Final episode date
28 February 1983
Alan AldaWayne RogersMcLean StevensonLoretta SwitLarry LinvilleGary BurghoffMike FarrellHarry MorganJamie FarrWilliam ChristopherDavid Ogden StiersEdward WinterAllan Arbus
Theme music composer
Johnny Mandel (written for the film)
Trapper John, M.D., AfterMASH, W*A*L*T*E*W*A*L*T*E*R
M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H (which was itself based on the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker). The series, which was produced with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS, follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the "4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War. The show's title sequence features an instrumental-only version of "Suicide Is Painless", the theme song from the original film. The show was created after an attempt to film the original book's sequel, M*A*S*M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, failed. The television series is the best-known version of the M*A*S*H works, and one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history.
- Recurring characters
- Actors with multiple roles
- Character names
- Notable actors and actor information
- Spearchucker Jones
- Father Francis Mulcahy
- Henry Blake
- Trapper John McIntyre
- Sherman T Potter
- Margaret Houlihan
- Frank Burns
- Charles Emerson Winchester III
- Radar OReilly
- Max Klinger
- Change in tone
- Set location
- Smithsonian exhibit
- Character information
- Character injuries
- Laugh track
- Final episode Goodbye Farewell and Amen
- Spinoffs and specials
- Home media
The series premiered in the U.S. on September 17, 1972, and ended on February 28, 1983, with the finale, showcased as a television film, titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", becoming the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers (60.2 rating and 77 share), according to the New York Times. It had struggled in its first season and was at risk of being cancelled. Season two of M*A*S*H placed it in a better time slot (airing after the popular All in the Family); the show became one of the top 10 programs of the year and stayed in the top 20 programs for the rest of its run. It is still broadcast in syndication on various television stations. The series, which depicted events occurring during a three-year military conflict, spanned 256 episodes and lasted 11 seasons. The Korean conflict lasted 1,128 days, meaning each episode of the series would have averaged almost four and a half days of real time. Many of the stories in the early seasons are based on tales told by real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by the production team. Like the movie, the series was as much an allegory about the Vietnam War (still in progress when the show began) as it was about the Korean War.
The episodes "Abyssinia, Henry" and "The Interview" were ranked number 20 and number 80, respectively, on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time in 1997. In 2002, M*A*S*H was ranked number 25 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fifth-best written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the eighth-greatest show of all time.
M*A*S*H aired weekly on CBS, with most episodes being a half-hour in length. The series is usually categorized as a situation comedy, though it is also described as a "dark comedy" or a "dramedy" because of the dramatic subject material often presented.
The show was an ensemble piece revolving around key personnel in a United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War (1950–1953). (The asterisks in the name are not part of military nomenclature and were creatively introduced in the novel and used in only the posters for the movie version, not the actual movie.) The "4077th MASH" was one of several surgical units in Korea.
As the show developed, the writing took on more of a moralistic tone. Richard Hooker, who wrote the book on which the television and film versions were based, noted that Hawkeye's character was far more liberal in the show than on the page (in one of the MASH books, Hawkeye makes reference to "kicking the bejesus out of lefties just to stay in shape"). While the show is traditionally viewed as a comedy, many episodes were of a more serious tone. Airing on network primetime while the Vietnam War was still going on, the show was forced to walk the fine line of commenting on that war while at the same time not seeming to protest against it. For this reason, the show's discourse, under the cover of comedy, often questioned, mocked, and grappled with America's role in the Cold War.
Episodes were both plot- and character-driven, with several episodes being narrated by one of the show's characters as the contents of a letter home. The show's tone could move from silly to sobering from one episode to the next, with dramatic tension often occurring between the civilian draftees of 4077th — Hawkeye, Trapper John, and B.J. Hunnicutt, for example — who are forced to leave their homes to tend the wounded and dying of the war, and the "regular Army" characters, such as Margaret Houlihan and Colonel Potter, who tend to represent ideas of patriotism and duty (though Houlihan and Potter could represent the other perspective at times, as well). Other characters, such as Col. Blake, Maj. Winchester, and Cpl. Klinger, help demonstrate various American civilian attitudes toward army life, while guest characters played by such actors as Eldon Quick, Herb Voland, Mary Wickes, and Tim O'Connor also help further the show's discussion of America's place as Cold War warmaker and peacemaker.
M*A*S*H maintained a relatively constant ensemble cast, with four characters — Hawkeye, Father Mulcahy, Margaret Houlihan, and Max Klinger — on the show for all 11 seasons. Several other main characters departed or joined the program midway through its run. Also, numerous guest actors and recurring characters were used. The writers found creating so many names difficult, and used names from elsewhere; for example, characters on the seventh season were named after the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Actors with multiple roles
Several guest stars made appearances as multiple characters:
Notable actors and actor information
During the first season, Hawkeye's, Trapper's, and Frank's bunkmate was an African-American character called Spearchucker Jones, played by actor Timothy Brown. (Brown appeared in the film version as a corporal, while neurosurgeon Dr. Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones was played by former NFL player Fred Williamson.) The character disappeared after the episode "Germ Warfare" because, at the time, no record existed of African-American doctors serving in Korea during the Korean War. According to the memoirs of Harold Secor, a doctor working at the 8055th MASH unit, on which M*A*S*H is based, at least one African-American doctor did serve in Korea during the Korean War.
Father Francis Mulcahy
Chaplain of the 4077 unit, Father Mulcahy plays the piano and likes to feel needed. He is a fairly good amateur boxer and poker player, and at one stage takes up jogging. A recurring storyline throughout the series has him visiting and bringing supplies to local orphanages. An episode in season 7, "Dear Sis", is filmed from his point of view, as he struggles with feeling useless at the 4077th. William Christopher plays Mulcahy, replacing actor George Morgan, who played Father Mulcahy in the pilot episode. Dago Red, Mulcahy's nickname from the book and film, was shortened to "Red" for television and used by Trapper John in the pilot episode and by Hawkeye in "Dear Dad" and was dropped. Starting in season 4, Colonel Potter started calling Mulcahy "padre", and that nickname kept for the rest of the series, even mentioning it once in the series finale "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". Mulcahy was promoted to captain in the episode "Captains Outrageous" after several attempts in previous seasons. Before the promotion, he was a first lieutenant.
By season 3 (1974–1975), McLean Stevenson had begun chafing at what he considered to be a supporting role to Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers. Midway through the season, he informed the producers that he wanted to leave M*A*S*H. With ample time to prepare a "Goodbye, Henry" show, it was decided that Henry Blake would be discharged and sent home for the season-3 finale, which aired on Tuesday, March 18, 1975. In the final scene of his last episode ("Abyssinia, Henry"), Radar tearfully reports that Henry's plane has been shot down over the Sea of Japan, and there were no survivors. This part of the script was kept secret from the cast. The producers wanted the reaction to be as much of a surprise as possible. Originally, the episode was written with Henry making it home, but the writers wanted to show that it was war and people may not make it home.
Trapper John McIntyre
Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) was planning to return for season 4, but abruptly withdrew over a disagreement about his contract. Rogers had a dislike of having a supporting role for Alda, and had been threatening to leave since season 1. His departure was unexpected and, unlike that of McLean Stevenson, no onscreen farewell was used. Rogers felt his character was never given any real importance and that all the focus was on Alda's character, Hawkeye Pierce.
Rogers's replacement, Mike Farrell, was hastily recruited during the 1975 summer production hiatus. In the season's first episode, "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye is informed by Radar that Trapper was discharged while Hawkeye was on leave, and B.J. Hunnicutt is Trapper's replacement. Trapper was described by Radar as being so jubilant over his release that "he got drunk for two days, took off all his clothes, and ran naked through the mess tent with no clothes on." He made Radar promise to give Hawkeye a kiss as a final farewell message.
Actor Pernell Roberts later played a middle-aged Trapper in the seven-year run of Trapper John, M.D.
Sherman T. Potter
In the third episode of the fourth season, "Change of Command", Col. Sherman T. Potter arrives at the unit to assume command, replacing Frank Burns, who had taken over as commander after Blake's departure (season 3, episode 24). Harry Morgan, who played Potter, had previously guest-starred in the first episode of season 3, "The General Flipped at Dawn", as General Hamilton Steele.
Colonel Potter is a regular Army man, having served in both World War I and World War II, first in the cavalry and later as a doctor. He is passionate about horses, and keeps an old US Cavalry issue McClellan saddle in his office, which is later put to use when he acquires a horse, when Radar gives one to him for his wedding anniversary, after B.J. and Hawkeye are unable to catch it. This horse, which remained with Col. Potter until the end of the series, was referred to as a colt (Potter remarks, "He can't be more than four years old") in its first appearance, after which it is named "Sophie" and referred to as a mare. In his spare time, Potter also enjoys painting.
When Margaret Houlihan became engaged to a fellow officer, Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot, she had a falling-out with Frank; she became much friendlier toward Hawkeye and B.J., and her subordinate nurses. She later married Penobscot, but the union did not last long. The "Hot Lips" nickname was rarely used to describe her after about the midway point in the series. In early seasons she speaks of the war in glowing terms, and the potential end of it as a negative thing, but by "Temporary Duty", when a friend comments that the war can't last forever, she says, "It already has." Later, she regards it as major factor in her eventual divorce, crying, "It's my fault. Look at the place I picked to have a marriage." Loretta Swit wanted to leave the series in the eighth season to pursue other acting roles (most notably the part of Christine Cagney on Cagney & Lacey), but the producers refused to let her out of her contract. Swit originated the Cagney role in the made-for-TV movie that served as that pilot of the series.
Larry Linville noted that his "Frank Burns" character was easier to make light of after head comedy writer Larry Gelbart departed after season 4 and Frank and Margaret parted ways in season 5. After season 4, Linville realized that he had taken Frank Burns as far as he could, and he decided that since he had signed a five-year contract, he would leave the series after season 5. During the first episode of season 6, "Fade Out, Fade In", Burns (off camera) suffers a nervous breakdown due to Margaret's marriage and is held for psychiatric evaluation. Hawkeye offered a toast to Frank's departure, pausing only a moment, then stating "Goodbye, Ferret Face." In an unexpected twist, Burns is transferred to an Indiana Veterans Administration hospital, near his home in Fort Wayne, and is promoted to lieutenant colonel — in a sense, Frank's parting shot at Hawkeye. Unlike McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers, Linville had no regrets about leaving the series, saying, "I felt I had done everything possible with the character." Linville was not alone when he left; Executive Producer Gene Reynolds left after the production of season 5, and Burt Metcalfe and star Alan Alda took over the producing responsibilities. During season 6, Alda and Metcalfe even consulted Reynolds once a week, mainly to obtain help with their jobs as executive producers. These two men remained as executive producers for the remaining six seasons, as Reynolds was credited as a creative consultant along with Alan Alda.
Charles Emerson Winchester III
Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) was brought in as an antagonist of sorts to the other surgeons, but his relationship with them was not as acrimonious, although he was a more able foil. Unlike Frank Burns, Winchester did not care for the Army. His resentment stemmed, in part, from the fact that he was transferred from Tokyo General Hospital to the 4077th due, in part, to a cribbage debt owed to him by his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Horace Baldwin. What set him apart from Burns as an antagonist for Hawkeye and B.J. was that Winchester was clearly an excellent, technically superior surgeon, although his work sometimes suffered from his excessive perfectionism when rapid "meatball surgery" was called for. As with many new MASH surgeons, Winchester took some time to wrap his head around the fact that faster, less precise work saved lives that more elegant, slower work might cost.
Winchester was respected by the others professionally, but at the same time, as a Boston blue blood, he was also snobbish, as when he stated in the scrub room, "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on," which drove much of his conflict with the other characters. Still, the show's writers occasionally allowed Winchester's humanity to shine through, such as in his dealings with a young concert pianist who had partially lost the use of his right hand, the protection of a stuttering soldier from the bullying of other soldiers (it is revealed later that Winchester's sister stutters), his keeping a vigil with Hawkeye when Hawkeye's father went into surgery back in the States ("Sons and Bowlers"), his willingness to be officer of the day for Hawkeye when Hawkeye was offered three days in Seoul, giving blood to a patient even though he already donated blood five days earlier, or his continuing a family tradition of anonymously giving Christmas treats to an orphanage. Winchester subjects himself to condemnation after realizing that "it is sadly inappropriate to offer dessert to a child who has had no meal." Isolating himself, he is saved by Klinger's own gift of understanding. Klinger scrapes together a Christmas dinner for Charles, with the provision that the source of the gift remain anonymous (Klinger had overheard Winchester's argument with the manager of the orphanage). For the final moment of the episode ("Death Takes a Holiday"), the two are simply friends as Charles says, "Thank you, Max," and Klinger replies, "Merry Christmas, Charles." As well, in the series finale "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", Charles comes across a group of Chinese musicians who surrender to him. When Charles takes them back to the camp as prisoners of war and later listens to his record of Mozart's Quintet in A major for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581, the musicians attempt to play the piece of music. Charles, ever the perfectionist, cannot stand to hear them play the piece incorrectly (and is impressed that they can even attempt to play the music after only hearing it once) and spends the next week conducting them on how to play the piece properly. During this time, Charles is forced to use the little patience that he rarely shows. When the Chinese musicians are taken off to a prisoner of war camp in a prisoner exchange to Charles' dismay and protest, their final goodbye to Charles is the Mozart piece played correctly. Later, one of the musicians returns to the camp mortally wounded on a Jeep. When Charles inquires as to where the other musicians are, it's revealed that the truck the musicians were on was ambushed and that there were no other survivors. In a combination of shock and disbelief, Charles returns to The Swamp to listen to the Mozart record, but removes the record and smashes it in anger. Later still on the final night that everyone at the M*A*S*H is together, Charles says that before the war, music was a stress reliever to him, but because of the Chinese musicians and their fate, music will forever be a reminder of the horrors of war.
Gary Burghoff (Walter "Radar" O'Reilly), one of only two cast members of the original 1970 film to play the same character in the TV series, had been growing restless in his role since at least season 4. With each successive year, he appeared in fewer episodes; and by season 7, Radar is in barely half of the shows. Burghoff planned to leave at the end of the seventh season (in 1979), but was convinced by producers Alda and Metcalfe to wait until the beginning of season 8, when they filmed a two-part farewell episode, "Good Bye, Radar" (originally intended to be the seventh season's finale), as well as a few short scenes that were inserted into episodes preceding it (Radar is shown having a horrible R & R in Tokyo). The final nod to Radar came in the penultimate episode of the series, "As Time Goes By", when his iconic teddy bear (though it was a different bear than was used throughout the show) was included in a time capsule of the 4077th initiated by Margaret, which Hawkeye says is a symbol of those who "came as boys and went home as men."
Max Klinger also grew away from the cross-dressing reputation that overshadowed him. He dropped his section 8 pursuit when taking over for Radar as company clerk. Both Jamie Farr and the producers felt that there was more to Klinger than a chiffon dress, and tried to develop the character more fully. In the role of company clerk, Klinger's personality turned more to the "wheeler-dealer" aspects developed in the streets of (Farr's actual hometown) Toledo, Ohio, using those skills to aid the 4077th. Farr stayed throughout the rest of the series. Klinger was later promoted from corporal to sergeant (he and Father Mulcahy were the only two characters to be promoted on-screen in the entire series, Frank Burns received his promotion off-screen after having left the series). In the final episode, Klinger is, ironically, the only character who announces that he is staying in Korea. He wants to help his wife, Soon Lee, find her parents. (He and Soon Lee marry at the end of the episode). When Klinger announces that he is staying in Korea, Hawkeye says, "You don't have to act crazy now. We're all getting out!" However, in the short-lived spin-off, AfterMASH, it becomes clear that soon after the end of the war, Klinger, with new wife Soon Lee (Rosalind Chao) returned to the United States. After Soon Lee was subjected to discrimination in Toledo the Klingers moved to River Bend, Missouri and Max got a job like that he had as the 4077th's company clerk for Chief of Staff Dr. Sherman Potter, now head of the General Pershing VA Hospital there.
Change in tone
While the series remained popular through these changes, it eventually began to run out of creative steam. Korean War doctors regularly contacted producers with experiences that they thought might make for a good storyline, only to learn the idea had previously been used. Harry Morgan admitted that he felt "the cracks were starting to show" by season 9 (1980–1981). Alda wished to make season 10 (1981-1982) M*A*S*H's last, but was persuaded by CBS to produce a slightly shortened 11th season, coupled with a farewell movie finale, because CBS refused to let the show go away so easily. In the end, season 11 had 15 episodes (although six had been filmed during season 10 and held over) and a 2-1/2 hour movie, which was treated as five episodes and was filmed before the nine remaining episodes. The final episode ever produced was the penultimate episode "As Time Goes By". The series finale movie, titled "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", became the most-watched television broadcast in history, tallying a total of 125 million viewers.
The 4077th consisted of two separate sets. An outdoor set in the mountains near Malibu, California (Calabasas, Los Angeles County, California) was used for most exterior and tent scenes for every season. This was the same set used to shoot the movie. The indoor set, on a sound stage at Fox Studios in Century City, was used for the indoor scenes for the run of the series. Later, after the indoor set was renovated to permit many of the "outdoor" scenes to be filmed there, both sets were used for exterior shooting as script requirements dictated (e.g., night scenes were far easier to film on the sound stage, but scenes at the chopper pad required using the ranch).
Just as the series was wrapping production, a brush fire destroyed most of the outdoor set on October 9, 1982. The fire was written into the final episode as a forest fire caused by enemy incendiary bombs that forced the 4077th to bug out.
The Malibu location is today known as Malibu Creek State Park. Formerly called the Century Ranch and owned by 20th Century Fox Studios until the 1980s, the site today is returning to a natural state, and is marked by a rusted Jeep and an ambulance used in the show. Through the 1990s, the area was occasionally used for television commercial production.
On February 23, 2008, series stars Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit and William Christopher (along with producers Gene Reynolds and Burt Metcalfe and M*A*S*H director Charles S. Dubin) reunited at the set to celebrate its partial restoration. The rebuilt signpost is now displayed on weekends, along with tent markers and maps and photos of the set. The state park is open to the public. It was also the location where the film How Green Was My Valley (1941) and the Planet of the Apes television series (1974) were filmed, among other productions.
The exhibit M*A*S*H: Binding Up the Wounds was at the National Museum of American History from July 30, 1983 through February 3, 1985. The exhibit was extremely popular drawing more than 17,000 in a single week, a record for any Smithsonian display.
On exhibit were The Swamp and Operating Room sets, one of the show’s 14 Emmy Awards, early drafts of the pilot script, costumes from the show and other memorabilia. Sets were decorated with props from the show including the iconic signpost, Hawkeye's still and Major Winchester's Webcor tape recorder and phonograph. The exhibit also encouraged visitors to compare the show to real Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals of the Korean and the Vietnam Wars.
Radar's teddy bear was originally found at the ranch set was never on display at the Smithsonian. Following completion of production, the prop was kept by the show's set designer. It was sold several times including to Burghoff himself. It was sold at auction on July 29, 2005 for $11,800, it sold again on March 27, 2015 for $14,307.50 after 19 bids.
M*A*S*H was the first American network series to use the phrase "son of a bitch" (in the 8th-season episode "Guerilla My Dreams"), and brief partial nudity occurred in the series (notably Gary Burghoff's buttocks in "The Sniper" and Hawkeye in one of the "Dear Dad" episodes). A different innovation was the show's producers' not wanting a laugh track, as the network did. They compromised by omitting laughter entirely in the operating room. The DVD releases of the series allow viewers to select an audio version with no laugh track.
In his blog, writer Ken Levine revealed that on one occasion, when the cast offered too many nitpicking "notes" on a script, his writing partner and he changed the script to a "cold show"—one set during the frigid Korean winter. The cast then had to stand around barrel fires in parkas at the Malibu ranch when the temperatures neared 100 °F (38 °C). Levine says, "This happened maybe twice, and we never got a ticky-tack note again."
Jackie Cooper wrote that Alan Alda, whom Cooper directed in several episodes during the first two seasons, concealed a lot of hostility beneath the surface, and the two of them barely spoke to each other by the time Cooper’s tenure on the show ended.
Throughout the run of the series, any "generic" nurses (those who had a line or two, but were minor supporting characters otherwise) were generally given the names "Nurse Able", "Nurse Baker", or "Nurse Charlie". During the Korean War, the letters A, B, and C in the phonetic alphabet were Able, Baker, and Charlie (since then, the standard has been updated; A and B are now Alpha and Bravo). In later seasons, it became more common for a real character name to be created, especially as several of the nurse actresses became semiregulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in season 3 before becoming the semiregular "Nurse Kellye"; however, Judy Farrell (at the time, Mike Farrell's wife) played Nurse Able in eight episodes, including the series finale.
By the time the series ended, three of the regulars had been promoted. Klinger (Jamie Farr) went from corporal to sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from lieutenant to captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel off screen when he was shipped back to the U.S. following Margaret's marriage. (Farr and Christopher also saw their names move from the closing credits of the show to the opening credits.) Radar O'Reilly was fraudulently "promoted" for a short time (through a semi-intentional machination of Hawkeye and B.J.) to second lieutenant, but discovered he disliked officers' duties and asked them to "bust" him back to corporal.
Mike Farrell asked that his character's daughter's name be Erin, after his real-life daughter (the character's name was originally going to be Melissa). When B.J. spoke on the telephone on-camera, Erin or his then-wife Judy were on the other end.
Three MASH 4077 staff members suffered fatalities on the show: Lieutenant Colonel Blake, when the plane taking him back to the States was shot down over the Sea of Japan; an ambulance driver, O'Donnell, in a traffic accident; and a nurse, Millie Carpenter, by a land mine. "Capt. Tuttle", an imaginary person made up by Hawkeye to provide money for Sister Teresa's orphanage, was said to have died when he jumped from a helicopter without a parachute; Hawkeye gave him an ironic eulogy.
Among those wounded were Hawkeye Pierce ("Hawkeye", "Out of Sight, Out of Mind", "Comrades in Arms [Part I]", "Good-Bye, Radar [Part I]", and "Lend a Hand"), Radar O'Reilly ("Fallen Idol"), B.J. Hunnicutt ("The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan" and "Operation Friendship"), Max Klinger ("It Happened One Night", "Baby, It's Cold Outside", and "Operation Friendship"), Father Mulcahy ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" and "Bombed"), and Sherman Potter ("Dear Ma"). Henry Blake was injured four times: once by a disgruntled chopper pilot ("Cowboy"), once by friendly fire ("The Army-Navy Game"), and in season 3, episode 15 ("Bombed"), Henry is injured when he is blown up while in the latrine. (The gag of Blake being caught in an exploding latrine is also in the episode "Cowboy".) Henry is also injured when the latrine catches fire. Father Mulcahy is given a concussion on two separate occasions - first in the episode "Bombed", where he is in the latrine stall next to Blake when it is blown up; and again in "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" when he is knocked out by mortar fire which strikes close by him; he also suffers severe hearing loss as a result of this incident. Frank Burns is twice awarded Purple Hearts for spurious injuries: throwing his back out after he gave Margaret a dip and could not move - which was later covered up with a story that he slipped on the way to the showers ("Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", 1.17), and getting an egg-shell fragment in the eye ("The Kids", 4.8). Burns' Purple Heart medals were then given to more deserving people: a GI who was admitted with appendicitis and a Korean newborn infant who was hit by a bullet in utero.
At least three permanent 4077 personnel suffered emotional breakdowns: Hawkeye Pierce ("Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"), B.J. Hunnicutt ("Period of Adjustment"), and Frank Burns ("Fade Out, Fade In").
The helicopters used on the series were model H-13 Sioux (military designation and nickname of the Bell 47 civilian model). As in the film, some care seems to have been taken to use the correct model of the long-lived Bell 47 series. In the opening credits and many of the episodes, Korean War-vintage H-13Ds and Es (Bell 47D-1s) were used complete with period-correct external litters. A later (1954–73) 47G occasionally made an appearance. The helicopters are similar in appearance (with the later "G" models having larger two-piece fuel tanks, a slightly revised cabin, and other changes) with differences noticeable only to a serious helicopter fan. In the pilot episode, a later Bell 47J (production began in 1957) was shown flying Henry Blake to Seoul, en route to a meeting with General Hammond in Tokyo. A Sud Aviation Allouette II helicopter was also shown transporting Henry Blake to the 4077th in the episode "Henry, Please Come Home".
The Jeeps used were 1953 military M38 or civil CJ2A Willys Jeeps and also World War II Ford GPWs and Willys MB's. Two episodes featured the M38A1 Jeep, one of which was stolen from a General by Radar and Hawkeye after their Jeep was stolen. Two of the ambulances were WC-54 Dodges and one was a WC-27. A WC-54 ambulance remains at the site and was burned in the Malibu fires on October 9, 1982, while a second WC-27 survives at a South El Monte museum without any markings. The bus used to transport the wounded was a 1954 Ford model. In the last season, an M43 ambulance from the Korean War era also was used in conjunction with the WC-54s and WC-27.
Series creators Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds wanted M*A*S*H broadcast without a laugh track ("Just like the actual Korean War", he remarked dryly). Though CBS initially rejected the idea, a compromise was reached that allowed for omitting the laughter during operating room scenes if desired. Seasons 1–5 utilized a more invasive laugh track; a more subdued audience was employed for Seasons 6-11 when the series shifted from sitcom to comedy-drama with the departure of Gelbart and Reynolds. Several episodes ("O.R.", "The Bus", ""Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", "The Interview", "Point of View" and "Dreams" among them) omitted the laugh track altogether; as did almost all of Season 11, including the 135-minute series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen". The laugh track is also omitted from some international and syndicated airings of the show; on one occasion during an airing on BBC2, the laugh track was accidentally left on, and viewers expressed their displeasure, an apology from the network for the "technical difficulty" was later released, as during its original run on BBC2 in the UK, it was shown without the laugh track. UK DVD critics speak poorly of the laugh track, stating "canned laughter is intrusive at the best of times, but with a programme like M*A*S*H, it's downright unbearable."
On all released DVDs, both in Region 1 (including the U.S. and Canada) and Region 2 (Europe, including the UK), an option is given to watch the show with or without the laugh track.
"They're a lie," said Gelbart in a 1992 interview. "You're telling an engineer when to push a button to produce a laugh from people who don't exist. It's just so dishonest. The biggest shows when we were on the air were All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show both of which were taped before a live studio audience where laughter made sense," continued Gelbart. "But our show was a film show – supposedly shot in the middle of Korea. So the question I always asked the network was, 'Who are these laughing people? Where did they come from?'" Gelbart persuaded CBS to test the show in private screenings with and without the laugh track. The results showed no measurable difference in the audience's enjoyment. "So you know what they said?" Gelbart said. "'Since there's no difference, let's leave it alone!' The people who defend laugh tracks have no sense of humor." Gelbart summed up the situation by saying, "I always thought it cheapened the show. The network got their way. They were paying for dinner."
Final episode: "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was the final episode of M*A*S*H. Special television sets were placed in PX parking lots, auditoriums, and dayrooms of the U.S. Army in Korea so that military personnel could watch that episode, in spite of 14 hours' time-zone difference with the East Coast of the U.S. The episode aired on February 28, 1983, and was 2½ hours long. The episode got a Nielsen rating of 60.2 and 77 share and according to a New York Times article from 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H had 125 million viewers.
When the M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983, 83.3 million homes in the United States had televisions, compared to almost 115 million in February 2010.
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" broke the record for the highest percentage of homes with television sets to watch a television series. Stories persist that the episode was seen by so many people that the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department reported the plumbing systems broke down in some parts of the city from so many New Yorkers waiting until the end to use the toilet. Articles copied into Alan Alda's book The Last Days of M*A*S*H include interviews with New York City Sanitation workers citing the spike in water use on that night. According to the interviews at 11:03 pm, EST New York City public works noted the highest water usage at one given time in the City's history. They attributed this to the fact that in the three minutes after the finale ended, around 77% of the people of New York City flushed their toilets. These stories have all since been identified as part of an urban legend dating back to the days of the Amos and Andy radio program in the 1930s.
The finale was referenced in a passage from Stephen Chbosky's coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which the main character and his family watch the finale together.
Spinoffs and specials
M*A*S*H had two spin-off shows. The short-lived AfterMASH (1983–85) inherited the parent show's Monday night time slot and featured several of its characters reunited in a Midwestern hospital after the war. The more successful Trapper John, M.D. (1979–86) took place nearly three decades after the events of M*A*S*H and depicted Trapper John McIntyre as chief of surgery at a San Francisco hospital. In an unpurchased television pilot, W*A*L*T*E*R (1984), Walter "Radar" O’Reilly joins the St. Louis police force after his farm fails following his return to the U.S.
A documentary special titled Making M*A*S*H, narrated by Mary Tyler Moore and taking viewers behind the production of the season 8 episodes "Old Soldiers" and "Lend a Hand", was produced for PBS in 1981. The special was later included in the syndicated rerun package, with new narration by producer Michael Hirsch.
Two retrospective specials were produced to commemorate the show's 20th and 30th anniversaries. Memories of M*A*S*H, hosted by Shelley Long and featuring clips from the series and interviews with cast members, was aired by CBS on November 25, 1991. A 30th Anniversary Reunion special, in which the surviving cast members and producers gathered to reminisce, aired on the Fox network on May 17, 2002. The two-hour broadcast was hosted by Mike Farrell, who also got to interact with the actor he replaced, Wayne Rogers; previously filmed interviews with McLean Stevenson and Larry Linville (who had died in 1996 and 2000, respectively) were featured, as well. The two specials are included as bonuses on the Collector's Edition DVD of "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". Also included is "M*A*S*H: Television's Serious Sitcom", a 2002 episode of the A&E cable channel's Biography program that detailed the history of the show.
In the late 1980s, the cast had a partial reunion in a series of commercials for IBM personal computers. All of the front-billed regulars (with the three exceptions of Farrell, Stiers, and Stevenson) appeared in the spots over time.
M*A*S*H was nominated for over 100 Emmy Awards during its 11-year run, winning 14:
The show won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) in 1981. Alan Alda won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy) six times: in 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. McLean Stevenson won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series in 1974.
The series earned 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), 1983 (Alda).
The show was honored with a Peabody Award in 1975 "for the depth of its humor and the manner in which comedy is used to lift the spirit and, as well, to offer 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 time and place with such affecting clarity."
Writers for the show received 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 series received 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations - 26 for Episodic Comedy and two for Episodic Drama. Seven episodes won for Episodic Comedy in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, and 1981.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2.
On January 20, 2015, it was announced that the first five seasons of M*A*S*H would be available on Netflix's instant streaming service beginning February 1, 2015. This marked the first time the series was made available on an internet platform. As of July 1, 2015, all 11 seasons were available; syndicated versions of hour-long episodes were utilized for streaming, splitting these shows into two parts. In contrast to the DVD sets, the Netflix streams did not have an option for disabling the laugh track on the soundtrack. On April 1, 2016, M*A*S*H was removed from Netflix due to its contract to stream the series expiring.
In November 2016, SundanceTV (DirecTV Channel 557) announced it will begin airing M*A*S*H and several other classic TV shows. M*A*S*H can be seen on Monday's at 6AM-1PM weekly, starting on November 14 with seven hours with the first 14 episodes from Season 1.
As of 2016, M*A*S*H episodes air on the MeTV television network.