Hardcore M*A*S*H Fans, This One Is for You – Amazing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Tv Show

McLean Stevenson Identified With His Character

McLean Stevenson played Henry Blake and didn’t have too much of a problem slipping into the skin of his character as they shared many similarities. Both Blake and Stevenson had the same hometown of Bloomington, Illinois.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

Stevenson once said he basically played a character who was just like his own father. Interestingly, when he first auditioned for the show, Stevenson tried out for the role of Hawkeye but was clearly destined for a different part.

Tuttle?

The season 1 episode ‘Tuttle‘ involves Hawkeye and Trapper inventing a fictional Captain, named Tuttle, who is based on an imaginary friend Hawkeye had as a kid. Over the course of the episode, the backstory behind Tuttle evolves to a point where everyone really believes he’s real. As a cheeky Easter Egg, the producers put ‘Captain Tuttle as Himself’ in the credits.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

This was just one example of many little jokes hidden away throughout the show.

How accurate was the show? Read on to find out…

Not Quite Right

As a historical show dealing with a serious subject matter, M*A*S*H was designed to be as close to reality as possible in many ways. However, like with so many TV shows and movies, there were some inaccuracies spotted by eagle-eyed fans over the years.

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Photo by Getty Images

For example, the style of boots worn by the cast wouldn’t have actually been used. The presence of items like a pinball machine and candy bars with UPC codes were anachronistic, too.

Brits Didn’t Care for M*A*S*H

TV shows are funny things. They can be major successes in one place but struggle to find an audience elsewhere. This is especially true when shows try to leap ‘across the pond’ between the UK and US. Many British shows failed in America, and vice versa, with M*A*S*H being a notable example. The Brits apparently couldn’t get into the show, partly due to the laugh track, which was deemed a bit of an annoying distraction.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

Did you catch the next reference in the opening credits?

That Hat

Easter Eggs are funny little references and in-jokes that you might miss while watching films or TV shows. They’re only really designed for the hardcore fans to spot, and one of them occurs in the opening credits of M*A*S*H. We see Alan Alda wearing a hat, despite him never actually wearing it in the show.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

In reality, this hat was the same one worn by Donald Sutherland in the M*A*S*H movie and was featured as a little nod to the film.

Real War Stories

The cast and crew of M*A*S*H were frequently in contact with real Korean War veterans who recounted their own stories and experiences from the conflict. These stories were often used as inspiration for the show’s scripts, with many of them being retold almost word-for-word in various episodes. However, some of the more extreme or sensitive material had to be censored as the producers feared it would simply be too upsetting for the audiences to hear.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

One actor was worried about his kids getting bullied…

Jamie Farr Worried About the Cross-Dressing

Jamie Farr’s character, Maxwell Q. Klinger, was known for dressing up in female clothing on numerous occasions.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

He was seen in various dresses throughout the show, but this aspect of his character was eventually written out of the show. Farr was allegedly said to be quite happy about this change as he often worried that his kids might get bullied at school if their classmates watched the show and saw him looking like a lady.

All Based on a Book

As with so many great films and TV shows, M*A*S*H was based on a book entitled M*A*S*H: A Novel about Three Army Doctors. The story was written by Richard Hooker, who relied on his own experiences in the Korean War to bring his project to life. The book was published just a few years before M*A*S*H came on the air, so it was an immediate success and provided much material for the show’s writers and producers.

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Source: Amazon

The next fact shows it wasn’t always smooth sailing on the set…

A Rivalry between Writers and Actors

The writers and actors of M*A*S*H originally got on quite well and had quite an open working relationship, with the cast being able to have some input on the scripts and writing down notes for the writers to incorporate. However, over time, the writers started to get frustrated with all the changes and plotted their revenge.

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Source: IMDBThey began writing in extra things to annoy the actors, liking having to film in big coats on hot days.

One Man, Many Roles

Soon-Tek Oh was a Korean-American actor who appeared in M*A*S*H on five episodes. He sometimes starred as multiple characters in the very same episode! In one episode entitled The Bus, Oh appears as five separate characters. After M*A*S*H, Oh appeared in various other shows, films, and stage productions.

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Source: PinterestThe next fact concerns a dress that always comes back…

The Very Special Dress

TV producers often have strict budgets to work with and will sometimes go to great lengths to cut down costs wherever they can. We have to assume that’s what happened in the case of Klinger’s wedding dress. He wore the dress for his marriage with Laverne Esposito, but it then appeared again twice more in the show.

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Source: MASH

Margaret Houlihan wore it for her wedding with Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot and Soon Lee wore it for her marriage with Klinger again.

A Home Run for the Writers

Many writers take inspiration from real-world individuals when naming characters, and the writing staff behind M*A*S*H were no different. During the sixth and seventh seasons, a lot of the patients were named after the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels baseball players. Some other characters, like Radar’s love interests, were named after some of the writers’ real ex-girlfriends.

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Source: MASH

How many people watched the final episode? Read on to see…

Record Breaker

The M*A*S*H finale was viewed by a staggering total of 105.9 million people according to Nielsen statistics. This makes it the most watched TV episode of all time, and only the recent editions of the Super Bowl have been able to outdo it in terms of most-watched TV broadcasts.

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Source: MASH

The final episode was called ‘Goodbye, Farewell and Amen’ and was directed by Alan Alda himself. Alda also directed several other episodes during the show’s run.

A Very Special Bear

Everyone remembers Radar’s teddy bear. It didn’t have its official name in the show, but it was an adorable little thing and a crucial part of Radar’s character development. After the show ended, the bear was given a spot in the Smithsonian and eventually auctioned off for an astonishing $14,000. Funnily enough, the bear only appeared in the show because someone found it lying around the set one day, but it eventually became a star.

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Source: IMDB

One of the show’s gags wasn’t as funny as it first seemed…

Cross-Dressing Was a Punishable Crime

One of the storylines in the show features Klinger trying to get himself dishonorably discharged so he can go home and be away from the war. To do this, he dresses up in female clothes.

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Source: Pinterest

This might seem like a silly gag, but it’s based on reality. Stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce got himself dishonorably discharged from the Navy for dressing up in drag, and this story was used as inspiration.

Special Guests

A lot of big celebrities end up making a cameo or guest appearances on TV shows from time to time, with some even appearing on TV before making names for themselves elsewhere.

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Source: Metv

M*A*S*H saw a few special guest stars during its run, including Patrick Swayze, Laurence Fishburne, and John Ritter. Ritter played a soldier, Swayze played a chronically ill hospital patient, and Fishburne was involved in an episode that dealt with racism towards African-Americans.

Read on to see which M*A*S*H star got arrested…

Harry Morgan Was Arrested

Many years after M*A*S*H’s original run ended, Colonel Potter actor Harry Morgan was back in the headlines for a very unfortunate reason that left fans shaking their heads. The actor, who was 81 at the time, was accused of beating his wife.

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Source: Michiganradio

He was arrested in 1997 due to injuries sustained by his wife on her eye, foot, and arm. Morgan accepted to follow a six-month course on domestic violence in exchange for the charges being dropped.

Radar Takes To Painting

Gary Burghoff has led a fascinating life. Before he starred on M*A*S*H as Radar O’Reilly, he was a drummer in a band called The Relatives. He also met and befriended Hollywood star, Lynda Carter. When M*A*S*H wrapped up, and the W*A*L*T*E*R spinoff didn’t work out, Burghoff turned to painting and became a wildlife artist. He also got back into music and became a drummer in the band The We Three, as well as coming up with his fishing inventions.

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Photo by Newsmakers

The next actor missed out on a role in the show…

A Missed Opportunity

There are stories from film and TV of roles being offered to actors before the right person eventually says yes. The same happened in M*A*S*H, where the part of Trapper John was offered to stand-up comedian Robert Klein.

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Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Klein said no and missed out on a starring role in a hugely popular TV series, but he did okay in the end with a successful comedy and theater career.

The Truth Behind the Purple Heart

The Purple Heart is a military medal seen in M*A*S*H and used in real life, but it’s not one that any soldier wants to earn. It’s given to people who get injured on duty, but there’s a rule that you can only be awarded a single Purple Heart.

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Source: Drivepedia

Additional injuries are marked by oak leaf clusters which are added around the heart medal itself. In the show, however, some characters receive multiple Purple Heart medals.

M*A*S*H wasn’t all about the male characters…

A Nurse by Many Names

In line with the times, M*A*S*H was very male-oriented. There were many female nurse roles, but they were often minor and never really became regulars. The crew was quite lazy regarding these roles, using the phonetic alphabet to come up with names and recasting the same women.

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Source: IMDB

Kellye Nakahara, for example, appeared in the credits as Nurse Kellye, Nurse Charlie, Nurse Able, and Nurse Yamato. She eventually got a few lines towards the following seasons of the show.

The Show Wasn’t Popular at First

It seems strange to us now, as M*A*S*H eventually became one of the biggest shows of all time, but it wasn’t much of a hit at first. The opening season was a bit of a dud in the ratings department, and the network considered canceling it, before deciding to switch it to a different timeslot in the hopes of improving the ratings. The switch worked and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Source: eBay

You won’t believe who decided to end the show…

The Cast Voted to End the Show

Deciding that it’s the right time for a TV show to come to an end is a huge deal and often too big of a responsibility for just one person to bear.

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Photo by 20th Century-Fox TV/Getty Images

In the case of M*A*S*H, it was the cast who made the call. They decided to hold a vote, and each have their say on whether or not the show had run its course. Some voted to keep it going, but most said the time was right.

Controversial Laughs

At the time of M*A*S*H’s creation, it was pretty customary for any comedy show to have a laugh track. For M*A*S*H, the cast and crew argued that such an addition would trivialize the show’s serious subject matter. CBS, however, insisted on a laugh track to help audiences know that the show was a comedy. Modern DVD releases of the show include a feature that lets you turn off the laughs if you like.

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Source: IMDB

One cast member decided to call it quits in the next fact…

Time to Say Goodbye

Gary Burghoff, who played Radar, eventually got burned out on the show. In 1979, he revealed that he wanted to move on. Some of the cast and crew tried to persuade him to stay, but Burghoff’s mind was made up, and the two-part episode ‘Goodbye Radar‘ was written as his send-off.

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Source: CBS Television (public domain)

Mike Drew, a TV critic, wrote that none of the cast cared about Burghoff leaving, to which the Radar actor replied, saying that everyone was aware of his contribution to the show.

Amazing Alan Alda

Alan Alda was one of the biggest stars of M*A*S*H. He appeared in every episode as Hawkeye Pierce. Alda’s family lived in New Jersey, but filming for M*A*S*H took place in Los Angeles. So, each week, to avoid missing out on time with his loved ones, Alan flew all the way across the country to spend his free time with them. He never actually moved them out to LA because he wasn’t sure if the show would last.

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Source: Getty Images

This actor had the perfect escape plan in the next fact…

Wayne Rogers’ Contract

Wayne Rogers, who played Captain Trapper John McIntyre on the show, eventually decided he wanted to leave.

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Source: IMDB

The producers weren’t happy, saying that they could take legal action against the actor for breaking the rules of his contract. However, in reality, Rogers never even had a contract in the first place, allowing him to leave without any issues. He later become a writer, producer, and director, as well as taking an active interest in stock investments.

A Real Soldier

Actors tend to perform even better when they have real-life experience of the sort of roles they’re playing. Alan Alda was therefore well-suited for his part in M*A*S*H as he served in the Army Reserve in the Korean War.

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Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Jamie Farr had military experience as well in the same conflict, and both of the actors claimed that their real-life terms helped them get into their roles and understand the sort of emotions and reactions their characters might have in the show.

The man behind Father Mulcahy had a fascinating life…

Father Mulcahy Had A True Calling

William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the show, actually did much good work off the screen as well as on it.

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Source: Leoni2 (fair use)

After his adopted son, Ned was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Christopher got into contact with the National Autistic Society, working to raise awareness at a time when the condition was still very widely misunderstood. Christopher and his wife even co-wrote a book about their journey in raising Ned, entitled Mixed Blessings.

Not So Final After All

Despite being the last ever episode of the show to air, the finale wasn’t actually the last episode to be filmed. The one that was shot last was ‘As Time Goes By.’ It must have been quite a strange experience for the actors to shoot the extra-long finale and acted like the show was over despite knowing that they still had another episode to shoot, and plenty of tears must have been shed on the last days.

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Source: IMDB

The show’s big female star still attracts much attention…

Hot Lips is Still Loved

Loretta Swit appeared as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan throughout the entirety of M*A*S*H’s run.

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Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

She was such a popular character and such a great actress that Swit was given two Emmys for her role in the show and still receives fan mail from generations of fans all around the world. She recently admitted that she never watches any of the M*A*S*H reruns because she doesn’t actually watch any TV at all.

Two Sets – One for Indoor and the Other for Outdoor Shooting

The show actually had two different sets. One of them was located at Fox Studios and was all indoors, used for the interior scenes, while the other was situated not far from the surfer’s paradise of Malibu, California, and was mainly used for outdoor scenes. Over time, however, the Fox set was modified to allow for outdoor shooting, and the average episode could feature many scenes filmed at both locations. Diehard fans can try to figure out which one is which!

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Source: Pinterest

The next fact concerns the ‘Korean’ characters…

Lack of Diversity

The lack of diversity in Hollywood and TV shows is a problem even today, and it was even worse many years ago. Despite M*A*S*H being set in the Korean War, there weren’t many Korean actors around at the time, so the producers just tended to hire any person of Asian origin to fill in the roles.

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Source: IMDB

This meant that people of Japanese and Chinese backgrounds were being cast as Koreans, and only one genuine Korean person ever appeared.

Visit the Swamp

Hawkeye and Trapper John famously nicknamed their tent ‘The Swamp.’ This line is taken directly from the book on which the show is based. Hardcore fans will be pleased to know that a full replica of The Swamp can be found at the Holly Museum of Military History in the Kansas city of Topeka. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what it was like to be on the set of a M*A*S*H episode, Topeka is the place to visit.

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Source: IMDB

One random worker got very lucky in the next fact…

An Instant Time Capsule

One episode shows the cast burying a time capsule with lots of little goodies inside. The episode was filmed on a ranch, and the land came under new ownership a couple of months later, leading to the capsule being found very quickly by a construction worker.

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Source: IMDB

The worker called up Alan Alda to ask what he should do with the capsule, and Alda said he could keep it.

A Major Character Started off as a Minor Role

As is often the case in TV shows, the development and arcs of characters changed over time. Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger was only meant to appear in one episode and was initially written as an ‘effeminate’ jokey sort of character, but everyone liked Jamie Farr’s performance so much that Klinger became a full part of the cast, going on to become one of M*A*S*H’s primary sources of comedy with his silly schemes and nonsensical plans.

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Photo by Getty Images

You won’t believe how much the pilot writer got paid…

A Lucrative Pilot

The pilot of any TV show is a hugely important episode. This is the one that is shown to studios, who then determine whether it’s good enough to be made into a full show or not.

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Source: IMDB

The pilot for M*A*S*H was written in just two days by Larry Gelbart, who earned an astonishing $25,000 for his services! The pilot was a hit with executives.

Bigger Than The Movie

The producer of M*A*S*H, Larry Gelbart, really enjoyed the movie version and decided to try his hand at writing a TV show based on the film. The show had some rough ratings in the first season but eventually become a huge phenomenon. Strangely enough, many of the show’s fans never actually saw the film, with some of them having never heard of it and not even knowing where the inspiration had come from.

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Source: IMDB

Fans were furious when the next thing happened…

One Death Made Fans Mad

M*A*S*H was all about the real-life conflict in which people died every day, but the show’s fans very badly received one particular death. In the 72nd episode, ‘Abyssinia, Henry’ we see Henry Blake preparing to be honorably discharged from the service.

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Source: IMDB

He spends the show saying his goodbyes, only for the episode to end with a shocking twist in which we learn that Blake died in a plane crash. Over 1,000 fans wrote to the network to complain about the heartbreaking scene.

So Many Spin-Offs

There were three separate spin-offs from M*A*S*H. Trapper John, MD was the most successful, starring Pernell Roberts in the title role and running for 151 episodes in total. W*A*L*T*E*R was another spin-offs, but it never made it past the pilot stage.

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Source: IMDB

It was supposed to follow the adventures of Radar upon his return home. The final spin-off was called AfterM*A*S*H and ran for a little while but couldn’t compete with other shows of the time.

How much did a M*A*S*H ad cost? Read on to see…

Companies Paid a Lot to Advertise During M*A*S*H

Companies need to be careful about the slots in which they buy their TV ads. If your product or service is shown at a time when nobody is watching, it’ll have less of an effect. Because M*A*S*H was so huge, companies knew that they’d get much exposure if their ad ran at the same time as the show.

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Source: IMDB

The average advertisement cost ranged from $30,000 at the beginning and went all the way up to $450,000 for the finale.

An Eerie Event

Something strange happened to two of the actors who appeared on M*A*S*H, namely McLean Stevenson and Roger Bowen.

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Source: IMDB

The two men both played the same role, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, with Stevenson appearing in the TV show and Bowen appearing in the movie. Strangely enough, both men died of heart attacks in 1996, with their deaths separated by a single day. It was surely just a strange coincidence, but some superstitious fans said the role was cursed.

Some fans took issue with the show’s views…

One Script Got Rejected

Sometimes, studios and networks have to say no. In the case of M*A*S*H, almost all of the writers’ and producers’ ideas were accepted, but one episode never saw the light of day due to its subject matter.

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Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The episode was set to feature soldiers all trying to win a ticket back home. However, the network said that it would be unpatriotic and disrespectful, despite the authentic fact that many soldiers in Korea would have loved to go home.

Ever notice this next funny fact about Hawkeye?

A Pacifist Soldier

The character of Hawkeye was a little bit of a paradox; he was involved in the armed forces but hated guns. We almost never see Hawkeye carrying his sidearm, even on the occasions when he’s Officer of the Day.

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Source: IMDB

Even on one occasion when Colonel Potter forces him to take a gun along for an aid station, and the group gets ambushed, Hawkeye fires into the air rather than shooting the enemy.

Harry Morgan Adored The Show

Harry Morgan was cast in the role of Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H. While some of his fellow cast members grew tired of the show and wanted to leave at various points, Morgan adored his role and experiences filming M*A*S*H. At one point, he got so into the character that he decided to bring a photo of his real wife in to use as a prop, saying that the woman in the picture was his fictional wife, Mildred.

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Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage

The next fact concerns the show’s number one star…

Alan Alda Was Very Hands-On

Alan Alda didn’t just star in the show; he went way beyond that. He was involved in the writing process for 19 different episodes in total and was behind the camera as the director for 32 of them, including the famous finale.

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Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He was also the first ever actor to win an Emmy for both acting, writing, and directing all on the same show!

An Undisputed Classic

There are plenty of great TV shows out there, but some transcend that barrier of greatness and enter a league of their own.

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Source: IMDB

That’s M*A*S*H. It’s not just a great show, it’s one of the best of all time, and it stands in a class apart from all the rest, being consistently and continuously ranked as one of the best things to ever appear on TV. It’s no surprise that reruns of the show still appear on our screens every day.