M*A*S*H (TV series)

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Template:Infobox television Inspired by the film of the same name, M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) was an American television series about a team of medical professionals and support staff stationed at MASH 4077th in Korea during the Korean War. The series originally aired on CBS from September 17, 1972 to February 28, 1983, but can still be seen in syndication. The series spanned 251 episodes and lasted longer than the war which served as its setting.

Behind the scenes, those most involved with the show were Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds, Burt Metcalfe and (in later seasons) star Alan Alda.

Much like the movie, it combined elements of comedy with a darker antiwar message. Many of the stories in the early seasons were based on real-life tales told by hundreds of real-life M*A*S*H surgeons, interviewed by the production team. Some said the series seemed to be more about the Vietnam War (still in progress when the series began), given the attitudes of the characters, than the Korean War. The show's producers have said that it was really about war in general.

Although primarily an ensemble show, M*A*S*H became centered around Alan Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce, especially as other founding characters left. Alda wrote and directed some of the most emotional and award-winning episodes; additionally, during the last few seasons, Alda and Metcalfe were listed as the show's "Creative Consultants".

The show's tone changed over the years. Initially, it placed most of its emphasis on the "zany" elements, but later focused on more serious topics and character development; however, both the serious and the comedic sides were present throughout. Eventually much of the audience felt that the story lines had become stale and the comedy dulled, though the show remained in the top of the ratings. The cast voted (by a majority) to end the series following the tenth season, but CBS and 20th Century Fox offered the actors a shortened eleventh season, permitting an opportunity for the show to have a grand finale.

The series had three spin-offs, the short-lived AfterMASH, which featured several of the show's characters reunited in a midwestern hospital after the war, the more successful Trapper John, M.D. (which a court later ruled was actually a spin-off of the original film), and an unpurchased pilot W*A*L*T*E*R, in which Walter "Radar" O'Reilly joins the police force.



A letter to TV Guide written by a former M*A*S*H doctor in about 1973 stated that the most insane jokes and idiotic pranks on the show were the most true to life, including Klinger's crossdressing. The hellish reality of the M*A*S*H units encouraged this behavior out of a desperate need for something to laugh at.

Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) was one of two M*A*S*H actors to reprise his role from the movie, and the only main character (the other was G. Wood as "General Hammond"), retaining his extraordinary ability to detect the arrival of choppers transporting wounded long before anyone else could hear a thing.

The show survived many personnel changes. Out of all the starring characters, Hawkeye, Maj. Houlihan, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy were the only ones in the show for its entire run. (Klinger and Mulcahy, in fact, were listed as guest stars throughout the first few seasons of the show.)

McLean Stevenson left the show at the end of the third season, and his character Henry Blake was discharged and sent home. In the final scene of his last episode it was reported that Blake's plane had been shot down over the Sea of Japan and he was killed. None of the cast (with the exception of Alan Alda, who wrote the scene) knew about that development until a few minutes before Gary Burghoff was told to go in and have Radar report that Blake had died. Up until then, as far as anyone knew, they were going to get a message that Blake had arrived safely home.

Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) left the series after the end of season three due to disagreements about his character. He felt that his character was never given any real importance, that all the focus was on Alda's character. Rogers has also mentioned that he was told to sign a "morals clause" on his contract renewal, which he refused to do.

The fourth season was in many ways a turning point for the entire series. 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. At the same time, Colonel Sherman T. Potter was assigned to the unit as commanding officer, replacing Blake, while B.J. Hunnicutt was drafted in as Trapper's replacement. The series, while still having an element of comedy, began to become more rounded emotionally. Major Houlihan's role continued to evolve during this time; she became much more friendly towards Hawkeye and B.J., and had a falling out with Frank. She later married a fellow officer, but the union did not last for long. The "Hot Lips" nickname was rarely used to describe her after about the mid-way point in the series. 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.

Larry Linville, frustrated with the lack of development of his character, left during the first episode of season six, as Frank Burns suffered a breakdown, was transferred stateside, and promoted. Major Charles Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) was brought in as an antagonist of sorts to the other surgeons, but his relationships with them was not as acrimonious. Unlike Frank, Winchester did not really care for the Army and was a very highly skilled surgeon whom the others respected professionally. At the same time, as a Boston "blueblood", he was also snobbish, which drove much of his conflict with the other characters. Still, the show's writers would allow Winchester's humanity to shine through — such as in his dealings with a young piano player who had partially lost the use of his right hand, or his keeping a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father went into surgery 8000 miles away.

Gary Burghoff left the series in 1979, and rather than adding a new character to replace him, the company clerk role was taken up by Jamie Farr as Corporal (later Sergeant) Klinger, whose cross-dressing never got him the discharge he wanted. Radar's departure meant Klinger became a more prominent character in the series, his attempts at being discharged were downplayed, and by the last few seasons of the series, he rarely wore women's clothing anymore.

"Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"

Missing image
The famous "Goodbye" scene in the final episode.

The final episode was titled "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" and was first broadcast on February 28, 1983. The episode was 2½ hours long and was viewed by nearly 106 million Americans (77% of viewership that night) which established it as the most watched episode in television history, a record which stands as of 2005. [1] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A8447-2004May7&notFound=true)

The finale starts in the waning days of the war with Hawkeye in a mental hospital, finally driven over the edge by a bus ride gone terribly wrong. The bus passengers, who were refugees, were in danger of being discovered and executed by a North Korean patrol. Hawkeye scolds the refugees to be quiet but a baby begins to whimper and its mother responds by smothering the child. Hawkeye repressed this by replacing the memory of the baby with that of a chicken.

Meanwhile, Dr. Winchester befriends a rag-tag bunch of Chinese musicians and teaches them to play Mozart's "Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581". However, he later sees all the musicians killed and as a result classical music, his number one solace during the war, becomes unpalatable to him.

Klinger, known for constantly seeking a Section 8 discharge, decides to stay in Korea to be with his new wife, Soon Lee, and assist her in her search for her missing parents—even though he, like most of the soldiers, finally has his release papers.

The final scene is between B.J. Hunnicutt and Hawkeye. Hunnicutt is unable to say goodbye and Hawkeye (now released from the hospital) mocks him for this failure. Both men lament that they will be on opposite sides of the country after they go home and conclude that they will probably never see each other again. They tearfully embrace for the last time and Hawkeye boards a helicopter and lifts off. Hunnicutt rides off on a motorcycle and as the helicopter ascends Hawkeye sees a final message from his longtime friend spelled out with stones on the sandy soil, "GOODBYE." The message, of course, served a dual purpose: it was also a message from the creators of the series to its fans, saying "goodbye" after 11 years. As such, it is the last image shown on the screen before the final credits.

Alda reportedly had a different idea for what to do for the finale: he wanted it to be a typical half-hour episode, at the end of which a director would be heard saying "cut!" during a surgery scene, and crewmen would walk on the set and do what they normally did. Alda would then say to the camera "Well, for the last 12 years we tried to show you what war was like, but it's not as much fun."

M*A*S*H was one of the most successful shows in TV history. It therefore isn't surprising that CBS wanted the franchise to continue. Hence was born AfterMASH, following the adventures of Colonel Potter, Max Klinger and Father Mulcahy in a Stateside hospital after the war. Featuring what some consider the weakest characters and worst aspects of the parent series, AfterMASH lasted a mere two seasons.


  • At the end of its first season, the show was 46th in the ratings. CBS responded by moving the show to Saturday night, between hits All in the Family and Mary Tyler Moore. M*A*S*H ended the next nine of ten seasons in the top ten.
  • The show's theme song was "Suicide is Painless" (by Johnny Mandel), an instrumental version of the song (with lyrics by Mike Altman) used in the film. Due to the nature of the lyrics, the producers couldn't use the original version for a television series theme.
  • The producers wanted the show broadcast without a laugh track, but were overruled by CBS; eventually, as a compromise, the operating room scenes were shown without a laugh track. The show's original broadcast in the United Kingdom had no laugh track at all, although the US versions were later screened there. The DVD releases offer a choice of soundtracks with or without laughter. As the series progressed, Alan Alda and the producers were allowed to produce a number of episodes without laugh tracks.
  • Gary Burghoff said in an interview that he realized it was time to leave the show when he was relaxing in his pool. He heard a plane fly overhead and froze, like his character would do on the show.
  • The full name of Captain B.J. Hunnicutt is never established, with B.J. always answering "Whatever you want it to stand for." In one episode, B.J. asserts that he was named after his parents—Bea Hunnicutt and Jay Hunnicutt. Hawkeye, for one, chose not to accept this explanation, and the matter remained unresolved.
  • In the series finale, Dr. Freedman repeats a line from one of his first appearances: "Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants, and slide on the ice."
  • Whenever a character left, the producers intentionally filled the gap with a character who was wholly dissimilar from their predecessor:
    • Trapper John McIntyre, every bit the womanizer and prankster as Hawkeye, was replaced by B.J. Hunnicut, a devoted family man who tended to take life with a benign stride.
    • Colonel Blake, a buffoonish draftee placed in charge of the M*A*S*H despite a thorough lack of command skills. He was replaced by Colonel Potter, a life-long member of the Army with a cool-head and a great deal of respect from the 4077th.
    • Major Burns, a completely incompetent doctor and rather unintelligent person in general but fiercely loyal to the military, was replaced by draftee Major Winchester, who is not only as skilled a surgeon as Hawkeye, but frequently outwits the other doctors.
    • Radar O'Reilly, a pure and innocent midwestern youngster with an unflappable ability to keep the M*A*S*H running like a well-oiled machine, was replaced (in his job function) with Maxwell Klinger, who was already well known to lie and scheme on a daily basis—and who was the epitome of disorder.
  • Hawkeye is the only character to appear in every episode, by virtue of the episode fittingly titled "Hawkeye", in which none of the other characters appear, and he has a 30 minute monologue while in the home of a Korean family, to avoid falling asleep with a concussion.
  • McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake, died of a heart attack on 15 February 1996. The next day, 16 February, Roger Bowen, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the movie, died of the same cause.
  • Hot Lips Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) are the only three characters who appear both in the first episode and the last episode, although Mulcahy was played by a different actor in the pilot.
  • The series was groundbreaking in its use of language, being one of the first network series, and certainly the first comedy series, to allow the phrase "son-of-a-bitch" in dialogue.
  • In his first appearance in the series, Dr. Sidney Freedman's first name was Milton.

Main characters

Note: Arranged alphabetically by actor. Years in parenthesis mark when the character appeared on the show; those without years were on the show for the entire series.

* The only regular character portrayed by the same actor as in the film version.
** Played by George Morgan in the pilot episode.

Recurring characters

The M*A*S*H series frequently used recurring characters, as either supporting staff or visitors to the 4077th. While they were not given "star" credit, their familiarity to the viewers is an integral ingredient to the success of the show.

Notable guest stars

  • Robert Alda as "Dr. Anthony Borelli" in "The Consultant" (episode 317) and "Lend a Hand" (episode 820)
  • Joan van Ark as "Lt. Erica Johnson" in "Radar's Report" (episode 203)
  • Ned Beatty as "Col. Hollister" in "Dear Peggy" (episode 410)
  • Ed Begley, Jr. as "Pvt. Paul Conway" in "Too Many Cooks" (episode 801)
  • Andrew Dice Clay as "Cpl. Hrabosky" in "Trick or Treatment" (episode 1102)
  • Barry Corbin as "Sgt. Joe Vickers" in "Your Retention Please" (episode 907)
  • Blythe Danner as "Carlye Breslin Walton" in "The More I See You" (episode 422)
  • Brian Dennehy as "M.P. Ernie Connors" in "Souvenirs" (episode 522)
  • Laurence Fishburne as "Corporal Dorsey" in "The Tooth Shall Set You Free" (episode 1014)
  • Ed Flanders as "Lt. Bricker" in "Yankee Doodle Doctor" (episode 106)
  • Teri Garr as "Lieutenant Suzanne Marquette" in "The Sniper" (episode 210)
  • Charles Hallahan as "Colin Turnbull" in "Taking the Fifth" (episode 909)
  • Gregory Harrison as "Lt. Tony Baker" in "The Nurses" (episode 505)
  • Mariette Hartley as "Dr. Inga Halverson" in "Inga" (episode 716)
  • Ron Howard as "Private Wendell Peterson" in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" (episode 117)
  • Makoto Iwamatsu as "Dr. Lin Tam" in episode: "Rainbow Bridge" (episode 303), as "Major Choi" in episode: "Hawkeye Get Your Gun" (episode 510), as "Lt. Hung Lee Park" in episode: "Guerilla My Dreams" (episode 803) and as "Li Chan" in episode: "The Best of Enemies" (episode 901)
  • Alex Karras as "Lyle Wesson" in "Springtime" (episode 306)
  • Bruno Kirby as "Pvt. Lorenzo Boone" in "Pilot" (episode 101)
  • Mary Kay Place as "Louise" in "Springtime" (episode 306)
  • Clyde Kusatsu as "Kwang Duk" in "Officers Only" (episode 215) and in "Henry in Love" (episode 216), as "Sgt. Michael Yee" in "Goodbye, Cruel World" (episode 821) and as "Capt. Yamato" in "The Joker Is Wild" (episode 1104)
  • Shelley Long as "Lt. Mendenhall" in "Bottle Fatigue" (episode 816)
  • Richard Masur as"Lt 'Digger' Detweiler" in "The Late Captain Pierce" (episode 404)
  • Pat Morita as"Capt. Sam Pak" in "Deal Me Out" (episode 213) and "The Chosen People" (episode 219)
  • Leslie Nielsen as"Col. Buzz Brighton" in "The Ringbanger" (episode 116)
  • Soon-Tek Oh as "Mr. Kwang" in "Love and Marriage" (episode 320), as "Korean Soldier" in "The Bus" (episode 406), as "Dr. Syn Paik" in "The Korean Surgeon" (episode 509), as "Ralph" in "The Yalu Brick Road" (episode 810) and as "Joon-Sung" in "Foreign Affairs" (episode 1103)
  • John Ritter as "Pvt. Carter" in "Deal Me Out" (episode 213)
  • Susan St. James as "Aggie O'Shea" in "War Co-Respondent" (episode 823)
  • Patrick Swayze as "Pvt. Gary Sturgis" in "Blood Brothers" (episode 918)
  • Jeffrey Tambor as "Maj. Reddish" in "Foreign Affairs" (episode 1103)
  • Vic Tayback (episode 412)
  • George Wendt as "Pvt. La Roche" in "Trick or Treatment" (episode 1102)
  • Larry Wilcox as "Mulligan" in "The General's Practitioner" (episode 520)


  • Joe Garner, Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2002) ISBN 0-7407-2693-5
  • M*A*S*H FAQ (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/tv/mash)

See also


External links


fr:M.A.S.H (série télévisée) nl:M*A*S*H (tv-serie) pl:M*A*S*H (serial) sv:M*A*S*H (TV-serie)


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