TV Series M*A*S*H

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Are you a TV series lover? Then you must watch the M*A*S*H comedy-drama TV series, a popular American war. It was aired from September 17, 1972, to February 28, 1983, on CBS for 11 seasons. The series was developed by Larry Gelbart and adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H. The series was produced with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS, and follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in South Korea, Uijeongbu, during the Korean War (1950–1953). The TV series enjoyed critical acclaim and excellent ratings, with its final episode drawing the largest audience to date for a television episode. 

The series was honoured with 14 Emmy Awards over its run and a Peabody Award in 1975. The series has 11 seasons and 256 episodes and proved to be greatly successful. Mixing drama with comedy, the TV series told the stories of women and men serving during the Korean War. Often aiming to counter bigotry and promote equality in its storylines, the TV series does have occasions where it uses what would be seen today as racist or sexist stereotypes and language.

Set in South Korea during the Korean War, M*A*S*He followed the medical staff who cared for the wounded in a mobile army surgical hospital. Initially, the series focused on the characters that had been established in Altman’s film, with the two lead roles being the army surgeon Capt. Benjamin Franklin (“Hawkeye”), Capt. (“Trapper”), Pierce (played by Alan Alda), and John McIntyre (Wayne Rogers). 

Streaming on Hulu, M*A*S*H has been a gold-standard TV series for more than three decades — and the six facts below reveal how the sitcom became a cultural landmark.

Fact 1: The Final Season Remains A Well-Scripted TV Series

After 11 years on air, the series M*A*S*H had become an American institution – so when the last episode was announced in 1983, a high number of the audience tuned in to watch the last ever episode. The feature-length season finale Goodbye, Farewell and Amen was first broadcast on February 28th, 1983, with a reported audience of almost 106 million. This remains the biggest audience ever for a scripted TV series.

Fact 2: The Series Was Based On A Book By A Real-Life Army Surgeon 

The book, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, was written by W.C. Heinz and released by Richard Hooker in 1968. Hooker was the pen name of H. Richard Hornberger is a real-life Army surgeon who served in the Korean War. Hornberger wanted to share his stories, which were then put onto the big screen and turned into the iconic TV series. 

Fact 3: The TV Series Lasted Eight Years Longer Than The Actual Korean War

M*A*S*He presented a fictionalised take on the antics of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, who were stationed in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. Such was the popularity of M*A*S*H, that it wound up running for eleven years, from 1972 to 1983. The Korean War itself, however, was over in just three years, running from 1950 to 1953.

Fact 4: Colonel Blake’s Death Was Kept A Secret From The Cast

In the 1950s and ‘60s, death rarely came for popular television characters, especially not the members of beloved sitcom ensembles. When actor McLean Stevenson told producers he would be leaving M*A*S*After season three, the departure of his beloved character Colonel Henry Blake was originally planned as an earned discharge allowing him to return home. 

He then gives the actors a copy of the final page where Radar (played by Gary Burghoff) announces that Blake’s plane home has crashed. The final episode was filmed in two takes, capturing the immediacy of the actors’ emotions. Despite the amazing nature of the episode, the decision proved controversial and CBS was inundated with complaint letters from viewers.

Fact 5: Rodgers Never Signed A Contract

The main character, Trapper John MacIntyre was played by Wayne Rodgers. He wished to leave after season 3, but the network bit back saying they would bring a lawsuit for breach of contract. The kicker? Rodgers never signed one. He objected in the early days to the paperwork provided, and it was never updated for him to sign. The actor was able to leave with no binding legalities. 

Fact 6: Gary Burghoff Was The Only Actor To Appear In Both The TV Series And The Original M*A*S*H Movie

M*A*S*H It remains one of the most successful TV series based on a movie. Director Robert Altman’s film M*A*S*H was an Oscar-nominated smash hit in 1971, with a cast including Elliot Gould as Trapper John (later played by Wayne Rogers) and Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda on the TV series).

Fact 7: You Can Visit The Original Set Location

Most sitcoms were filmed on stage sets in front of a live audience before M*A*S*H was filmed. To enhance the realism of the series MASH scenes, exterior and tent scenes were shot in the original location in the mountains near Malibu, California.

On October 9, 1982, when the production house wrapping the series, a sweeping brush fire destroyed most of the outdoor sets. In the final episode, the fire was mentioned as being caused by enemy bombs that forced the 4077th to move out. The set location today is known as Malibu Creek State Park, and some of the original set locations are still intact and open to visitors.

Fact 8: The TV Series Broke Boundaries With On-Air Cursing

Today it’s common for cussing to take place on TV. At the time, however, it was rare and many things were simply not allowed by networks. M*A*S*H was the first TV series to use the term “son of a bitch,” making waves with its colourful language. 

Fact 9: Several Of The Actors, Including Alan Alda, Had Served In Korea

Alan Alda’s performance as Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce became so prominent that many people forget Donald Sutherland who played the role before him. Alan may had the edge as during the Korean War he had indeed served in the US Army Reserve. Klinger actor Jamie Farr also served in the Army in the Korean War and wore his actual dog tags on the TV series. Farr and Alda were not the only actors in the series to have appeared: Mike Farrell (BJ Hunnicut) was in the US Marine Corps and Wayne Rogers had been in the Naval Reserve.

Fact 10: The Cast Voted To End The Series

The actors worked closely as a great team and also became friends off-set. As Alda remembered, “Most of the time casting crew take breaks and go to their dressing rooms between shots. We sat around in a circle of chairs gossiping, making fun of one another.”

The cast was so friendly that they voted as a team to end the series; many of them believed they had exhausted all stories for their characters. The cast members who wanted to continue appeared in the series After MASH, which ran from 1983 to 1985.

Fact 11: It Was Filmed Early In That Season’s Production Schedule

In case you require more evidence of how amazing this cast was, look at the emotion on their faces as they say goodbye. It feels as if you are watching the last minutes the actors are spending together. That was not the case. “Goodbye” was shot early in the season.

Fact 12: The TV Series Was Produced After A M*A*S*H Movie Sequel Failed To Get Off The Ground

Both the TV series and the movie M*A*S*H are adaptations of Richard Hooker’s MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, first published in 1968. The series followed the novel, and originally the production team were keen to make a follow-up movie cast based on the second book, MASH Goes to Maine. However, when this great screen project failed to gain success, it was decided to instead retool it for a small-screen spin-off.

Fact 13: Patrick Swayze Got One Of His Earliest Roles With A Guest Appearance

As with any long-running TV series, M*A*S*H featured its share of guest stars, some of whom became more popular. One of the most notable of these was Patrick Swayze, who landed one of his earliest acting roles as Private Gary Sturgis in the 1981 episode Blood Brothers. Other popular actors who made guest appearances on M*A*S*H include John Ritter, Laurence Fishburne, Ron Howard and Pat Morita.

Fact 14: Sesame Street Played Tribute 

At the season’s end, Sesame Street gave a nod to the TV series by gifting Big Bird with a teddy bear named Radar. The character of the same name had his teddy bear on the TV series. It’s said that one of Sesame Street’s main puppeteers was a big fan of the TV series, prompting the addition to the storyline. 

Fact 15: Larry Gelbart, A Prolific Screenwriter Was Paid Top Dollar For The Pilot Script

At the time, Larry Gelbart had left the U.S., saying that he had grown tired of Hollywood. However, when contacted to write the script of M*A*S*H, he said he had to take the chance. Gelbart wrote the pilot episode in just two days and was paid $25,000 for his work — in today’s value, that’s over $150,000 for a single episode. He went on to write for the duration of the TV series.

Awards Won

The TV series won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) in 1981. Alan Alda received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical) six times: in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. McLean Stevenson received the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series in 1974.

The series won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series seven times: 1973 (Gene Reynolds), 1974 (Reynolds), 1975 (Hy Averbeck), 1976 (Averbeck), 1977 (Alan Alda), 1982 (Alda), and 1983 (Alda).

The TV series was honoured with a Peabody Award in 1975 “for the depth of its humour and how comedy is used to lift the spirit and, as well, to give 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 place and time with such affecting clarity.”

The writers of the TV series got several Humanitas Prize nominations, with Larry Gelbart winning in 1976, Alan Alda winning in 1980, and the team of David Pollock and Elias Davis winning twice in 1982 and 1983. The TV series received 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations – two for Episodic Drama and 26 for Episodic Comedy. Seven episodes of the series won for Episodic Comedy in the years 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1981.