M*A*S*H was a medical drama/black comedy produced by 20th Television Fox for CBS. The show followed a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. M*A*S*H's title sequence featured an instrumental version of the song Suicide Is Painless, which also appears in 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. It is the most well-known version of the M*A*S*H works.
The series premiered on September 17 1972, and ended February 28 1983, with the finale becoming the most-watched television episode in U.S. television history with over 105 million viewers. It is widely considered one of the greatest shows in television history. The show is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations (mostly during the late night/early morning hours). The series spanned 251 episodes and lasted eleven seasons covering a three-year conflict.
Many of the stories in the early seasons are based on real-life 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 series began) as about the Korean Conflict.
|Season||Ep #||First airdate||Last airdate||Ranking|
|Season 1||24||September 17, 1972||March 25, 1973||46|
|Season 2||24||September 15, 1973||March 2, 1974||4|
|Season 3||24||September 10, 1974||March 18, 1975||5|
|Season 4||25||September 12, 1975||February 24, 1976||15|
|Season 5||25||September 21, 1976||March 15, 1977||4|
|Season 6||25||September 20, 1977||March 27, 1978||9|
|Season 7||26||September 18, 1978||March 12, 1979||7|
|Season 8||25||September 17, 1979||March 24, 1980||5|
|Season 9||20||November 17, 1980||May 4, 1981||4|
|Season 10||22||October 26, 1981||April 12, 1982||9|
|Season 11||16||October 25, 1982||February 28, 1983||3|
M*A*S*H was a weekly half-hour situation comedy, sometimes described as “dark comedy” or a "dramedy," because of the dramatic subject material often presented (the term "dramedy," although coined in 1978, was not in common usage until after M*A*S*H had gone off the air). The show was an ensemble piece revolving around key personnel in a United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH; the asterisks in the name are meaningless, introduced in the novel) in the Korean War (1950–1953). The 4077th MASH was just 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 show (and the film version) was based, noted that Hawkeye was far more liberal in the show (in one of the sequel books, Hawkeye in fact makes reference to “kicking the bejesus out of lefties just to stay in shape”). While the show was mostly comedy, there were many episodes of a more serious tone. Stories were both plot- and character-driven. Most of the characters were draftees, with dramatic tension often occurring between them and "Regular Army" characters, either among the cast (Swit as Houlihan, Morgan as Potter) or as guest stars (including Eldon Quick, Herb Voland, Mary Wickes, and Tim O'Connor).
M*A*S*H maintained a relatively constant ensemble cast, with four characters – Hawkeye, Mulcahy, Houlihan and Klinger – appearing on the show for all eleven of the seasons in which it ran. Several other main characters who left or joined the show midway through its original run supplemented these four, and numerous guest stars and one-time characters supplemented all of them.
|Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce||Alan Alda||Captain||Chief surgeon|
|John Patrick Francis Mulcahy||George Morgan (Pilot Episode), Replaced by William Christopher|| 1st Lieutenant,|
|Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (O'Houlihan in the film)||Loretta Swit||Major||Head nurse|
|Maxwell Q. Klinger||Jamie Farr|| Corporal,|
later Company Clerk
| John Francis Xavier "Trapper" McIntyre|
| Henry Braymore Blake|
|McLean Stevenson||Lieutenant Colonel|| Surgeon,|
| Franklin Marion "Frank" Burns, also known as "Ferrett Face"|
|Larry Linville|| Major,|
later Lieutenant Colonel (off-screen)
| Surgeon, |
Temporary Commanding officer (following the discharge of Henry Blake)
| Walter Eugene "Radar" O’Reilly|
|Gary Burghoff||Corporal|| Company Clerk,|
| B. J. Hunnicutt|
(replaced Trapper; Seasons 4-11)
| Sherman T. Potter|
(replaced Henry Blake; Seasons 4-11)
|Harry Morgan||Colonel|| Surgeon,|
Commanding officer (After Lt. Col. Blake)
| Charles Emerson Winchester III|
(replaced Frank Burns; Seasons 6-11)
|David Ogden Stiers||Major|| Surgeon|
The 4077th actually consisted of two separate sets. An outdoor set, located in the mountains near Malibu, California in Calabasas, Los Angeles County, California was used for most exterior and tent scenes for every season. The indoor set, located on a sound stage at Fox Studios, 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 (for example, 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 major brush fire destroyed the entire 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 Fox Ranch, and owned by 20th Century Fox Studios until the 1980s, the site today is returning to a natural state, and marked by a rusted Jeep and an ambulance used in the show. On February 23, 2008, series stars Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, and William Christopher along with producers Gene Reynolds and Burt Metcalfe and prolific M*A*S*H director Charles S. Dubin reunited at the set to celebrate its partial restoration. The rebuilt iconic 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 TV 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, BJ, Trapper, Charles and Frank during the course of the show. The Smithsonian has The Swamp on display to this day. Originally found on the Ranch, Radar's teddy bear, once housed at the Smithsonian, was sold at auction July 29, 2005, for $11,800.
By season three, McLean Stevenson was growing unhappy playing a supporting role to Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers. Midway through the season, he informed the producers he wanted out of the show. With ample time to prepare a “Goodbye Henry” show, it was decided that Henry Blake would be discharged and sent home for the Season Three 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 had been shot down over the Sea of Japan, and he was killed. The scene was the last one shot of the entire episode, and the page of script that reveals that development was only given to the cast moments before cameras rolled. The scene had to be shot twice due to a noise off camera, the actors had to recompose and act shocked at the news a second time. Up until then, they were going to get a message that Blake had arrived safely home. Although this is now regarded as a classic episode, at the time it garnered a barrage of angry mail from fans. As a result, the creative team behind M*A*S*H pledged that no other characters would leave the show in such a tragic fashion.
Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) was planning to return for Season Four but also had a disliking of his supporting role to Alda and because of his contract, left the series. Though Rogers had been threatening to leave the series since Season One, his departure was unexpected, as compared to that of McLean Stevenson. In addition, Rogers felt his character was never given any real importance and that all the focus was on Alda's character. Mike Farrell (Rogers’ replacement) was hastily recruited during the 1975 summer production hiatus. Actor Pernell Roberts later would assume the role of a middle-aged John "Trapper" McIntyre, in the seven-year run of "Trapper John, M.D.".
As a result of two of the three leads having departed the series, Season Four was, in many ways, a major turning point for M*A*S*H. At the beginning of the fourth season, Hawkeye was informed by Radar that Trapper had been discharged while Hawkeye was on leave, and audiences did not see Trapper's departure, while B. J. Hunnicutt came in as Trapper's replacement. (Trapper, however, 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," and left with a message--a kiss on the cheek for Hawkeye.)
In the season's second episode, Colonel Sherman T. Potter was assigned to the unit as commanding officer, replacing Frank Burns (who had taken over as commander after Blake's departure). The series, while still remaining a comedy, gradually became more emotionally rounded. Major Houlihan's role continued to evolve during this time; she became much friendlier towards Hawkeye and B.J., and had a falling out with Frank. She later married a fellow officer, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot, but the union did not last for long. The “Hot Lips” nickname was rarely used to describe her after about the midway point in the series. In fact, Loretta Swit wanted to leave the series in the 8th 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. However, Swit did originate the Cagney role in the made-for-TV movie which served as that series' pilot. As the show progressed into its last few seasons, episodes frequently were used to demonstrate a moral point, most often about the horrors of war, in a move that has been criticized by some fans for overshadowing the careless comedic style for which the show had become famous. Episodes written or directed by Alan Alda had an even greater propensity to follow a moral path.
Larry Linville noted that his “Frank Burns” character was easier to “dump on” after head comedy writer Larry Gelbart departed after Season Four and "Frank" and "Margaret" parted ways. Throughout Season Five, Linville realized he’d taken Frank Burns as far as he could, and he decided that since he’d signed a five-year contract originally, and his fifth year was coming to an end, he would leave the series. During the first episode of Season Six, Frank Burns (off camera) suffered a nervous breakdown due to Margaret's marriage, and was held for psychiatric evaluation. In an unexpected twist, Burns was then transferred stateside to an Indiana Veteran's Administration hospital, near his home, and was 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.”
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 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 thanks, in part, to a cribbage debt owed to him by his CO, Colonel 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, though his work sometimes suffered from his excessive perfectionism when rapid “meatball surgery” was called for.
Winchester was respected by the others professionally, but at the same time, as a Boston “blueblood,” he was also snobbish, which drove much of his conflict with the other characters. Still, the show's writers would allow Winchester's humanity to shine through, such as in his dealings with a young piano player 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 his sister stutters), his keeping a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father went into surgery back in the States, or his continuing of a family tradition of anonymously giving Christmas treats to an orphanage. The episode featuring this tradition is considered by many fans to be among the most moving in the series, as 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 Corporal Klinger's own gift of understanding. For the final moment of the episode, Major and Corporal are simply friends.
Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) had been growing restless in his role since at least season four. With each year he appeared in fewer episodes, and by season seven Radar is in barely half of the shows. Burghoff planned to leave at the end of the seventh season, but was convinced by producers to wait until the beginning of season eight, when he filmed a 2-part farewell episode, plus a few short scenes that were inserted into episodes preceding it. The series' final nod to Radar came when his iconic teddy bear was included in a time capsule of the 4077th instigated by Hot Lips.
Max Klinger also grew away from the transvestite reputation that overshadowed him. He dropped his Section 8 pursuit when taking over for Radar as Company Clerk. Both Farr and the producers felt that there was more to Klinger than a chiffon dress, and tried to develop the character more fully. Farr stayed throughout the rest of the series.
Beginning with season six, Alan Alda and new Executive Producer Burt Metcalfe became the "voice" of M*A*S*H. By season eight, the writing staff had been overhauled and M*A*S*H displayed a different feel, consciously moving between comedy and drama, unlike the seamless integration of years gone by. While this latter era showcased some fine dramatic moments, the attempts at pure comedy were not so successful. The quirky, fractured camp of the early years had gradually turned into a homogenized "family," clever dialogue gave way to puns, and the sharply defined characters were often unrecognizable and lost most of their comedic bite. In addition, the episodes became more political, and the show was often accused of "preaching" to its viewers.
While the series remained popular through these changes, eventually it began to run out of creative steam. Harry Morgan, who played Colonel Potter, admitted in an interview that he felt "the cracks were starting to show" by Season Nine, and the cast had agreed to make season ten their last. In the end, they decided to extend the show for an additional year, making for a total of eleven seasons.
“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the final episode of M*A*S*H. The episode aired on February 28, 1983 and was 2½ hours long. It was viewed by nearly 106 million Americans (77% of viewership that night) which established it as the most watched episode in United States television history, a record which still stands.
An urban legend states that the episode was seen by so many people that just after the end of the episode, the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department reported the largest use of water ever around the city, due to New Yorkers waiting through the whole show to go to the toilet.
M*A*S*H airs on TV Land and also airs four times a day, Monday through Friday on Hallmark Channel. The program also airs twice daily on ION Television (a terrestrial television network), as well as in syndication to local stations. Because of this, some viewers would get M*A*S*H on four channels, with two of them being their local stations.
In Australia, M*A*S*H is aired every weekday at 5pm on the Seven Network in an extensively cut-down form, and the network recently screened the final 2½-hour-long final episode, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" at the special time of midday in place of the normal midday movie. It also airs five times a day on the Australian cable channel "fox classics". In New Zealand, the Australian-owned Prime Television channel airs M*A*S*H every weekday at 4:30pm. In Canada, History Channel also airs M*A*S*H weekdays from 5pm to 6pm.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, digital channel Paramount Comedy 2 broadcasts two episodes each weekday morning between 9am and 10am, which are then repeated at 7pm that evening and in the early hours of the following morning. The channel also sometimes devotes entire weekends to M*A*S*H, with every episode from a particular season being broadcast.
The outdoor set used for the movie, the early years of the series, and then limited times in later seasons, is now a part of Malibu Creek State Park. In early 2008, years of overgrown brush were cleared away, the iconic signpost was rebuilt and tent markers were installed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the program's finale. On February 23, 2008 cast members Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, William Christopher and Jeff Maxwell, producers Gene Reynolds and Burt Metcalfe and prolific M*A*S*H director Charles S. Dubin reunited at the outdoor set for the first time to celebrate the milestone. One of the most recognizable sites in entertainment history has been reborn. It can be visited with park entry and a two mile hike, across some pretty rugged terrain (the roads formerly leading to the set have long since washed away). The indoor scenes were filmed on sound stage 9 at 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City, Los Angeles, California.
A documentary special titled Making M*A*S*H, narrated by Mary Tyler Moore and taking viewers behind the production of the Season 9 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, respectively. Memories of M*A*S*H, hosted by Shelley Long and featuring clips from the series and interviews with cast members, aired on 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. Hosted by Mike Farrell, he also got to interact with the actor he replaced, Wayne Rogers. Both 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 detailing the history of the show.
There was also an E! True Hollywood Story episode produced about 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 exceptions of McLean Stevenson and Mike Farrell, would appear in the spots over time.
|DVD Name||Ep #||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 |
|251||November 7, 2006||October 30, 2006|
|Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen Collector's Edition||1||May 15, 2007||N/A|
In his blog, writer Ken Levine revealed that on one occasion when the cast offered too many nit-picky "notes" on a script, he and his writing partner 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 degrees. Levine says, "This happened maybe twice, and we never got a ticky tack note again."
By the time the series ended, three of the regulars were promoted: Klinger (Jamie Farr) from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from Lieutenant to Captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel when he was shipped back to the US 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" through a machination of Hawkeye and B.J. to Second Lieutenant, but disliked officer's duties, and asked them to "bust" him back to Corporal.
It was Mike Farrell who asked to have 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.
Among those wounded were Hawkeye Pierce ("Hawkeye", "Lend A Hand", "Out of Sight Out of Mind" and "Comrades In Arms (Part I)"), Radar O'Reilly ("Fallen Idol"), B.J. Hunnicutt and Max Klinger ("Operation Friendship"), Klinger again ("It happened One Night"), Father Mulcahy ("Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"), and Sherman Potter ("Dear Ma"). Henry Blake was injured three 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 the latrine he is in is blown up.
At least three personnel suffered emotional breakdowns: Hawkeye Pierce ("Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"), Frank Burns ("Fade Out, Fade In (Part 1)" and "Fade Out, Fade In (Part 2)"), and B.J. Hunnicutt ("Period of Adjustment"). Sherman Potter had two near-nervous breakdowns, once when he almost lost a patient and once while he was given information on treating burn victims.
The Jeeps used were "Willy's" Jeeps, while the Ambulances were Dodges and the bus used to transport wounded was an early-1950s Ford bus.
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