40 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets Of M*A*S*H

Beloved television series M*A*S*H was on the air for 11 seasons, with a whopping 251 episodes. With the premise being about a United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean war, it is one of the highest rated shows in television history. Many have fond memories of the show — even if you missed its original run, odds are your parents or grandparents love it and watched it constantly via reruns.
Let us jog your M*A*S*H memories by sharing these behind-the-scenes secrets.

40. McLean Stevenson was almost Hawkeye.

Even though McLean Stevenson played Henry Blake, he actually auditioned with the intention of playing Hawkeye.

39. Some storylines were too close to home.

During its initial run, CBS turned down an episode that was supposed to feature soldiers attempting to get sent home by standing out in the cold in hopes they would get sick. Apparently, this was a very real tactic during the Korean War.

38. It was based on Rated-X material.

The 1970 film of the same name was originally given an X rating, making M*A*S*H the only TV show in history to be based on a rated-X movie.

37. Radar’s bear stayed in the family.

The trademark teddy bear of Radar’s was assumed to be lost. 30 years later, it was found and auctioned off before eventually ending up back in Radar’s arms — it was bought by actor Gary Burghoff.

36. The producers were restricted by the budget.

Some scenes in the show would’ve been reshot if the producers had their way. Unfortunately, the show didn’t have enough money to fix things like visible powerlines ruining a shot.

35. There are Easter Eggs everywhere!

To keep things interesting, the writers and actors used names and details from their own lives when developing characters.

34. Alan Alda was the real MVP.

Not only did Alan Alda work as one of the show’s stars, he also co-wrote 13 episodes and directed 31!

33. The show’s fate was decided via vote.

When it came time to decide whether or not to continue the show, the cast voted on it. The majority voted to stop filming, so the series was ended. However, the actors that had wanted to continue the show ended up in the spinoff, AfterMASH.

32. Trapper John was almost a lot funnier.

Though Trapper John ended up being played by actor Wayne Rogers, the part was offered to comedian Robert Klein. He turned it down.

31. The time capsule was real.

In the final season of the show, a time capsule was buried by the characters — apparently for real. Months after production ended, the capsule was found by a construction crew in the very spot where the set stood.

30. Harry Morgan kept his wife close.

Throughout the series, Colonial Potter (played by Harry Morgan) always had a picture of his wife Mildred on his desk. However, the photo is actually of Morgan’s real-life wife.

29. There was plenty of experience on set.

It wasn’t all just playing make-believe. Stars Alan Alda and Jamie Farr both had actual experience in the military before ending up on the show.

28. Mike Farrell found a way to discreetly honor his daughter.

Captain BJ Hunnicutt, played by Mike Farrell, was written to have a daughter. Farrell had her name changed to Erin as a tribute to his actual daughter.

27. Wayne Rogers left the show due to a loophole.

Many always wondered why Wayne Rogers was able to leave the show when he did. It was discovered that his contract was never actually signed, leaving him to legally be able to leave the show whenever he wanted.

26. Klinger was only supposed to appear once.

Klinger was meant to be a one-time character. However, viewers really loved him, and so he was written on as a series regular.

25. There was lots of disagreement over the laugh track.

The producers of the show did not like the idea of a laugh track due to the serious nature of the show. However, CBS insisted on having one. As a compromise, the laugh track was cut for the scenes taking place in the operating room. As the show continued, the laugh track began getting mixed lower as time went on.

24. Asian actors were difficult to come by.

At the time of the show, there weren’t many Korean actors in Hollywood. Producers were forced to cast actors of various Asian ethnicities to play the Korean roles. In fact, in the whole run of the show, only one Korean woman was cast authentically (actress Soon Tek Oh).

23. Klinger was written to be gay.

Not only was actor Jamie Farr only supposed to appear once, but he was originally going to play a gay man.

22. The writers would often retaliate against the actors.

When the actors got comfortable and began whining about their storylines, the writing team made them act out winter scenes on the hottest days. The cast would have to wear heavy clothing in 90-degree weather.

21. Larry Gelbart wasted no time on the pilot.

He wrote the entire script for the pilot episode in a lightning-fast three days. Now that’s impressive!

20. The show is actually a book-to-tv adaptation.

Not many people know this, but the show was actually based on the book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker. It was released in 1968.

19. Some of the minor characters were named after members of a sports team.

The show’s screenwriter, Ken Levine, once explained on his blog: “One of the hardest tasks in any script is coming up with names. They have to sound right, fit the character’s personality and ethnicity… For David and I, we tend to use either baseball player names or personal friends. On M*A*S*H, we had the added problem of all the patients that rotated in and out of the 4077th. For the seventh season, we just used the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers roster.”

18. In fact, many of the characters were named after real-life people.

Ken said: “We also use the names of personal friends… In the “Point of View” episode of M*A*S*H, the central patient is named “Bobby Rich.” Bobby is a radio personality who hired me in San Diego and is now in Tucson. General “Dean Goss” is another former radio chum. For many years he was a morning man at KFRC in San Francisco. The blind patient Hawkeye befriended in “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” was “Tom Straw,” a friend from high school who became a TV writer himself.”

17. “Nurse Baker” was portrayed by multiple actresses.

Throughout the show, there were actually tons of actresses that portrayed the background nurse. Everyone referred to her as “Nurse Baker,” even despite the fact that she changed in appearance.

16. The show lasted way longer than the Korean War.

The Korean War happened from 1950 to 1953, which is just three years. However, even though the series happened during that time, it lasted for over twelve years.

15. Klinger’s wedding dress was worn on the show by different people.

It was only supposed to appear once, but it actually appeared three times. It was worn by Klinger when he married Laverne Esposito, Margret Houlihan when she married Donald Penobscott, and Soon Lee when she married Klinger.

14. M*A*S*H had three TV spinoffs.

There was Trapper John, M.D., AfterMASH, and W*A*L*T*E*R. Unfortunately, none of them were nearly as successful as the original series.

13. The show was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards.

Yes, that’s right – they got a staggering 109 Emmy nominations. And they ended up winning 14 of them during the show’s run.

12. Alan Alda made history with his Emmy wins for M*A*S*H.

We previously mentioned that, aside from acting on the show, Alan did some co-writing and even directed some episodes. But the best part is that he actually won Emmys for all of those things! He was the first actor to snag Emmys for all three on one show.

11. The final episode wasn’t the last one that was filmed.

That legendary finale garnered over 100 million views and it’s considered to be one of the most unforgettable episodes. However, it wasn’t the last one that was filmed. There was another that they filmed last, called “As Time Goes By.”

10. The series finale was actually the most watched in American TV history.

To be exact, it got 121.6 million viewed when it aired. Over 77 percent of the people who were watching TV that night actually tuned in to the two-and-a-half-hour series finale, called “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”

9. There were countless future stars who made guest appearances.

To say that this show was star-studded would be an understatement. There was Patrick Swayze, John Ritter, Rita Wilson, Leslie Nielsen, Laurence Fishburne, Shelley Long, Blythe Danner… And the list goes on.

8. The cast stayed pretty close after the show ended.

Well, when you work with the same people for over a decade, you’re bound to become besties. Actress Loretta Swit was pretty close with most of the cast and crew – and she actually became neighbors with former co-star Harry Morgan until he passed away in 2011. Loretta and Alan’s families are still close to this day.

7. The show struggled to get the time difference right.

On the show, the time difference between South Korea and the United States was usually incorrect — because they always claimed that the U.S. was 18 hours behind South Korea (especially during long-distance calls). Little did they know, however, that the real time difference is actually between 12 and 14 hours depending on daylight savings. Oops.

6. Some of the storylines from the show were based on real-life events.

Believe it or not, those plots were often inspired by the real stories of actual patients, doctors, nurses, and soldiers who served on the Korean peninsula. Ken Levine once mentioned that some of the stories were way too graphic for the show, so they had to tone them down.

5. Those purple hearts weren’t supposed to be awards.

Getting a purple heart for “service” on the show was seen as an honor for the soldiers. But this was actually factually incorrect. In reality, a purple heart meant that you got injured for the first time. And if you got injured again after receiving the purple heart, you got an oak leaf cluster.

4. The show actually credited an imaginary character.

That character’s name was “Captain Tuttle,” and in the closing credits, it claimed that the character was played by “himself.” This was because Captain Tuttle was just a figment of Hawkeye’s imagination.

3. The filming hours were insane.

Because of tight deadlines, the cast had to deal with pretty crazy hours. Even though each episode took about four days to complete, each workday was about 12 to 15 hours long!

2. Alan Alda was the only actor who knew about Henry Blake’s death.

When the writers found out that McLean Stevenson wanted to leave the show, they decided to kill Henry Blake off to make an important point about the dangers and wastefulness of war. The rest of the cast never found out about this until the very end of season three. And fans were not happy about the decision.

1. The two actors who played Lt. Colonel Henry Blake actually died within one day of each other.

In the television series, the character was played by McLean Stevenson, and in the movie adaptation, he was played by Roger Bowen. Interestingly enough, McLean passed away on February 15, 1996, while Roger passed on February 16, 1996. What’s even crazier is that both men died due to a heart attack.

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