30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

Along with the likes of House on the Praire and Three’s Company, M*A*S*H  remains one of America’s most beloved sitcoms. Lasting 11 seasons, the hit CBS show drew its inspiration from real-life events in the Korean War, making for a perfect blend of both humor, satire, and drama.

Even today, 37 years after the final episode aired, the show’s dedicated fan base remains. As well as winning copious awards, the show also kickstarted the career of one Alan Alda. But do you know about the juicy gossip that went on behind the scenes and little-known facts about the show itself? Read on as we list some extraordinary facts about one of America’s greatest ever tv series.

1. Radar’s bear

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Radar’s bear sure was cute. But he never had a name which always struck viewers as strange. Alas, the nameless teddy bear became a character in itself and was auctioned in 2005 with a starting bid of $500.

The bear came with a letter of authenticity from Gary Burghoff and attracted 19 bidders, with the winner paying $14k for a slice of tv history.

2. Alan Alda’s perfect role

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Before the success of M*A*S*H, Alan Alda’s Hollywood career hadn’t been anything to shout about. But then he hit the big time playing Captain Hawkeye Pierce, and the rest was history. Not only was Alda the best actor in the audition process he was also suited to the role having served in the Army Reserve during the actual Korean War. After graduating from Fordham University, Alda gave into his jingoistic urges and signed up to the military.

Alda served as a gunnery officer, but he wasn’t the only actor. Jamie Farr and Corporal Klinger also had a military history during the Korean War which helped the actors immerse themselves in their characters.

3. The war against ratings

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

It’s hard to imagine M*A*S*H being anything other than a legendary show, but like most series, it intially struggled with its ratings. In the first season, ratings suffered and network heads debated canceling it before staying with it and moving it to a different time slot.

It would thus get moved to Saturday nights coming on after All In The Family and before The Mary Tylor Moore Show. It was this shrewd decision that allowed the show to grow into one of the country’s most beloved sitcoms.

But it wasn’t plain sailing. As the years went on, the show’s success almost came undone.

4. Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger: A groundbreaking character 

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Jamie Farr did a brilliant job playing Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger, an effeminate gay soldier. But he was only supposed to appear for a select number of episodes. However, the character proved a hit with viewers, so the writers decided to write Farr’s character into more episodes.

The cross-dressing personality would stick around for many more memorable episodes, and though viewers suspected he was gay, the writers decided he was better off as a heterosexual character instead. They also intended to have Klinger deliberately fail a psych exam so he could get out of conflict duties before ditching that storyline as well.

5. Baseball inspiration

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H


 

Many of the writers working on  M*A*S*H drew inspiration from actual people in their lives. In seasons six and seven many of the characters were named after baseball players from the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Angels.

Actor Mike Farrell, who was known for his emotional phone calls with his family, demanded that his on-screen daughter share the name of his real daughter, Erin.

6. Alan Alda’s success

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Alan Alda’s stretch on M*A*S*H  lasted for eleven seasons, and he was in every episode. But his work on the show required significant travel. He commuted from Los Angeles to New Jersey each weekend to film scenes before returning to his family Eastside. He did this because he wasn’t sure his career in television would last so didn’t want to uproot his family to Los Angeles.

However, Alda’s career skyrocketed, and after the hit series, he landed a guest appearance on ER as a doctor and even worked alongside Woody Allen in Manhattan Murder Mystery. Alda’s other credits include The West Wing, 30 Rock, Blacklist and Horace.

Alda would go on to win six Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe in his illustrious career.

7. Drawing inspiration from real life events

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

As we’ve explained earlier, two of the actors experienced conflict in the Koran War, but others who hadn’t listened intently as a range of Korean War vets, from soldiers to patients and doctors, were invited to the set to reveal the graphic details of their ordeal to cast members. However, some of the information they never made it into the script due to the gory details.

Actor Gary Burghoff, famed for playing Charlie Brown in an off-Broadway musical, even hid a deformed hand on the show. The camera would normally set up items in the view of his hand or have him stuff his hands in his pocket so viewers couldn’t see it. Pictured second from the top left, you can see that Burghoff is hiding one of his hands.

8. That controversial scene

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Departing actor McLean Stevenson was the leading light in the show’s 72nd episode, Abyssinia, Henry. The episode saw his character Colonel Henry Blake honorably discharged. But this was far from the swansong fans envisioned. After paying his respects to his fellow soldiers, a controversial plot twist saw his character lose his life.

The episode ended with Blake’s transport plane being taken down over the Sea of Japan. More than 1,000 complaint letters were sent soon after, and for the first time since the first season, the show appeared to be in dire straights.

9. Feedback not welcome

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

M*A*S*H writers gained a reputation for being unopen to input and changes from the crew. While they were intially open to feedback, the tedious notes from the actors got on the writer’s nerves, and they soon put a stop to notes they deemed unnecessary.

To ensure they never got another note from an actor, they made some of the cast depict a scene in winter by having them wearing heavy parkas when they were actually in Malibu.

Unsurprisingly, the complaints soon stopped, but many actors were annoyed at their lack of creative freedoms, including McLean Stevenson who left the show in a bid to pursue more collaborative endeavors.

10. Wayne Rogers’s unlikely career

30 Facts You Never Knew About The Hit TV Series M*A*S*H

 

Popular actors leaving successful tv shows is nothing new, but when Wayne Rogers, who played Captain “Trapper” John McIntyre, wanted out on M*A*S*H, the producers informed him he’d violate his contract. But fan favorite Rogers had never signed a contract and was soon allowed to leave with little notice due to creative differences between his character Peirce, who he thought was too rude.

After finding limited success in other projects, Rogers would turn his hand to different facets within the industry, both producing, writing and directing a series of projects. He also branched out into the world of finance by founding a stock investment corporation.

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