public address system announcer throughout the series. This character (who is never seen on camera) broke the fourth wall only twice, in the episodes "Pilot (M*A*S*H)" (1.1) and "Welcome to Korea" (4.1), both times while introducing the regular cast members. Both Viscuso and Susman appeared onscreen as other characters in at least one episode each.
- Eileen Saki appeared in seven episodes as Rosie, the owner and head bartender at Rosie's Bar, which was frequented by the regular characters. Her first appearance on the show, however, was as the madam of a brothel which was occupying a much-needed hut in the episode "Bug Out". Rosie had previously been played by Shizuko Hoshi (in "Mad Dogs and Servicemen") and Frances Fong (in "Bug Out" and "Fallen Idol") before Saki assumed the role.
- Timothy Brown appeared as Capt. Oliver Harmon 'Spearchucker' Jones in six season-1 episodes as a captain who lived with Pierce, Burns, and McIntyre in the "Swamp".
- Val Bisoglio appeared in three episodes as Staff Sergeant Salvatore Pernelli, the actual mess cook for the 4077th. His first appearance was in season 9's "The Life You Save", followed by two appearances in season 10, "Twas the Day After Christmas" and "A Holy Mess".
- Nurse Shari appeared in 15 episodes during the last four seasons, played by Shari Saba.
- John Orchard played Ugly John, an anesthesiologist, and later "Muldoon" in "Rosie's Pub".
Actors with multiple roles
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Several guest stars made appearances as multiple characters:
- Hamilton Camp appeared twice, first as the insane Cpl. "Boots" Miller in "Major Topper" (episode 6.25), and again as a film distributor named Frankenheimer in "The Moon is Not Blue" (11.8).
- Dennis Dugan appeared twice, as O.R. orderly Pvt. McShane in 3.20, "Love and Marriage", and again in 11.11, "Strange Bedfellows", as Col. Potter's philandering son-in-law, Robert "Bob" Wilson.
- Gary Burghoff was the only actor to ever appear simultaneously on the show with himself. He played Radar O'Reilly throughout the show, and in episode 4.15 "Mail Call... Again", he watched a home movie sent to him in Korea in which he played his own mother. Father Mulcahy remarks, "Radar certainly bears a striking resemblance to his mother!"
- Tim O'Connor appeared as wounded artillery officer Col. Spiker in "Of Moose and Men" (4.12), and as visiting surgeon Norm Traeger in "Operation Friendship" (9.10). Both characters were noticeably at odds with Hawkeye.
- Dick O'Neill appeared three times (each time in a different U.S. service branch): as Navy Rear Admiral Cox, as Army Brigadier General Prescott, and as Marine Colonel Pitts.
- Harry Morgan played both the 4077th's second beloved C.O. (Col. Sherman T. Potter) and the mentally unstable Major Gen. Bartford Hamilton Steele in the show's third season, in the episode "The General Flipped at Dawn". This last character was a reprise of his role as Major Pott in the 1966 movie, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
- Soon-Tek Oh appeared five times: twice as a North Korean POW (in 4.7, "The Bus", and 8.10, "The Yalu Brick Road"); once as a North Korean doctor (5.10, "The Korean Surgeon"); once as O.R. orderly Mr. Kwang (3.20, "Love and Marriage"); and once as a South Korean interpreter who poses as a North Korean POW (11.3, "Foreign Affairs").
- Philip Ahn appeared three times: episodes 4.19 ("Hawkeye"), 5.13 ("Exorcism"), and 6.9 ("Change Day"). Like Soon-Tek Oh, Ahn was one of the few Korean actors to play a Korean on M*A*S*H; most of the other "Korean" characters were played by either Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese ethnic actors. Ironically, Ahn played Japanese villains in World War II movies and Chinese characters on Bonanza and Kung Fu.
- Robert Karnes appeared twice: once as a colonel in 4.1 ("Welcome to Korea") and as a general in 6.4 ("Last Laugh").
- Clyde Kusatsu appeared four times: twice as a Korean bartender in the Officers' Club, once as a Chinese-American soldier, and once as a Japanese-American surgeon.
- Robert Ito played a hood who works for the black market in 1.2, "To Market, To Market", and a North Korean soldier disguised as a South Korean looking for supplies, in 5.10, "The Korean Surgeon".
- Keye Luke appeared three times. In “Patent 4077” (6.17), he played Mr. Shin, a local jewelry maker hired by the surgeons to make a new surgical clamp; in “A Night at Rosie’s” (7.24), he played Cho Kim, who ran a crooked craps game in the back room at Rosie’s Bar; and in “Death Takes a Holiday” (9.5), he played the headmaster of a local orphanage.
- Mako appeared four times, once as a Chinese doctor (3.2, "Rainbow Bridge"), once as a South Korean doctor (5.11, "Hawkeye Get Your Gun"), once as a South Korean officer (8.3, "Guerilla My Dreams"), and once as a North Korean soldier (9.1, "The Best of Enemies").
- Jerry Fujikawa appeared as crooked Korean matchmaker Dr. Pak in "Love and Marriage", as Trapper John's tailor in 3.3, "Officer of the Day", as an acupuncturist named Wu in 8.24, "Back Pay", as the Uijeongbu chief of police in "Rally Round the Flagg, Boys", and as "Whiplash Wang" in "Deal Me Out".
- John Orchard starred as Australian anesthetist Ugly John in the first season, and later appeared in 8.13 as disgruntled and drunken Australian MP Muldoon, who has an arrangement with Rosie the barkeeper: he takes bribes (in the form of liquor in his "coffee" mug) to "look the other way." Orchard was actually English, so adopted an Australian accent and some Australian colloquialisms for his persona. He also normally wore an Australian-style "slouch" hat.
- Richard Lee Sung appeared 10 times as a local Korean who often had merchandise (and in one case, real estate) he wished to sell to the hospital staff; he once sold a backwards-running watch to Major Burns and he also tried to help Corporal Klinger lose his money in a game of craps in A Night at Rosie's.
- Jack Soo, known for his role as Barney Miller's Sgt. Nick Yemana, appeared twice, once as black-market boss Charlie Lee, with whom Hawkeye and Trapper made a trade for supplies in "To Market, To Market" (1.2), and in "Payday" (3.22) as a peddler who sold Frank two sets of pearls: one real, the other fake.
- Ted Gehring appeared twice: in 2.12, as moronic Supply Officer Major Morris, who refuses to let the MASH doctors have a badly needed incubator, and in 7.6, as corrupt supply NCO Sgt. Rhoden.
- Eldon Quick appeared three times, once as a finance officer and twice as Captain Sloan.
- Edward Winter appeared as an intelligence officer named "Halloran" in 2.13, and in six episodes as Colonel Flagg (although Halloran may have been one of Flagg's numerous and often mid-episode-changing aliases). Given a comment he makes to Sidney Freedman about the two playing poker together (a reference to Winter's appearance as Halloran) this seems to be likely.
- Shizuko Hoshi appeared four times: once as "Rosie" of "Rosie's Bar" in episode 3.13, "Mad Dogs and Servicemen"; and three times as the mother in different Korean families in "Hawkeye" (4.18), "B.J. Papa San" (7.16), and "Private Finance" (8.8).
- John Fujioka, who played the uncredited role of a Japanese golf pro in the movie, appeared three times in the series. The first time was in "Dear Ma" (1975) as Colonel Kim, the second time was in "The Tooth Shall Set You Free" (1982) as Duc Phon Jong, and the last time, he played a peasant in "Picture This" (1982).
- Stuart Margolin appeared twice, first as psychiatrist Capt. Phillip Sherman in season 1's "Bananas, Crackers and Nuts" (1.07), and again as plastic surgeon Major Stanley "Stosh" Robbins in season 2's "Operation Noselift" (2.18).
- Oliver Clark appeared twice. In "38 Across" (5.16), he played the part of Hawkeye's crossword-loving friend Lt. Tippy Brooks. In "Mail Call Three" (6.21), he played the part of 'the other' Captain Ben Pierce.
- Jeanne Schulherr appeared in season 3's "There Is Nothing Like a Nurse" as Frank Burns's wife, Louise (in a home movie), and in two other season-3 episodes as an unnamed nurse.
- Charles Frank appeared in season 5 as Capt. Hathaway in "Dear Sigmund", a pilot who admitted to not knowing the victims of his bombings from his plane, and appeared in season 6 as Lieutenant Martinson in "What's Up, Doc?", a troubled Yale graduate who finds himself in the infantry and holds Maj. Winchester Hostage at gunpoint.
- Kevin Hagen appeared twice. In "Some 38th Parallels" (4.20, 1976), he played the part of Colonel Coner, on whom Hawkeye drops garbage from an airborne helicopter. In "Peace On Us" (7.2, 1978), he played the part of red-haired Major Goss, sent to warn Hawkeye to stay away from the peace talks.
- Yuki Shimoda appeared three times. In "The Price" (7.18, 1979), he played the part of Cho Pak, a farmer who was a former Korean cavalry officer who steals Col. Potter's horse Sophie only because he is dying and wants one final chance to remember his military days. In "Yessir, That's Our Baby" (8.15), he plays a Korean consular officer who advises Hawkeye and B.J. that to allow an abandoned Amerasian infant to live in Korea would result in dire consequences. And, in "Oh, How We Danced" (9.14, which aired almost two months before his death in 1981), he plays the grandfather of a child patient of the 4077th who is a skilled harmonica player.
- James Carroll appeared twice, as an orderly in "Bug Out" and as a jeep driver who brought Major Winchester to the 4077th in "Fade Out, Fade In".
|This section does not cite any sources. (May 2014)|
- Throughout the series, Klinger frequently introduces himself by his full name, Maxwell Q. Klinger, but never says what the Q. stands for.
- 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 concerning his friend indicates that B.J. really is his first name. Toward the end of the episode, B.J. (in explaining who gave him his name) says, "My mother, Bea Hunnicut, and my father, Jay Hunnicut." A recurring joke in that episode is that upon being asked what B.J. stands for, B.J. merely replies, "Anything you want."
- Frank Burns had four different middle names during his time on the show: W. (on the punching bag in "Requiem for a Lightweight"), D., X., and Marion.
- Radar's first name is stated as Walter, and once (in "Fade Out, Fade In"), he introduces himself by his full name to Charles Emerson Winchester III as "Walter Eugene O'Reilly". The book says his name is J. Robespierre, and his first name is not revealed in the film.
- In the finale ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"), Father 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. Also, in the eighth-season episode "Nurse Doctor", he gives his full name as Francis John Patrick Mulcahy. Yet, in all other episodes, his name was John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, and he just wanted others to call him by his confirmation name, Francis.
Notable actors and actor information
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- Antony Alda, Alan Alda's half-brother, appeared in one episode ("Lend a Hand") as Corporal Jarvis alongside both his brother and father (Robert).
- Robert Alda, Alan Alda's father, had guest appearances in two episodes, "The Consultant" and "Lend a Hand", the latter written by Alda himself. According to Alda, "Lend a Hand" was his way of reconciling with his father. He was always giving suggestions to Robert for their vaudeville act, and in "Lend a Hand", Robert's character was always giving Hawkeye suggestions. It was Robert's idea for the doctors to cooperate as "Dr. Right" and "Dr. Left" at the end of that episode, signifying both a reconciliation of their characters, and in real life, as well.
- While most of the characters from the movie carried over to the series, only four actors appeared in both: Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) and G. Wood (General Hammond) reprised their movie roles in the series, though Wood appeared in only three episodes. Timothy Brown (credited as "Tim Brown") played "Cpl. Judson" in the movie and "Spearchucker Jones" in the series. Corey Fischer played Capt. Bandini in the film and was the guitar-playing dentist "Cardozo" in the episode "Five O'Clock Charlie".
- Two of the cast members, Jamie Farr (Klinger) and Alan Alda (Hawkeye Pierce), served in the U.S. Army in Korea in the 1950s after the Korean War, Alda as a junior officer, Farr as enlisted. The dog tags Farr wears on the show are his actual dog tags. Farr served as part of a USO tour with Red Skelton. Furthermore, Wayne Rogers served as a Naval Reserve officer in the mid-1950s after the end of Korean War, and Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicut) served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a younger man from 1957-1960.
- Gary Burghoff's left hand is slightly deformed, with three smaller than normal fingers and slight syndactyly between the fourth and fifth digits, and he took great pains to hide or de-emphasize it during filming. He did this by always holding something (like a clipboard) or keeping that hand in his pocket. Burghoff later commented that his (Radar's) deformity would have made it impossible for him to be involved in active service. The deformity can be clearly seen at the very beginning of the pilot episode, when he is holding the football just before announcing the arrival of choppers. It is also visible at the end of "Images" (season 6, episode 9), when he is trying to lift weights.
- Most of the M*A*S*H main cast guest-starred on Murder, She Wrote (with the exceptions of Alan Alda, McLean Stevenson, and Gary Burghoff). Wayne Rogers made five appearances as roguish private investigator Charlie Garrat. David Ogden Stiers appeared three times as a Civil War-infused college lecturer and once as a classical music radio host. G.W. Bailey appeared twice as a New York City police officer. Larry Linville made two appearances as a police officer who was sure that Jessica was in the CIA. Harry Morgan appeared once in a cleverly cut episode that mixed with the 1949 film Strange Bargain in which Morgan had starred. William Christopher made an appearance as a murderous bird watcher. Jamie Farr appeared in two episodes, once as a hopeful new publisher for Jessica Fletcher, and again with Loretta Swit (she played a modern artist framed for murder). Mike Farrell appeared as a Senate hopeful.
- Through the series, several actresses play characters named Nurse Able or Nurse Baker, with widely varying personalities/roles. The characters' names were based on the old military phonetic alphabet. Able and Baker have since been changed to Alpha and Bravo.
- Sorrell Booke guest-starred as Brigadier General Barker in the episodes "Requiem for a Lightweight" and "Chief Surgeon Who?". Booke was a Korean War veteran who achieved greater fame as Boss Hogg in the Dukes of Hazzard television series.
- Ron Howard guest-starred as Marine Private Walter Peterson in the episode "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet". He is discovered to be underage and using his brother Wendell's identification, having come to Korea to impress his girlfriend. Hawkeye first gives the young soldier some sage advice about women, and then essentially lets him decide for himself whether he wants to go back to the States or stay in Korea. After losing his best friend Tommy Gillis, Hawkeye immediately reports the young soldier to the MPs, sending him back to America and to safety - with the Purple Heart Frank Burns put in for after his back pain.
- Leslie Nielsen guest-starred as Colonel Buzz Brighton in the episode "The Ringbanger". Because of his high casualty record, Hawkeye and Trapper try to get him sent back to America by convincing him that he is insane.
- Sal Viscuso is often credited as the sole PA announcer for the television series and even the film. Though he did serve as the voice of the PA announcer for a time, Todd Susman had the longest tenure. Neither actor's voice was heard in the film. Both actors appeared as other characters in various episodes.
- Art LaFleur appeared in one episode in season 9 ("Father’s Day") as an MP looking for the person(s) responsible for a stolen side of beef.
- Patrick Swayze appeared in one episode ("Blood Brothers") as Gary Sturgis, an injured soldier with a broken arm who is diagnosed with leukemia.
- John Ritter was in one episode ("Deal Me Out") early in his career, as a "shellshocked" soldier.
- Football player Alex Karras was in one episode ("Springtime") serving as Hawkeye's bodyguard after the doctor saves his life.
- Bruno Kirby (When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers) played Boone in the first episode. He can be seen tossing a football with Radar, and later helping to carry a drugged-out Major Frank Burns to a bed in post-op.
- Richard Herd appears in the season-9 episode called "Back Pay".
- Laurence Fishburne (CSI, The Matrix) appeared in the season-10 episode "The Tooth Shall Set You Free", in which Hawkeye and B.J. encounter a racist commander who is sending his African-American soldiers into dangerous duty. He also appeared in an episode of Trapper John, M.D. (the year before appearing on M*A*S*H). His Matrix costar, Joe Pantoliano, also appeared both on M*A*S*H and Trapper John, M.D. He appeared in the M*A*S*H episode "Identity Crisis" (also season 10), about a soldier (Pantoliano) who had stolen a fallen friend's identity, as well as his discharge papers, to get out of the fighting.
- Pat Morita, who was famous for his role as Matsuo "Arnold" Takahashi on Happy Days and as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid franchise, played Captain Sam Pak in season two's episode "Deal Me Out" (also with John Ritter) and again in season two's "The Chosen People".
- Shelley Long played in the 1980 episode "Bottle Fatigue", as one of Hawkeye's would-be lady friends. She later played alongside Ted Danson in the hit television comedy Cheers as Diane Chambers.
- George Wendt played in the 1982 episode "Trick or Treatment" as Private La Roche, a Marine treated by Charles Winchester because he had a pool ball stuck in his mouth. He later played alongside Ted Danson and Shelley Long in Cheers.
- Pat Hingle played in the 1980 episode "April Fools" as Colonel Daniel Webster Tucker.
- Ed Begley, Jr., played in the 1979 episode "Too Many Cooks" as Private Paul Conway, a clumsy infantry soldier who turns out to be a gifted chef.
- Blythe Danner played a nurse transferred to the 4077th, who happened to be Hawkeye's old college sweetheart, in the season-4 episode "The More I See You". Her presence stirs up old feelings between the two of them.
- Teri Garr played a nurse in the - episode "The Sniper".
- Susan Saint James guest-starred in the season-8 episode "War Co-Respondent".
- Andrew Dice Clay played drunken Marine Cpl. Hrabosky in the season-11 episode "Trick or Treatment".
- George Lindsey played Captain Roy Dupree in the season-6 episode "Temporary Duty". Lindsey had previously appeared on The Andy Griffith Show as Goober Pyle.
- George Morgan played Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode, but was immediately replaced for all other episodes by William Christopher.
During the first season, Hawkeye's, Trapper's, and Frank's bunkmate was an African-American character called Spearchucker Jones, played by actor Timothy Brown. (Brown appeared in the film version as a corporal, while neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones was played by former NFL player Fred Williamson.) The character disappeared after the episode "Germ Warfare" because, at the time, no record existed of African-American doctors serving in Korea during the Korean War. According to the memoirs of Harold Secor, a doctor working at the 8055th MASH unit, on which M*A*S*H is based, at least one African-American doctor did serve in Korea during the Korean War.
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Father Francis Mulcahy
Chaplain of the 4077 unit, 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 storyline throughout 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 Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode. Dago Red, Mulcahy's nickname from the book and film, was shortened to "Red" for television and used by Trapper John in the pilot episode and by Hawkeye in "Dear Dad" and was dropped. Starting in season 4, Colonel Potter started calling Mulcahy "padre", and that nickname kept for the rest of the series, even mentioning it once in the series finale "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". Mulcahy was promoted to captain in the episode "Captain's Outrageous" after several attempts in previous seasons. Before the promotion, he was a first lieutenant.
By season 3 (1974–1975), McLean Stevenson had begun chafing at what he considered to be a supporting role to Alan Alda and Wayne 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 Blake would be discharged and sent home for the season-3 finale, which aired on Tuesday, 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 no survivors were found among the wreckage. This part of the script was kept secret from the cast. The producers wanted the reaction to be as much as a surprise as possible. Originally, the episode was written with Henry making it home, but the writers wanted to show that it was war and people may not make it home.
Trapper John McIntyre
Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) was planning to return for season 4, but abruptly withdrew over a disagreement about his contract. Rogers had a dislike of having a supporting role for Alda, and had been threatening to leave since season 1. His departure was unexpected and, unlike that of McLean Stevenson, no onscreen farewell was used. Rogers felt his character was never given any real importance and that all the focus was on Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce.
Rogers's replacement, Mike Farrell, was hastily recruited during the 1975 summer production hiatus. In the season's first episode, "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye is informed by Radar that Trapper was discharged while Hawkeye was on leave, and B.J. Hunnicutt is Trapper's replacement. Trapper was described by Radar as being so jubilant over his release that "he got drunk for two days, took off all his clothes, and ran naked through the mess tent with no clothes on." He made Radar promise to give Hawkeye a kiss as a final farewell message.
Sherman T. Potter
In the third episode of the fourth season, "Change of Command", Col. Sherman T. Potter arrives at the unit to assume command, replacing Frank Burns, who had taken over as commander after Blake's departure (season 3, episode 24). Harry Morgan, who played Potter, had previously guest-starred in the first episode of season 3, "The General Flipped at Dawn", as General Hamilton Steele.
Colonel 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 one to him for his wedding anniversary, after B.J. and Hawkeye are unable to catch it. This horse, which remained with Col. 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.
When Margaret Houlihan became engaged to a fellow officer, Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot, she had a falling-out with Frank; she became much friendlier toward Hawkeye and B.J., and her subordinate nurses. She later married Penobscot, but the union did not last long. The "Hot Lips" nickname was rarely used to describe her after about the midway point in the series. Loretta Swit wanted to leave the series in the eighth season to pursue other acting 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 that pilot of the series.
Larry Linville noted that his "Frank Burns" 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 Burns 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", Burns (off camera) suffers a nervous breakdown due to Margaret's marriage and is held for psychiatric evaluation. Hawkeye offered a toast to Frank's departure, pausing only a moment, then stating "Goodbye, Ferret Face." In an unexpected twist, Burns is transferred to an Indiana Veterans Administration hospital, near his home in Fort Wayne, and is promoted to lieutenant colonel — in a sense, Frank's parting shot at Hawkeye. 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." Linville was not alone when he left; Executive Producer Gene Reynolds 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 even consulted Reynolds once a week, mainly to obtain help with their jobs as executive producers. These two men remained as executive producers for the remaining six seasons, as Reynolds was credited as a creative consultant along with Alan Alda.
Charles Emerson Winchester III
Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) was brought in as an antagonist of sorts to the other surgeons, but his relationship with them was not as acrimonious, although he was a more able foil. Unlike Frank Burns, Winchester did not care for the Army. His resentment stemmed, in part, from the fact that he was transferred from Tokyo General Hospital to the 4077th due, in part, to a cribbage debt owed to him by his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Horace Baldwin. What set him apart from Burns as an antagonist for Hawkeye and B.J. was that Winchester was clearly an excellent, technically superior surgeon, although his work sometimes suffered from his excessive perfectionism when rapid "meatball surgery" was called for. As with many new MASH surgeons, Winchester took some time to wrap his head around the fact that faster, less precise work saved lives that more elegant, slower work might cost.
Winchester was respected by the others professionally, but at the same time, as a Boston blue blood, he was also snobbish, as when he stated in the scrub room, "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on," which drove much of his conflict with the other characters. Still, the show's writers occasionally allowed Winchester's humanity to shine through, such as in his dealings with a young concert pianist who had partially lost the use of his right hand, the protection of a stuttering soldier from the bullying of other soldiers (it is revealed later that Winchester's sister stutters), his keeping a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father went into surgery back in the States ("Sons and Bowlers"), his willingness to be officer of the day for Hawkeye when Hawkeye was offered three days in Seoul, or his continuing a family tradition of anonymously giving Christmas treats to an orphanage. Winchester 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 Winchester's argument with the manager of the orphanage). For the final moment of the episode ("Death Takes a Holiday"), the two are simply friends as Charles says, "Thank you, Max," and Klinger replies, "Merry Christmas, Charles." As well, 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 vinyl record of Mozart's Quintet in A major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581, the musicians attempt to play the piece of music. Charles, ever the perfectionist, cannot stand to hear them play the song incorrectly (and is impressed that they can even attempt to play the music after only hearing it once) and spends the next week conducting them on how to play the piece properly. During this time, Charles is forced to use the little patience that he rarely shows. When the Chinese musicians are taken off to a prisoner of war camp in a prisoner exchange to Charles' dismay and protest, their final goodbye to Charles is the Mozart piece played correctly. Later, one of the musicians returns to the camp mortally wounded on a Jeep. When Charles inquires as to where the other musicians are, it's revealed that the truck the musicians were on was ambushed and that there were no other survivors. In a combination of shock and disbelief, Charles returns to The Swamp to listen to the Mozart record, but removes the record and smashes it in anger. Later still on the final night that everyone at the M*A*S*H is together, Charles says that before the war, music was a stress reliever to him, but because of the Chinese musicians and their fate, music will forever be a reminder of the horrors of war.
Gary Burghoff (Walter "Radar" O'Reilly), one of only two cast members of the original 1970 film to play the same character in the TV series, had been growing restless in his role since at least season 4. With each successive year, he appeared in fewer episodes; and by season 7, Radar is in barely half of the shows. Burghoff planned to leave at the end of the seventh season (in 1979), but was convinced by producers Alda and Metcalfe to wait until the beginning of season 8, when they filmed a two-part farewell episode, "Good Bye, Radar" (originally intended to be the seventh season's finale), as well as a few short scenes that were inserted into episodes preceding it (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 (though it was a different bear than was used throughout the show) was included in a time capsule of the 4077th instigated by Margaret, which Hawkeye says is a symbol of those who "came as boys and went home as men."
Max Klinger also grew away from the cross-dressing reputation that overshadowed him. He dropped his section 8 pursuit when taking over for 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 more fully. In the role of company clerk, Klinger's personality turned more to the "wheeler-dealer" aspects developed in the streets of (Farr's actual hometown) Toledo, Ohio, using those skills to aid the 4077th. Farr stayed throughout the rest of the series. Klinger was later promoted from corporal to sergeant (he and Father Mulcahy were the only two characters to be promoted on-screen in the entire series, Frank Burns received his promotion off-screen after having left the series). In the final episode, Klinger is, ironically, the only character who announces that he is staying in Korea. 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 in Korea, Hawkeye says, "You don't have to act crazy now. We're all getting out!" However, in the short-lived spin-off, AfterMASH, it becomes clear that soon after the end of the war, Klinger, with new wife Soon Lee (Rosalind Chao) returned to the United States. (After Soon Lee was subjected to discrimination in Toledo, the Klingers moved to River Bend, Missouri, and Max got a job very like that he had as the 4077th's company clerk for Chief of Staff Dr. Sherman Potter, head of the General Pershing VA Hospital there.)
Change in tone
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 Ten (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 were 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.
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.
When M*A*S*H was filming its last episode, the producers were contacted by the Smithsonian Institution, which asked to be given a part of the set. The producers quickly agreed and sent the tent, signposts, and contents of the "Swamp", which was home to Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank, Spearchucker, B.J., and Charles during the course of the show. Originally found on the Ranch, Radar's teddy bear, once housed at the Smithsonian, was sold at auction on July 29, 2005 for $11,800.
M*A*S*H was the first American network series to use the phrase "son of a bitch" (in the 8th-season episode "Guerilla My Dreams"), and brief partial nudity occurred in the series (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' not wanting a laugh track, as the network did. They compromised by omitting laughter entirely 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.
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Throughout the run of the series, any "generic" nurses (those who had a line or two, but were minor supporting characters otherwise) were generally given the names "Nurse Able", "Nurse Baker", or "Nurse Charlie". During the Korean War, the letters A, B, and C in the phonetic alphabet were Able, Baker, and Charlie (since then, the standard has been updated; A and B are now Alpha and Bravo). In later seasons, it became more common for a real character name to be created, especially as several of the nurse actresses became semiregulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in season 3 before becoming the semiregular "Nurse Kellye"; however, Judy Farrell (at the time, Mike Farrell's wife) played Nurse Able in eight episodes, including the series finale.
By the time the series ended, three of the regulars had been promoted. Klinger (Jamie Farr) went from corporal to sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from lieutenant to captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel off screen when he was shipped back to the U.S. following Margaret's marriage. (Farr and Christopher also saw their names move from the closing credits of the show to the opening credits.) Radar O'Reilly was fraudulently "promoted" for a short time (through a semi-intentional machination of Hawkeye and B.J.) to second lieutenant, but discovered he disliked officers' duties and asked them to "bust" him back to corporal.
Mike 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.
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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").
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 in the UK, the laugh track was accidentally left on, and viewers expressed their displeasure, an apology from the network for the "technical difficulty" was later released. 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."
NOTE: Dates are for first-run airings.
- Sunday at 8:00-8:30 PM on CBS: September 17, 1972—March 25, 1973
- Saturday at 8:30-9:00 PM on CBS: September 15, 1973—March 2, 1974
- Tuesday at 8:30-9:00 PM on CBS: September 10, 1974—March 18, 1975
- Friday at 8:30-9:00 PM on CBS: September 12—November 28, 1975
- Tuesday at 9:00-9:30 PM on CBS: December 2, 1975—January 24, 1978
- Monday at 9:00-9:30 PM on CBS: January 30, 1978—February 28, 1983
The show also aired in daytime reruns from September 1978-September 1979 on CBS at 3:30 pm (ET).
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.
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. 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.
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 two exceptions of Farrell and Stevenson) appeared in the spots over time.
|Season||Ep #||Season Premiere||Season Finale||Nielsen Ratings|
|1||24||September 17, 1972||March 25, 1973||#46||N/A||17.4|
|2||24||September 15, 1973||March 2, 1974||#4||17.02||25.7|
|3||24||September 10, 1974||March 18, 1975||#5||18.76||27.4|
|4||24||September 12, 1975||February 24, 1976||#15||15.93||22.9|
|5||24||September 21, 1976||March 15, 1977||#4||18.44||25.9|
|6||24||September 20, 1977||March 27, 1978||#9||16.91||23.2|
|7||25||September 18, 1978||March 12, 1979||#7||18.92||25.4|
|8||25||September 17, 1979||March 24, 1980||#5||19.30||25.3|
|9||20||November 17, 1980||May 4, 1981||#4||20.53||25.7|
|10||21||October 26, 1981||April 12, 1982||#9||18.17||22.3|
|11||16||October 25, 1982||February 28, 1983||#3||18.82||22.6|
As a top-20 series, M*A*S*H has an average rating of 24.6.
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 1976 "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||21||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|
On January 20, 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.
Notes and references
- Hyatt, Wesley (2012). Television's Top 100. US: McFarland. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-7864-4891-3.
- "Finale Of M*A*S*H Draws Record Number Of Viewers". The New York Times. March 3, 1983.
- "M*A*S*H". Tv.com. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
- Schochet, Stephen. "The Ironies of MASH Archived April 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.". hollywoodstories.com, 2007. The show's producers have said that it was about war and bureaucracy in general.
- "Special Collector's Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28-July 4, 1997).
- "TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows". 26 April 2002. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- "101 Best Written TV Series List". Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Fretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt. "The Greatest Shows on Earth". TV Guide Magazine 61 (3194-3195): 16–19.
- The term "dramedy" (drama + comedy), although coined in 1978, was not in common usage until after M*A*S*H had gone off the air.
- Levine, Ken (2011-01-30). "Naming characters on TV shows". kenlevine.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- "Shari Saba". IMDb. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- *Whitebols, James H. Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America: A Social History of the 1972-1983 Television Series, pg 17
- "Korean War Educator: Memoirs - Harold Secor". Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Kalter, Suzy (1984). The Complete Book of M*A*S*H. New York: Abradale Press, Harry M. Abrahams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-8083-5.
- Season 5, episode 13 - "Hawk's Nightmare"
- 30th Anniversary Reunion Special
- Jackie Cooper, Please Don’t Shoot My Dog, Page 290, William Morrow & Company, 1981
- Day, Dwayne A. "MASH/Medevac Helicopters." Centennial of Flight, April 18, 2008.
- Seibel, Deborah Starr (April 16, 1992). "Funny Business: TV Laugh Tracks Can Still Cause Frowns, But The Studios Feel A Need To Be Humored". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
- "Myreviewer.com/Review of MASH Season 3 DVD Review". Myreviewer.com. 2004-03-20. Retrieved 2013-07-09.
- "AVRev.com". AVRev.com. 2003-02-18. Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
- "Another MASH DVD review mentioning audio choices". Dvd.reviewer.co.uk. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
- Greene, Nick (May 19, 2014). "Why Did M*A*S*H Have A Laugh Track?". mentalfloss.com. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- "Saints'". USA Today. 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- Flint, Joe (2010-02-09). "Super Bowl XLIV game a ratings winner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- Alda, Arlene, and Alan Alda. The Last Days of MASH. N.p.: Unicorn House, 1983. Print.
- snopes (5 March 2016). "Super Bowl Flushing Breaks Sewage Systems : snopes.com". snopes. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- "MASH4077TV.com". MASH4077tv.com. 2005-01-02. Retrieved 2013-11-04.
- "M*A*S*H: Television's Serious Sitcom". Biography. July 10, 2003. A&E.
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.
- "TV Ratings: 1973–1974". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1974–1975". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1975–1976". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1976–1977". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1977–1978". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1978–1979". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1979–1980". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1980–1981". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1981–1982". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "TV Ratings: 1982–1983". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "The Peabody Awards | An International Competition for Electronic Media, honoring achievement in Television, Radio, Cable and the Web | Administered by University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication". Peabody.uga.edu. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
- "Netflix". The Huffington Post. 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Cobb, Kayla (March 23, 2016). "Netflix's Expiring Movies and Shows: A Complete List of What's Leaving on April 1". decider.com.
- Gelbart, Larry. (1998). Laughing Matters: On Writing M*A*S*H, Tootsie, Oh, God!, and a Few Other Funny Things. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-42945-X.
- Kalter, Suzy. (1985). The Complete Book of M*A*S*H. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-810-91319-4.
- Reiss, David S. (1983). M*A*S*H: The Exclusive, Inside Story of TV's Most Popular Show (2nd ed.). New York: MacMillan. ISBN 0-672-52762-6.
- Solomonson, Ed, and Mark O'Neill. (2009). TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book. Albany, GA: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-593-93501-3.
- Wittebols, James. (1998). Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America: A Social History of the 1972-1983 Television Series. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-786-40457-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to M*A*S*H (TV series).|
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- M*A*S*H at the Internet Movie Database
- M*A*S*H at TV.com
- M*A*S*H at epguides.com
- M*A*S*H in the Museum of Broadcast Communications
- Google Maps view of the camp