Things MASH Producers Hid from Fans

Hidden Gems and Surprising Facts About MASH

MASH, one of the most beloved shows in television history, has many secrets that the producers never meant for us to know. But as with any secret, someone always spills the beans. Today, we uncover some of the hidden gems and surprising facts about the show that were kept from the public.

The Beginnings
Did you know MASH started as a book? Richard Hooker’s book “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors” tells the story of a mobile Army hospital in Korea. Although not a true story, it’s based on the real experiences of Dr. H. Richard Hornberger, a surgeon in the army during the Korean War. This book inspired a hit movie in 1970, and then 20th Century Fox turned it into a TV show with Gene Reynolds and others making a pilot episode. Despite Richard Hooker’s dissatisfaction with the TV version, feeling it was watered down and too funny, the show became iconic in its own right.

No Laugh Track at First
CBS insisted on having a laugh track for the show, even though the actors and producers weren’t thrilled with the idea. They thought it odd to have recorded laughter in a show set during a war. CBS feared viewers might not realize MAS*H was supposed to be funny without it. Over time, they eased up on the laugh track, eventually ditching it for international broadcasts except for one goof in the UK. The show’s fans noticed that there were no laughs during serious moments, which was a compromise to keep the balance between comedy and drama.

Switch-Up Roles
McLean Stevenson initially tried out for the part of Hawkeye Pierce, which eventually went to Alan Alda. The producers saw Stevenson better suited for Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, the character with the iconic bucket hat. Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John, wasn’t the first choice for the role; that spot initially went to comedian Robert Klein. Harry Morgan, beloved for his role as Colonel Sherman T. Potter, made a memorable appearance in MAS*H before becoming a regular.

Real Soldiers
Jamie Farr, known for his role as Corporal Klinger, had real-life military experience. He served in the US Army and even acted in training films. This experience, along with Alan Alda’s service in the Army Reserve, brought authenticity to their characters. Wayne Rogers, who portrayed Trapper John, served in the US Navy, and Mike Farrell, who played BJ Hunnicutt, was a Marine Corps veteran.

Contract Disputes
Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John McIntyre, felt like he was playing second fiddle to Alan Alda’s character Hawkeye. He thought they’d have equal parts like in the movie, but that didn’t happen. After three seasons, he decided to leave MAS*H, and since he never signed a contract, he left without any trouble.

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