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M*A*S*H (TV series)

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.

Episodes

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

Synopsis

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).

Cast

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.

Character Actor/Actress Rank Role
Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce Alan Alda Captain Chief surgeon
John Patrick Francis Mulcahy George Morgan (Pilot Episode), Replaced by William Christopher 1st Lieutenant,
later Captain
Chaplain
Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (O'Houlihan in the film) Loretta Swit Major Head nurse
Maxwell Q. Klinger Jamie Farr Corporal,
later Sergeant
Corpsman,
later Company Clerk
John Francis Xavier "Trapper" McIntyre
(Seasons 1-3)
Wayne Rogers Captain Surgeon
Henry Braymore Blake
(Seasons 1-3)
McLean Stevenson Lieutenant Colonel Surgeon,
Commanding officer
Franklin Marion "Frank" Burns, also known as "Ferrett Face"
(Seasons 1-5)
Larry Linville Major,
later Lieutenant Colonel (off-screen)
Surgeon,
Temporary Commanding officer (following the discharge of Henry Blake)
Walter Eugene "Radar" O’Reilly
(Seasons 1-7)
Gary Burghoff Corporal Company Clerk,
Bugler
B. J. Hunnicutt
(replaced Trapper; Seasons 4-11)
Mike Farrell Captain Surgeon
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

Recurring characters

  • Nurse Kealani Kellye, a recurring character in the 4077th appearing in 82 episodes, played by Kellye Nakahara
  • Jeff Maxwell played the bumbling Pvt. Igor Straminsky in 66 episodes. In his earlier appearances, he was the camp cook's aide, complaining that despite not actually cooking the food, 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".
  • Supply sergeant for the 4077th, Staff Sgt Zelmo Zale, was portrayed by Johnny Haymer. 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 in 14 episodes.
  • Dr. Sidney Freedman, a psychiatrist, was played by Alan Arbus who appeared twelve times (once as Dr. Milton Freedman).
  • Col. (Sam) Flagg, a paranoid intelligence officer, was played by Edward Winter and visited the unit six times.
  • Marcia Strassman played nurse Margie Cutler six times. She disappeared after episode Ceasefire.
  • Herb Voland appeared four times as Henry Blake's commander, Brigadier General Clayton.
  • G. Wood appeared three times as Brigadier General Hammond, the same role he played in the movie.
  • Robert F. Simon appeared three times as Major General Mitchell.
  • Loudon Wainwright III appeared three times as Captain Calvin Spaulding, who was normally 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.
  • Sgt. 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.
  • Sorrell Booke appeared twice as Brigadier General Bradley Barker.
  • Robert Symonds appeared twice as Col. Horace Baldwin.
  • Robert Alda, Alan Alda's father, appeared twice as Maj. Borelli, a visiting surgeon.
  • Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot appeared twice (played by two different actors), once as Margaret's fiancé and once as her husband.
  • Sgt. "Sparky" Pryor, a friend of Radar and Max, was a person whom people appeared to talk to on the telephone. 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 P.A. system announcer throughout the series. This unseen character broke the fourth Wall only once, in the episode "Welcome to Korea" (4-1) when introducing the regular cast members. Normally he just tells the camp about the incoming wounded with a sense of humor. Both Viscuso and Susman appeared onscreen as other characters in at least one episode each.

Actors with multiple roles

At least 18 guest stars made appearances as multiple characters:

  • Hamilton Camp appeared twice. First as the insane Corporal "Boots" Miller in "Major Topper" and again as a film distributor named Frankenheimer in "The Moon Is Not Blue".
  • 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.
  • Tim O'Connor appeared as wounded artillery officer Colonel Spiker, and as visiting surgeon, Norm Traeger. 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 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 General Bartford Hamilton Steele in the show's third season in the episode "The General Flipped at Dawn".
  • Soon-Tek Oh appeared five times; twice as North Korean POWs (in 4.6, "The Bus", and 8.10, "The Yalu Brick Road"), once as a North Korean doctor (5.9, "The Korean Surgeon"), once as O.R. orderly Mr. Kwang ("Love and Marriage") and once as a South Korean interpreter who posed as a North Korean POW (11.3, "Foreign Affairs"). (Soon-Tek Oh is one of the few Korean actors to play a Korean on MASH; most of the other "Korean" characters were played by either Japanese or Chinese actors.)
  • Robert Karnes appeared twice: once as a Colonel in 4.1 and as a General in 6.4.
  • Clyde Kusatsu appeared four times; twice as a Korean bartender in the Officer's 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 "The Korean Surgeon".
  • Mako appeared four times; once as a Chinese doctor, once as a South Korean doctor, once as a South Korean officer, and once as a North Korean soldier.
  • 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", and as an acupuncturist named Wu in 8.24 "Back Pay".
  • John Orchard starred as the Australian anesthetist, Ugly John, in the first season, and later appeared in 8.13 as a disgruntled and drunken Australian MP Muldoon, who has an arrangement with Rosie the barkeep: he takes bribes (in the form of booze in is "coffee" mug) to "look the other way".
  • Richard Lee Sung appeared ten times as a local Korean who often had merchandise (and in one case, real estate) he wished to sell to the hospital staff; sold a backwards running watch to Major Burns.
  • Jack Soo appeared twice; once as black market boss Charlie Lee with whom Hawkeye and Trapper made a trade for supplies in "To Market, To Market", and in "Payday" 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 Quik 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 6 episodes as Colonel Flagg (although Halloran may have been one of Flagg's numerous and often mid-episode changing aliases).
  • Shizuko Hoshi appeared at least twice: once as "Rosie" of "Rosie's Bar" in episode 3.13, "Mad Dogs and Servicemen," and once in 4.18, "Hawkeye," as the mother in a Korean family.
  • 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 Captain 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).

Character names

  • 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 plot line. Hawkeye goes to extreme lengths to learn what "B. J." stands for, but all official paperwork concerning his friend claims that B. J. really is his first name. Toward the end of the episode, B. J. explains "My mother, Bea Hunnicut and my father, Jay Hunnicut.", and claims that this is the reason for his odd name. 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 three middle names during his time on the show: W., Marion, and D. (as in, "Franklin D. Whitebread marries Miss Cynthia Soon-to-be-Frigid")
  • Radar's first name is stated as Walter and once, in "Fade In, Fade Out", 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 would ever want to name any children of his after him.

Notable actors and actor information

  • Antony Alda, Alan Alda's half-brother, appeared in one episode ("Lend a Hand") as Corporal Jarvis.
  • Robert Alda, Alan Alda's father, had guest appearances in two episodes, "The Consultant" and "Lend a Hand". According to Alan Alda, "Lend a Hand" was his way of reconciling with his dad; 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 three 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.
  • 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. The dog tags Farr wears on the show are his actual dogtags. Farr served as part of a USO tour with Red Skelton. Furthermore, Mike Farrell (BJ Hunnicut) served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a younger man.
  • Gary Burghoff's left hand is slightly deformed, 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.
  • Most of the M*A*S*H main cast guested on Murder She Wrote. Wayne Rogers made five appearances as roguish PI 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 cop. Larry Linville made two appearances as a cop who was sure that Jessica was CIA. Harry Morgan appeared once in a cleverly cut episode that mixed with a film he had once been in. 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 as a modern artist framed for murder). Mike Farrell appeared as a Senate hopeful.
  • Sorrell Booke guest-starred as General Barker in early MASH episodes; Booke was a Korean War Veteran.
  • Leslie Nielsen guest-starred as Col. Buzz Brighton. Because of his high casualty record, Hawkeye and Trapper try to send back to America by convincing him that he is insane.
  • Sal Viscuso is often credited as the sole PA announcer for the TV 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.

The set

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.

Changes

During the first season, Hawkeye and Trapper's bunk mate was an African American character called Spearchucker Jones, played by actor Timothy Brown, who appeared in the film version as a neurosurgeon. The character disappeared after 1.11 "Germ Warfare"; there is no record of African-American doctors serving in Korea. Another actor, George Morgan, played Father Mulcahy only in the pilot episode.

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 Bostonblueblood,” 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.

Change in tone

As the series progressed, it made a significant shift from being primarily a comedy to becoming far more dramatically focused. Changes behind the scenes were the primary cause rather than the oft-cited cast defections. Executive Producer Gene Reynolds left at the end of Season Five. This, coupled with head writer Larry Gelbart's departure the year before, significantly stripped the show of its comedic foundation. While M*A*S*H continued at a high level, the series' best comedic work was, for the most part, in the past. Likewise with the departure of Larry Linville after five seasons the series lost an idotic "Straight man" {comic foil}.

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"

“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.

Awards

M*A*S*H won a total of 14 Emmys during its eleven-year run:

  • 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
  • 1974 - Actor of the Year-Series - Alan Alda
  • 1975 - Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series - Gene Reynolds
  • 1976 - Outstanding Film Editing for Entertainment Programming - Fred W. Berger and Stanford Tischler
  • 1976 - Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series - Gene Reynolds
  • 1977 - Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series - Alan Alda
  • 1977 - Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Gary Burghoff
  • 1979 - Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series - Alan Alda
  • 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

Nielsen ratings

  • 1972-73: #46
  • 1973-74: #4 17.0 m
  • 1974-75: #5 18.7 m
  • 1975-76: #15 15.9 m
  • 1976-77: #4 18.4 m
  • 1977-78: #9 16.9 m
  • 1978-79: #7 18.9 m
  • 1979-80: #5 19.3 m
  • 1980-81: #4 20.5 m
  • 1981-82: #9 18.9 m
  • 1982-83: #3 18.8 m

Popularity today

Starting on January 1, 2007, TV Land aired M*A*S*H from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. for one week in a marathon. According to a press release available at the Futon Critic, the marathon of M*A*S*H episodes and specials that aired during the first week of January drew "an average of 1.3 million total viewers and scored double-digit increases in demo rating and delivery." Additionally, the marathon helped TV Land rank in the top ten basic cable channels among the adults 25–54 demographic for the week. Ratings for specific episodes and specials are also included in the press release:

  • "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen "– 1.3 million total viewers
  • Memories of M*A*S*H (20th Anniversary) – 1.5 million total viewers
  • 30th Anniversary Reunion Special – 1.4 million total viewers.

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.

Influences on pop culture

  • Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers released a cover version of Suicide Is Painless as a charity single to help The Spastics Society (now Scope) in 1992. It was their first UK top ten hit.*
  • Author Paulette Bourgeois credits "C*A*V*E" (episode 164), in which Hawkeye was afraid of being in a dark cave, as the inspiration for the first work in the children's book series, Franklin.
  • Glen Charles and Les Charles, the creators of Cheers, started their careers in television by writing "The Late Captain Pierce". They wrote no other episodes of the series.
  • On an episode of Family Guy, a character remarks "When I fire rockets, I always like to think I'm shooting at Jamie Farr and Alan Alda. Take that, wise-cracking meatball surgeon!" In another episode, the characters are discussing one of their characters leaving the show dramatically, spoofing the scene when Radar announces Colonel Blake's death, with Brian playing Radar. Also, in yet another episode, the character of Stewie, while intoxicated, sings the first few words of "Suicide is Painless", the show's opening theme.
  • On Sesame Street, Big Bird's teddy bear is named Radar. This is in homage to Radar O'Reilly's teddy bear.
  • On Futurama in the episode War Is the H-Word, one scene is set in a military hospital setting. The theme song from M*A*S*H plays and jokes and serious lines from the TV series are uttered by several different characters. One of the characters is a robot based on Hawkeye (named "iHawk") that says lines similar to those the original character used on the show (iHawk has a switch that goes from "Irreverent" to "Maudlin").
  • On The Simpsons episode Half-Decent Proposal when Marge's ex-boyfriend, Artie Ziff (Jon Lovitz) whisks her away on his private helicopter for a weekend, Homer is waving goodbye to her from the backyard. Just then, the M*A*S*H theme begins to play and the scene pans out to a shot of Homer next to a stone message that reads, "Keep Your Clothes On", a nod to the Goodbye, Farewell and Amen episode.
  • Jamie Farr appeared as himself on a 1995 episode of Women of the House titled "Guess Who's Sleeping in Lincoln's Bed?" (the series was written and created by former M*A*S*H writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason), and he ultimately got into drag. He also appeared in an episode of That '70s Show as himself, where he directly mentions his work on M*A*S*H.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Super Ego", JD has a brief flashback were he is seven and he and his brother are playing MASH, his brother forcing him to be Hot Lips with a wig and to kiss Frank, played by their dog with a cap on its head.
  • In Friends episode 'The One Without The Ski Trip) Ross asks Carol if she got the video which was 'half the hostages coming home and half the last episode of MASH'
  • In the Corner Gas episode, "The Taxman", Hank suggests they get rid of the taxman (an agent of Revenue Canada) by getting him drunk and taking compromising photos of him. Brent asks if he's been watching a lot of M*A*S*H lately. Hank admits it, saying he has a new satellite dish.

Spin-offs and specials

M*A*S*H had two official spin-off shows: the short-lived AfterMASH, which features several of the show's characters reunited in a midwestern hospital after the war, and an unpurchased television pilot, W*A*L*T*E*R, in which Walter “Radar” O’Reilly joins a stateside police force. A court ruled that the more successful Trapper John, M.D., is actually a spinoff of the original theatrical film.

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 releases

20th Century Fox has released all 11 Seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD in Region 1 & Region 2 for the very first 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
(Complete Series)
251 November 7, 2006 October 30, 2006
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen Collector's Edition 1 May 15, 2007 N/A

On-set

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 there was brief partial nudity, (notably Gary Burghoff's buttocks in "The Sniper" and Hawkeye in one of the Dear Dad episodes.) A different innovation was the show's producers not wanting a laugh track as the network did. They compromised with a "chuckle track", played only occasionally. (DVD releases of the series mostly allow viewers a no-laugh-track option.)

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."

Character information

Throughout the run of the series, any "generic" nurses (nurse characters who had a line or two, but were minor supporting characters otherwise) were generally given the names "Nurse Able", "Nurse Baker", or "Nurse Charlie". These names stem from the phonetic alphabet used by the military and ham radio operators at the time. During the time period of 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, and 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 actors became semi-regulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in season three before becoming the semi-regular "Nurse Kellye"; on the other hand, Judy Farrell (then Mrs. Mike Farrell) played Nurse Able in eight episodes, including the series finale.

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.

Character injuries

Three MASH 4077 staff members suffered fatalities on the show: Colonel Blake, when his plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan; an ambulance driver, O'Donnell, in a traffic accident; and a nurse, Millie Carpenter, by a landmine. Though actually an imaginary person made up by Hawkeye Pierce to provide money for Sister Teresa's orphanage, Captain Tuttle was reportedly killed at the front when he came to the attention of too many people. Hawkeye provided him a very ironic eulogy (“Tuttle”).

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.

Vehicles

The helicopters used on the series were model H-13 "Sioux" (military designation and nickname of the Bell-47 civilian model).

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.

Unique and unusual episodes

The series had several unique episodes, which differed in tone, structure and style from the rest of the series, and were significant departures from the typical sitcom or dramedy plot. Some of these episodes include:

  • The "letter episodes", which are flashback episodes narrated by a character as if they are writing a letter: Hawkeye writes to his Dad ("Dear Dad", "Dear Dad Again", "Dear Dad... Three", and he tape records a message in "A Full Rich Day"); Potter writes to his wife ("Dear Mildred"); BJ writes home to his wife ("Dear Peggy"); Radar writes to his mother ("Dear Ma") and tries his hand at creative writing ("The Most Unforgettable Characters"); Sidney writes to Sigmund Freud ("Dear Sigmund"); Winchester "writes" home by recording an audio message ("The Winchester Tapes"); Winchester's houseboy—a North Korean spy—writes to his superiors ("Dear Comrade"); Father Mulcahy writes to his sister, a nun ("Dear Sis"); Klinger writes home to his uncle ("Dear Uncle Abdul"); and the main characters all write to children in Crabapple Cove ("Letters").
  • The "mail call episodes"; "Mail Call", "Mail Call Again", and "Mail Call Three". In these episodes the members of the 4077th receive letters and packages from home.
  • "O.R." (originally aired October 8 1974), which takes place entirely within the confines of the operating room and preop/postop ward (and was the first episode to omit the laugh track completely).
  • "Bulletin Board" (originally aired January 14, 1975), an episode showing various camp activities as seen on notices found on the camp bulletin board. These include a sex lecture by Henry, a letter written by Trapper, a Shirley Temple movie, and a picnic.
  • "Hawkeye" (originally aired January 13 1976), in which Hawkeye is taken in by a Korean family (who understand no English) after a jeep accident far from the 4077th, and he carries on what amounts to a 23-minute monologue in an attempt to remain conscious. Alan Alda is the only cast member to appear in the episode.
  • "The Interview" (originally aired February 24 1976), which is a sort of mockumentary about the 4077th. It is shot in black and white and presented as a 1950s television broadcast, with the cast partially improvising their responses to interviewer Clete Roberts' questions. Roberts returned for "Our Finest Hour" (originally aired October 9 1978), which interspersed new black and white interview segments with color clips from previous episodes.
  • "Point of View" (originally aired November 20 1978), which is shot from the point of view of a soldier who is wounded in the throat and taken to the 4077th for treatment.
  • "Life Time" (originally aired November 26 1979), which takes place in real-time as the surgeons perform an operation that must be completed within 22 minutes (as a clock in the corner of the screen counts down the time).
  • "Dreams" (originally aired February 18 1980), in which the dreams of the overworked and sleep-deprived members of the 4077th are visually depicted, revealing their fears, yearnings, and frustrations. This episode was conceived by James Jay Rubinfier and co-written with Alan Alda. The episode received two prestigious writing honors: The Humanitas Prize (1980), and a Writers' Guild of America nomination for episodic television writing in the dramatic category, which was a first as M*A*S*H received WGA nominations in both comedy and drama categories that same year.
  • "A War for All Seasons" (originally aired December 29 1980), which compresses an entire year in the life of the 4077th into a single episode.
  • "Follies of the Living—Concerns of the Dead" (originally aired January 4 1982), in which a dead soldier's ghost (Kario Salem) wanders around the compound, and only a feverish Klinger is able to see him or speak with him.
  • "When There's a Will, There's a War" (originally aired February 22 1982), which features a series of flashbacks as Hawkeye recalls his friends' most endearing qualities while writing his last will and testament during heavy fighting at a front-line aid station.

Notes and references

External links

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