M*A*S*H (TV series)
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The M*A*S*H title screen (1972–77).
|Format||Medical drama / Dramedy / Situation comedy / Black comedy / Satire / Military|
|Created by||H. Richard Hornberger|
|Developed by||Larry Gelbart|
|Starring|| Alan Alda
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||251 ( List of episodes)|
|Location(s)||Los Angeles County, California ( Century City and the Malibu Creek area)|
|Camera setup||Multiple camera|
|Running time||24–25 minutes (per episode)|
|Production company(s)||20th Century Fox Television|
|Original run||September 17, 1972– February 28, 1983|
|Followed by|| AfterMASH
|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 is a medical drama/ black comedy that was produced in association with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS. It follows 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 in the US on September 17, 1972, and ended February 28, 1983, with the finale becoming the most-watched television episode in U.S. television history with 105.97 million viewers (though one estimate said 125 million viewers); in 2010, Super Bowl XLIV surpassed the record with 106.5 million viewers. Despite the high turn out for the the final episode of M*A*S*H, it struggled in its first season and was at risk of being canceled. However, season two of M*A*S*H placed it in a better time slot and the show became one of the top ten programs of the year and stayed in the top twenty programs for the rest of its eleven season run. The show is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations. The series, which covered a three-year military conflict, spanned 251 episodes and lasted eleven seasons.
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 show began) as it was about the Korean War. It took a number of minor creative liberties with the actual facts of the Korean War.
M*A*S*H aired weekly in its original CBS run, with most episodes being a half-hour in length. The series is usually categorized as a situation comedy, though it is sometimes 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; the asterisks in the name are meaningless, a contrivance introduced in the novel) in the Korean War (1950–53). 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 regular characters (Margaret Houlihan, Colonel Potter) or guest characters such as Eldon Quick, Herb Voland, Mary Wickes, and Tim O'Connor.
Series creators Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds wanted M*A*S*H broadcast without a laugh track ("Just like the actual Korean War", Gelbart remarked dryly), but CBS rejected the idea. By Season Two, a compromise was reached, and the producers were allowed to omit the laugh track during operating room scenes if they wished. As a result, few scenes in the operating room contain canned laughter. Certain episodes omitted the laugh track completely ("O.R.", "The Bus", "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", "The Interview") as did some international and syndicated airings of the show. The first five seasons of the series contained a rather invasive laugh track, similar to other laugh track sitcoms of the period, but by Season Six, newer, significantly quieter, laughs were recorded and employed. In the UK, where the show was broadcast by the BBC (and therefore also without advertising breaks), the laugh track was removed entirely from all episodes.
On all released DVDs, both in Region 2 (Europe, including the UK) and Region 1 (including the U.S.), there is an option to watch the show with or without the laugh track.
Syndicated broadcasts in the U.S. and UK today retain the original U.S. laugh track.
M*A*S*H maintained a relatively constant ensemble cast, with four characters—Hawkeye, Father Mulcahy, Margaret Houlihan, and Klinger—appearing on the show for all eleven seasons. Several other main characters left or joined the show midway through the show's run. There were also numerous guest and recurring characters. 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.
| Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
|Alan Alda||Captain||Surgeon, Chief Surgeon|
| John Patrick Francis Mulcahy
|George Morgan (Pilot Episode), replaced by William Christopher|| First Lieutenant,
| Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
|Loretta Swit||Major||Head Nurse,
Temporary Executive Officer
| Maxwell Q. Klinger
|Jamie Farr|| Corporal,
later Company Clerk
| John Francis Xavier "Trapper" McIntyre
| Henry Braymore Blake
|McLean Stevenson||Lieutenant Colonel|| Commanding Officer,
| Franklin Marion "Frank" Burns
later Lieutenant Colonel (off-screen)
|Surgeon, Executive Officer
Temporary Commanding Officer (following the discharge of Henry Blake)
| Walter Eugene "Radar" O’Reilly
(one episode as Second Lieutenant)
| B. J. Hunnicutt
| Sherman Tecumseh Potter
(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
- Nurse Kealani Kellye, a recurring character in the 4077th (appearing in 82 episodes), 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 one occasion, David Ogden Stiers and Loretta Swit have inadvertently referred to her as "Nurse Nakahara" and "Lieutenant Nakahara", respectively.
- Jeff Maxwell appeared as 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". 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 because of his hatred of enlisted staff. In another episode, Burns asks his name and he replies "Maxwell", the actor's actual surname, Burns then replies with that name.
- 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, who headed the camp motor pool, in 14 episodes.
- Dr. Sidney Freedman, Major, a psychiatrist, was played by Allan Arbus, who appeared twelve times (once as Dr. "Milton" Freedman).
- Lieutenant Colonel/Colonel Flagg (Sam) Flagg, a paranoid infantry intelligence officer, was played by Edward Winter. He visited the unit six times.
- Marcia Strassman played nurse Margie Cutler six times, during the show's first season. She disappeared after 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 Spaulding, 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.
- 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.
- Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot appeared twice (played by two different actors), once as Margaret's fiancé and once as her husband. In the episode where he appears as her husband, he takes part in a M*A*S*H Olympics,and 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 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 humour. 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" (the women agreed to vacate the hut in exchange for Klinger's wardrobe of dresses). 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 Spearchucker Jones in early episodes as a captain who lived with Pierce, Burns, and Mcintyre in the "swamp".
Actors with multiple roles
At least 19 guest stars made appearances as multiple characters:
- Hamilton Camp appeared twice, first as the insane Cpl. "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 Col. 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 Gen. Bartford Hamilton Steele in the show's third season, in the episode "The General Flipped at Dawn". This latter 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 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 poses as a North Korean POW (11.3, "Foreign Affairs"). (Soon-Tek Oh was 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 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 "The Korean Surgeon".
- Keye Luke appeared three times. In “Patent 4077” (season 6), he played Mr. Shin, a local jewelry maker hired by the surgeons to make a new surgical clamp; in “A Night at Rosie’s” (season 7), he played Cho Kim, who ran a crooked craps game in the back room at Rosie’s Bar; and in “Death Takes a Holiday” (season 9), he played the headmaster of a local orphanage.
- 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"; 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 barkeep: he takes bribes (in the form of booze in his "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; he once sold a backwards-running watch to Major Burns and he also tried to help cost Corporal Klinger his money in a game of craps in A Night at Rosie's.
- 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 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).
- 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 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" he played the part of Hawkeye's crossword loving friend Lt. Tippy Brooks. In "Mail Call Three" 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 (via 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" (1976) he played the part of Colonel Coner who Hawkeye drops garbage on. In "Peace On Us" (1978) he played the part of red haired Major Goss sent to warn Hawkeye to stay away from the peace talks!
- 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 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 might want to name any children of his after him. Also in the eight 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
- 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 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 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. 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, Mike Farrell (B.J. 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. Burghoff later commented that his (Radar's) deformity would have made it impossible for him to be involved in active service. You can, however, clearly see this deformity at the very beginning of the pilot episode, when he is holding the football. It is also visible at the end of "The Most Unforgettable Characters" (Season 5, Episode 14) when he is trying to lift weights.
- Most of the M*A*S*H main cast guested on Murder She Wrote (with the exceptions of Alan Alda, McLean Stevenson, and Gary Burghoff). 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 in the CIA. Harry Morgan appeared once in a cleverly cut episode that mixed with an episode of Dragnet that Morgan had starred 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 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 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 TV series.
- Ron Howard guest-starred as Marine Private Walter/Wendell Peterson in the episode " Sometimes You Hear The Bullet". He is discovered to be underage and using his brother Walter's ID, having come to Korea in order 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. Funnily enough, Ron Howard was 18 at the time.
- Leslie Nielsen guest-starred as Col. 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 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. 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 body guard after the doctor saves his life.
- Bruno Kirby (When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers) played Boone in the first episode. In the opening montage of the pilot episode, before Radar's warning of "choppers" you can see that Radar and Boone are throwing a football to each other. You see him later in the episode helping to carry a drugged-out Maj Frank Burns to a bed in post-op.
- Richard Herd appears in the Season 9 episode called "Back Pay". Besides his numerous character roles, he was also the Supreme Commander in the original 1982 television mini-series "V".
- Laurence Fishburne (CSI, The Matrix) appeared in the season ten episode "The Tooth Shall Set You Free", where Hawkeye and B.J. encountered a racist commander who was 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 ten), about a soldier (Pantoliano) who had stolen a fallen friend's identity, as well as his discharge papers, in order to get out of the fighting.
- Pat Morita, who was famous for his role 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 TV comedy "Cheers", as Diane Chambers, the perpetual thorn in Sam Malone's (Ted Danson's) side.
The 4077th actually 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 is 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 major 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 TV commercial production; for example, a Miller Beer ad with a "Mexican" setting was filmed there.
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 on July 29, 2005 for $11,800.
Character departures, introductions and personality changes
During the first season, Hawkeye, Trapper 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" due to the fact there is no record of African American doctors serving in Korea during the Korean War.
Chaplain of the 4077 unit, plays the piano and likes to feel needed. He is a fairly good amateur boxer, and at one stage takes up jogging. Spends a lot of his time and resources helping the local orphanages. William Christopher plays Mulcahy, replacing actor George Morgan, who played Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode.
By Season 3 (1974–1975), McLean Stevenson began 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 was shot down over the Sea of Japan, and no survivors were found among the wreckage. The scene was the last one shot in the entire episode. Until moments before the camera rolled, the cast members were expecting to receive a message that Blake had arrived safely home. The page of script that revealed Blake's death was given to them at the last minute in order to make their reactions as real as possible, however, a technical error prompted the cast and crew to reshoot the scene; in the second take, which was aired, someone off-camera accidentally dropped a surgical instrument in the pin-drop silence following Radar's announcement. According to Larry Gelbart in an interview for the M*A*S*H 30th anniversary special, when Gary Burghoff saw the page of script, he told Stevenson " you're probably gonna get the Emmy for this." Neither Stevenson nor the show got the Emmy, although Executive Producer Gene Reynolds won for "Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series" in 1975.
Although "Abyssinia, Henry" is now regarded as a classic episode, it garnered a barrage of angry mail from fans at the time; they were shocked that a main character was killed in such a way. Executive Producers Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart wrote all of them back, saying that they were trying to make a real-life point of the horrors of war.
After the news of Colonel Blake’s death shocked the nation, McLean Stevenson appeared the following night on The Carol Burnett Show, appearing in a smoking raft, waving his arms, hollering, "I’m OK! I’m OK!"
Stevenson commented, following his departure: "I made a big mistake. I thought they loved McLean Stevenson...but they loved Henry Blake."
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 for his supporting role to Alda, and had been threatening to leave since season one. His departure was unexpected and unlike that of McLean Stevenson, there was no onscreen farewell. Rogers felt his character was never given any real importance and that all the focus was on Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce.
Rogers' 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 has been discharged, off screen, while Hawkeye was on leave, while B.J. Hunnicutt came in as 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," and left with a message: a kiss on the cheek for Hawkeye.
With two of the three leads having departed the series, Season 4 was, in many ways, a major turning point for M*A*S*H. Actor Pernell Roberts later played a middle-aged Trapper in the seven-year run of Trapper John, M.D..
Sherman T. Potter
In the second episode of the fourth season, " Change of Command", Col. Sherman T. Potter is assigned to the unit as commanding officer, replacing Frank Burns, who had taken over as commander after Blake's departure (Season 3, episode 18). Harry Morgan, who played Potter, had previously guest starred in season 3 as a crazy General. The Colonel is a regular Army man, having served in both the WWI and WWII, first in the cavalry and later as a doctor. He is passionate about horses, and keeps an old saddle in his office, which is later put to use when he acquires a horse. It is interesting to note that 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. One very interesting fact about the show is that the paintings seen in Potter's office were actually painted by Harry Morgan, the actor who portrayed Col. Potter.
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, Lt. Col. 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 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. However, Swit did originate the Cagney role in the made-for-TV movie that served as that series' pilot.
Larry Linville noted that his "Frank Burns" character was easier to dump on after head comedy writer Larry Gelbart departed after Season 4 and "Frank" and "Margaret" parted ways. Throughout Season 5, Linville realized he had taken Frank Burns as far as he could, and he decided that since he had signed a five-year contract and his fifth year was coming to an end, he would leave the series. During the first episode of Season 6, " Fade Out, Fade In", Frank Burns (off camera) suffers a nervous breakdown due to Margaret's marriage and is held for psychiatric evaluation. Hawkeye would offer a toast to Frank's departure, pausing only a moment, then stating "goodbye, Ferret Face." In an unexpected twist, Burns is transferred stateside to an Indiana Veterans Administration hospital, near his home, 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 with Reynolds once a week, mainly to obtain help with their job of Executive Producers. These two men would remain as Executive Producers for the remaining five seasons.
Charles Emerson Winchester III
Major Charles Emerson Winchester III ( David Ogden Stiers) was brought in as an antagonist of sorts to the other surgeons, but his relationship with them 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, 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.
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 surgery "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 would occasionally 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 Winchester's sister stutters); his keeping a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father went into surgery back in the States; his willingness to be officer of the day for Hawkeye when Hawkeye was offered 3 days in Seoul; or his continuing 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 Klinger's own gift of understanding. Klinger scrapes together a Christmas dinner for Charles, with the provison 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, the two are simply friends as Charles says, "Thank you, Max," and Klinger replies, "Merry Christmas, Charles."
Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) 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 he filmed a two-part farewell episode, " Good-Bye, Radar", as well as a few short scenes that were inserted into episodes preceding it. The series' final nod to Radar came in the penultimate episode of the series, "As Time Goes By", when his iconic teddy bear was included in a time capsule of the 4077th's 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 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. In the role of company clerk, Klinger's personality turned more to the "wheeler-dealer" aspects of his personality developed in the streets of Toledo, 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, he 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 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, we learn that soon after the end of the war, Klinger did indeed return to the United States.
Change in tone
As the series progressed, it made a significant shift from being primarily a comedy to becoming far more drama-focused. Changes behind the scenes were the cause, rather than the oft-cited cast defections of McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville, Wayne Rogers and Gary Burghoff. Executive Producer Gene Reynolds left at the end of the fifth season in 1977. This, coupled with head writer Larry Gelbart's departure the previous season, stripped the show of its comedic foundation. Likewise, with the departure of Larry Linville after five seasons, the series lost its "straight man" ( comic foil). As such, the comedic years were the show's first five seasons (1972–1977).
Beginning with the sixth season (1977–1978), Alan Alda and new Executive Producer Burt Metcalfe became the "voice" of M*A*S*H, and continued in those roles for the remaining five seasons (though Alda and Gene Reynolds became Executive Consultants). By the eighth season in 1979, the writing staff had been totally overhauled, and M*A*S*H displayed a different feel—consciously moving between comedy and drama, unlike the seamless integration of years gone by. In addition, the episodes became more political. At the same time, many episodes from the later era were praised for their experimentation with the half-hour sitcom format, including "Point of View" (an episode shown from the POV of a wounded soldier), "Dreams" (which show the lyrical and eventually disturbing dreams of the 4077 personnel), "A War For All Seasons" (which takes place over the course of 1951), and "Life Time" (which takes place in real time).
Another change was the infusion of story lines based on actual events and medical developments that materialized during the Korean War. Considerable research was done by the producers, including interviews with actual MASH surgeons and personnel to develop story lines rooted in the war itself. Such early 1950s events as the McCarthy era, various sporting events, and the stardom of Marilyn Monroe were all incorporated into various episodes, a trend that continued until the end of the series.
While the series remained popular through these changes, it eventually began to run out of creative steam. The producers received phone calls from actual Korean War doctors, telling them experiences they had and wanted to include those into upcoming episodes. According to Burt Metcalfe, they had to refuse some (if not all) storylines from the doctors, saying they had used them up in previous episodes. Harry Morgan, who played Col. Potter, admitted in an interview that he felt "the cracks were starting to show" by Season 9 (1980–1981), and the cast had agreed to make Season 10 their last. CBS decided otherwise, saying that their hit show was not going to go away so easily. Ultimately, CBS persuaded the cast and crew to produce half a regular season of episodes for the final year (making an official run of eleven seasons) and end the series with a big finale, which ultimately became one of the most watched episodes in television history.
"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. The episode got a Nielsen rating of 60.2 and 77 share, translating into nearly 106 million Americans watching that night, which established it as the most-watched episode in United States television history, a record that stood for nearly 27 years. On February 7, 2010, Super Bowl XLIV surpassed the number of viewers as 106.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts compared to the 105.97 million who watched "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" in 1983, when there were only 235 million people. However, the ratings and audience share remain higher with the GFA episode: Super Bowl XLIV got only a 46.4 Rating and 68% Share when there were 308.7 million people.
When the M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983, there were 83.3 million television homes; in February 2010, there are almost 115 million television homes.
According to articles from the Associated Press from March, 1983, "CBS parlayed the final episode of MASH - which got the highest rating and attracted the largest audience ever for a single TV program - into a big ratings victory for the week..."
The record "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" did break was the highest percentage of homes with television sets to watch a TV series. Stories persist that the episode was seen by so many people that, during the commercial breaks of the episode, the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department reported that the plumbing systems had broken down in some parts of the city. Said to be the largest use of water ever around the city because so many New Yorkers waited until the advertising breaks to go to the toilet, the stories are considered largely apocryphal.
M*A*S*H won a total of 14 Emmy Awards 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
The show was also honored with a Peabody Award in 1975 "for the depth of its humor and the manner in which comedy is used to lift the spirit and, as well, to offer a profound statement on the nature of war." M*A*S*H was cited as "an example of television of high purpose that reveals in universal terms a time and place with such affecting clarity."
|Season||Ep #||Season Premiere||Season Finale||Ranking||Viewers
|Season 1||24||September 17, 1972||March 25, 1973||Not in top 30||N/A|
|Season 2||24||September 15, 1973||March 2, 1974||#4||17.02|
|Season 3||24||September 10, 1974||March 18, 1975||#5||18.76|
|Season 4||24||September 12, 1975||February 24, 1976||#15||15.93|
|Season 5||24||September 21, 1976||March 15, 1977||#4||18.44|
|Season 6||24||September 20, 1977||March 27, 1978||#9||16.91|
|Season 7||25||September 18, 1978||March 12, 1979||#7||18.92|
|Season 8||25||September 17, 1979||March 24, 1980||#5||19.30|
|Season 9||20||November 17, 1980||May 4, 1981||#4||20.53|
|Season 10||21||October 26, 1981||April 12, 1982||#9||18.17|
|Season 11||16||October 25, 1982||February 28, 1983||#3||18.82|
Influences on pop culture
In music, 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. Marilyn Manson also released a cover version that was featured on the Blair Witch Project 2 soundtrack album.
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".
There have been numerous references to M*A*S*H in other series, including several episodes of Family Guy, the Futurama " War is the H-Word", The Simpsons episode " Half-Decent Proposal", and the Scrubs episode "My Super Ego". On Sesame Street, in homage to Radar O'Reilly and his teddy bear, Big Bird's teddy bear's name is Radar. 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.
The 1975-76 children's series Uncle Croc's Block included a recurring animated segment called "M-U-S-H", about a group of police dogs stationed at an Arctic Circle outpost. The segment's premise, title (an acronym for Mangy Unwanted Shabby Heroes), and characters (Bullseye, Trooper Yoe, Cold Lips, Major Hank Sideburns, Colonel Flake, Sonar) all parodied M*A*S*H.
After McLean Stevenson left the show, being 'McLean'd' became a reference to a character that is killed off after its actor departs a given series.
Joey Lawrence's character on Melissa & Joey, Joey Longo, was born in a U.S. Army hospital in Uijeongbu.
Spinoffs and specials
M*A*S*H had two official spinoff 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. For legal reasons, the more successful Trapper John, M.D. is considered a spinoff of the original theatrical film, rather than the series. If you watch carefully in the pilot you would see a photograph of Hawkeye and Trapper John from the television series.
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. 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, both of whom had died by that time, 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 exceptions of Mike Farrell, McLean Stevenson, and David Ogden Stiers) appeared in the spots over time.
Around 1990, Gary Burghoff appeared in some locally-aired BP television advertisements in the United States. In them he is playing no particular character, but shows much of Radar's quiet temperament. He announces that certain local filling stations, such as Sohio, are now or will soon become BP filling stations.
In the mid-2000s, Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and Gary Burghoff reunited for a public service announcement promoting information about diabetes (a disease which all three actors have in its Type 1 form). It took place on the company clerk's office set and featured Klinger eating large amounts of chocolate pudding in an attempt to get diabetes in order to be discharged. The commercial is outside of continuity, as it had Klinger wearing his Toledo Mud Hens jersey, which he did primarily after Radar left the series.
20th Century Fox has released all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD in Region 1 & Region 2.
|DVD Name||Ep #||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)
|251||November 7, 2006||October 30, 2006|
|Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen Collector's Edition||1||May 15, 2007||N/A|
On the 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 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 with a "chuckle track", played only occasionally. (DVD releases of the series allow viewers a no-laugh-track option.)
In his blog, writer Ken Levine revealed that on one occasion, when the cast offered too many nitpicking "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."
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". These names stem from the enunciated alphabet used by the military and ham radio operators at the time. 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 semi-regulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in Season 3 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 had been promoted. Klinger (Jamie Farr) went from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) went from Lieutenant to Captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel 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 (via a machination of Hawkeye and B.J.) to Second Lieutenant, but discovered he disliked officer's duties and asked them to "bust" him back to Corporal.
It was Mike Farrell who 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.
Colonel Sherman Potter changed his religion during the series. When he first arrives at the 4077 he asks Father Mulcahy if he does a "Methodist" service and are there other Methodists on the camp, as "He hates to sing alone!" In a later episode, when he is having trouble with Klinger's efforts as company clerk, Father Mulcahy relates the story of when Radar first arrive at the camp. Potter replies "you wouldn't lie to an old "Presbyterian" would you?
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 land mine. Though actually an imaginary person made up by Hawkeye Pierce to provide money for Sister Teresa's orphanage, "Capt. Tuttle" was killed when he jumped from a helicopter without a parachute. Hawkeye provided him a very 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 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 the latrine he is in is blown up. (The gag of Blake's being caught in a exploding latrine is also in the episode "Cowboy".) Henry is also injured when the latrine catches fire. Frank Burns is twice awarded Purple Hearts for spurious injuries: throwing his back out after he gave Margaret a dip and couldn't move - which was later covered for 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's Purple Heart medals were then given to more deserving individuals: a GI who was admitted with appendicitis, and a Korean newborn infant who was hit by a bullet in utero.
At least two personnel suffered emotional breakdowns: Hawkeye Pierce ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen") and Frank Burns ("Fade Out, Fade In [Part 1]" and "Fade Out, Fade In [Part 2]").
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. However, a later (1954–73) 47G would occasionally make an appearance. The helicopters are remarkably similar in appearance (with the later "G" models having larger two-piece fuel tanks, a slightly revised cabin as well as 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 WW2 Ford GPWs and Willys Mbs. 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 El Monte, CA museum without any markings. The bus used to transport the wounded was an early-1950s 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.
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 home to his father (first with a narration done by him at the start of the pilot episode and then as follows: " Dear Dad", "Dear Dad... Again", "Dear Dad... Three", and he tape records a message in "A Full Rich Day"); Potter writes home to his wife ("Dear Mildred"); BJ writes home to his wife ("Dear Peggy"); Radar composes a weekly report to HQ ("Radar's Report"), writes home 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.
- "Showtime" (originally aired March 25, 1973), which shows various incidents at the 4077th interspersed with performances from a visiting USO troupe.
- "O.R." (originally aired October 8, 1974), which takes place entirely within the confines of the operating room (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 letter written by Trapper, a Shirley Temple movie, and a picnic.
- "The Bus" (originally aired October 17, 1975), in which Hawkeye, BJ, Potter, Frank, and Radar find themselves lost and stranded behind enemy lines on their way back from a medical convention. (It is one of only three episodes in the series where the entire story takes place outside the 4077th camp, and is also one of only three episodes that does not include a scene of the surgeons operating in the 4077th O.R. or another operating room.)
- "Hawkeye" (originally aired January 13, 1976), in which Hawkeye is taken in by a Korean family (who understand no English) after suffering a head injury in 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.)
- "Deluge" (originally aired February 17, 1976), "The M*A*S*H Olympics" (originally aired November 22, 1977), and "Give 'em Hell, Hawkeye" (originally aired November 16, 1981) all intersperse vintage Movietone newsreel footage with activities at the 4077th.
- "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 colour 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.
- "A Night at Rosie's" (originally aired February 26, 1979), which takes place entirely at Rosie's Bar just outside of camp.
- "Life Time" (originally aired November 26, 1979), which takes place in real time as the surgeons perform an operation that must be completed within 20 minutes (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 cowritten with Alan Alda. The episode received two prestigious writing honours: 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.
- "Where 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 frontline aid station.