Breakaway Pop Hit: A couple different instrumental cover versions of "Suicide is Painless" became minor hits in 1970, but the male vocal quartet version that plays over the film's opening credits became a surprise #1 hit in the UK in 1980, boosted by the popularity of the TV show.
California Doubling: South Korea? South California, more like! The campsite at the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park) was, of course, reused for the series. Incidentally, the Californian environment actually looks more Korean than Vietnamese, despite the filmmakers' intention to make Korea look like Vietnam.
Cast the Runner-Up: Robert Altman originally wanted Elliott Gould to play Duke Forrest. It was only at Gould's request that he got the role of Trapper John, as he was worried that he would spend more time focusing on the accent.
Creator Backlash: Despite winning the film's only Academy Award, screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr. later disowned the film since quite little of his script was used in the final film. On his DVD Commentary for the film, Robert Altman said it upset him that Lardner hated the film so much, since the reason the film had the feel that it did was because of his script. Essentially, Altman claimed the final film was a distillation of Lardner's script.
Executive Meddling: The opening title sequence has a text that identifies the place as Korea. This was added at the insistence of the studio after Robert Altman had removed every reference to Korea, intending it to be mistaken for Vietnam, which would reinforce the anti-war statement.
Fake American: Donald Sutherland, from Canada. But, since Hawkeye Pierce is from Maine, and Sutherland was born in New Brunswick (which borders Maine) and grew up in Nova Scotia (across the Bay of Fundy from Maine), his casting actually works.
Harpo Does Something Funny: Pretty much the whole film was improvised; the screenplay was just a template. (As mentioned in Creator Backlash, screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. did not expect Altman and the cast to take this approach to filming.)
Real-Life Relative: Robert Altman's son Mike (who was 14 at the time) wrote the lyrics to the theme song "Suicide is Painless"note Due to various covers, and especially being used as the instrumental theme to the TV series, Mike Altman ended up getting millions in royalties for the song, far more than his father got for actually directing the film.
Stillborn Franchise: A film adaptation of the original novel's sequel MASH Goes to Maine, following Hawkeye's life back in Maine after his discharge, was considered but never produced. However, this did end up giving way to the highly popular TV series.
During the opening credits a stretcher-bearer stumbles and falls on his ass while carrying a wounded soldier from the chopper pad. This was a real, unscripted accident during filming and was something that likely happened a lot in real life due to the inhospitable terrain where mobile hospitals had to be set up.
After Hot Lips' "This isn't a hospital, it's an insane asylum!" rant to Henry Blake, Robert Altman kept the camera rolling after the scene was supposed to finish, leading Sally Kellerman to improvise wailing "My commission!..." Altman was delighted, as he saw this as the perfect revelation of her hidden vulnerability, and since this was originally supposed to be her last scene in the film, he decided instead to insert her into several later scenes to continue her character arc.
Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould took to addressing each other as "Shirley" on-set as a joke. While filming one dialogue scene, Gould spontaneously called Sutherland "Shirley", causing Sutherland to burst out laughing; Altman decided to retain this during editing.
Klinger is from Toledo, Ohio, just like his actor, Jamie Farr.
Expanding on that, both Farr and Alan Alda served in the U.S. Army in Korea, albeit after the shooting war had ended.note Alda did a six-month tour as a gunnery officer in the Reserves; Farr was stationed in Tokyo and later accompanied Red Skelton on a Korean USO tour. Farr actually wore his own dogtags while playing Klinger.
Henry Blake was from Bloomington, Illinois; McLean Stevenson was born in nearby Normal.
B.J. Hunnicutt's daughter Erin was named after Mike Farrell's real-life daughter.
Adored by the Network: CBS loved the show, even during the first season when the ratings were abysmal. Indeed, the show could easily have been canceled after the first season. Instead, CBS moved it to a better timeslot for the second season, and the rest is history.
"Abyssinia" wasn't really Henry's magic word for goodbye, in fact, he only said it once throughout his entire stay on the show. More often than not, whenever he bode someone farewell, he would say, "Goom-bye!"
As with the film, exteriors for the show were filmed at the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park) near Malibu. California is about as mountainous as Korea, but the doubling is obvious in the winter episodes, where, aside from a lack of snow in any such episode, the surrounding plant life is green and alive.
Additionally, due to a limited shooting schedule at the ranch quite a lot of "outdoor" scenes (particularly those taking place at night, and/or in the immediate vicinity of the compound) were rather obviously shot on a soundstage. During season eleven, all scenes were shot on the soundstage because the ranch set burnt down in a wildfire during production of the finale (which was actually the first episode shot that season), and it was deemed pointless to build a new one so close to the end.
Cast the Runner-Up: James Cromwell and Alan Fudge were considered for the role of B.J. Hunnicutt before it went to Mike Farrell. Fudge and Cromwell would eventually appear on the show as guests — Fudge as Capt. Chandler in Season 5's "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?" and Cromwell as Leo Bardonaro in Season 6's "Last Laugh".
The Cast Showoff: Everyone gets to show off their many and varied talents: Harry Morgan, William Christopher, Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, and Loretta Swit are featured singing several times; William Christopher's piano skills are also shown off, as are Harry Morgan's painting abilities and Gary Burghoff's jazz drumming (and talent for impressions); Mike Farrell is also shown dancing in the episode "Dreams." Loudon Wainwright III is a professional singer-songwriter, so Calvin Spalding's appearances (limited to a handful of Season 3 episodes) mainly involved him singing and playing guitar.
Interestingly, her name in the show varies. She has been Nurse Kealani Kellye, Nurse Kellye Yamato, Nurse Abel, Nurse Charlie, and Nurse Baker. And a few times, characters have (apparently mistakenly) referred to her as Nurse Nakahara or Lieutenant Nakahara.
The character is supposed to be part Chinese and part Hawaiian Native. Kealani was the name Nakahara and Alan Alda came up with.
Also, Corpsman Roy Goldman, played by actor Roy Goldman.
Another instance, Frank asks Igor, played by Jeff Maxwell, his name, to which he responds "Maxwell". It appears to have been a mistake by actor Jeff Maxwell; Larry Linville didn't miss a beat.
Likewise nurses Gwen Farrell and Jennifer Davis, played by Gwen Farrell (no relation to Mike) and Jennifer Davis.
It's more a coincidental one, but Capt. "Ugly" John Black was played by John Orchard.
Dawson Casting: Gary Burghoff played 18-year-old farmboy Radar well into his thirties.
By the end of the series, most of the actors were visibly greying and showing other signs of age. This would have been less problematic if the Korean War—and therefore the timespan of the show—hadn't only consisted of three years.
Dr. Richard Hornberger, the author of the original novel, despised this series so much that when asked about its end in 1983, he said the only thing he would miss were the royalty checks.
Robert Altman also hated the series, mostly because he felt that it softened the anti-war and anti-authoritarian spirit of his movie. In his DVD commentary for the latter, he further disparages the show as racist.
"I didn't like the series because that series to me was the opposite of my main reason for making this film and this was to talk about a foreign war, an Asian war, that was going on at the time. And to perpetuate that every Sunday night for 12 years and no matter what platitudes they say about their little messages and everything the basic image and message is that the brown people with the narrow eyes are the enemy.note Most of the Korean characters, North and South, were actually sympathetic; ordinary people who lost livelihoods, homes and loved ones in the war. And so I think that series was quite a racist thing. I didn't approve of it, I don't like it, and I thought it was the antithesis of what we were trying to do. But most people don't even know this movie exists. If you poll the world, they'd say, 'Oh, that was that series with Alan Albert,' or whatever his name was."
Dueling Shows: With Hogan's Heroes, but only in syndication; Hogan's originally ran from 1965 to 1971, while M*A*S*H* started in 1972.note Incidentally, both shows shared some of the same behind-the-scenes personnel, including director Gene Reynolds, writer Laurence Marks, and cameraman William Jurgenson. And William Christopher appeared in several Hogan's episodes, each time as a different character.
The show's runtime was 26 minutes in its original broadcast run, so you figure that's roughly five to six minute's worth of show that's cut out for today's commercialism. In fact, entire scenes will get axed, thus giving the story plot holes (wonder why Henry has a piece of surgical tape on his ear in, "The Ringbanger"? In a deleted scene, Frank startles him while he's trimming his hair in his tent, and ends up slicing his ear with the scissors).
Another example of how this show has suffered in syndication is many episodes from the first five seasons have their entire tag cut, resulting in cliffhanger endings (though some stations do keep some of the tags listed below intact while cutting others). The episodes that suffer this are as follows:
"Pilot Episode" (S1) - a prologue captioned "Korea: a hundred years ago" features Radar catching a football before stopping and announcing choppers incoming, followed by a cut to the opening theme song; the PA announcer gives out an oral cast roll call in a similar fashion as The Movie; the scene of Hawkeye and Trapper having handcuffed themselves together to be arrested (and thus taken out of action), though now the episode's tag, is often shortened as well
"To Market, To Market" (S1) - Charlie Lee delivers the hydrocortisone to Hawkeye and Trapper while Henry tries to come up with an explanation of his desk disappearing to his insurance company
"Chief Surgeon, Who?" (S1) - Frank seems to finally accept Hawkeye being appointed Chief Surgeon during another O.R. stint
"Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" (S1) - Hawkeye and Trapper swipe Frank's Purple Heart and present it to Wendell/Walter so he can still return home a decorated hero without endangering himself any further
"Showtime" (S1) - As the U.S.O. show winds down, the cast is show in the audience as their actors' names appear on screen.
"Divided We Stand" (S2) - PA announcer invites viewers to continue watching the antics of the main cast, who are once again presented in an oral roll call
"5 O'Clock Charlie" (S2) - Hawkeye and Trapper contemplate missing Charlie, while buttering up Frank into joining them for dinner in the Mess Tent
"Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde" (S2) - Hawkeye is finally asleep in the Swamp, while Trapper and Henry discuss his sleep-deprivation-induced antics
"Officers Only" (S2) - Hawkeye and Trapper spike Frank's drink, while he fumes over General Mitchell continuously dancing with Margaret
"Operation: Noselift" (S2) - Hawkeye and Trapper see Dr. Stanley Robbins off, then start chasing nurses
"A Smattering of Intelligence" (S2) - Flagg does his own oral roll call (sensing a pattern here?) of the cast, as he deduces the personnel of the 4077th may need more observation. TV Land, which has recently brought the show back, also cut the scene where Hawkeye identifies himself to Flagg as Dr. Wassmerman ("I'm looking for a cure for V.D. and thought this'd be a good place to start.")
"The General Flipped at Dawn" (S3) - Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry do a reprise of "Mississippi Mud" in the Swamp
"Springtime" (S3) During a midnight rainstorm, Radar asks to borrow any poetry books from Hawkeye and Trapper, who comment on his clearing skin and deepening voice
"Life With Father" (S3) - While the camp celebrates the circumcision of the Jewish Korean-American baby, Hawkeye and Trapper ride off into the sunset on a white horse
"A Full Rich Day" (S3) - Hawkeye finishes off his audio tape to his father by letting Trapper, Henry, and Frank say a few final words
"Private Charles Lamb" (S3) - The morning after the Greek Easter celebration in the Mess Tent; half the personnel are passed out drunk, while the other half carry on a listless celebration in a drunken stupor: including Henry passing out face-first into the Spam Lamb
"The Consultant" (S3) - The surgical staff bid Dr. Borelli a farewell on the chopper pad, including Hawkeye
"Love and Marriage" (S3) - The Korean corpsman names his baby after Radar, Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry
"White Gold" (S3) - Hawkeye and Trapper gloat over Flagg recovering in Post-Op from his (unnecessary) appendectomy. The scene of Flagg going under is often shortened as well, deleting the dialogue that shows he knew fully well that the doctors had drugged him.
"The Bus" (S4) - Frank still fiddles with the walky-talky, while Hawkeye and B.J. find the other one in the back of the bus, and have their North Korean prisoner speak into it as a joke on Frank, letting him believe he's intercepted the enemy and is listening in on their secrets
"Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?" (S4) - Hawkeye and B.J. play a game with a road atlas, while Klinger masquerades as Moses
"Dear Peggy" (S4) - B.J. finishes his letter to Peggy while playing chess with Hawkeye, and Klinger is arrested going AWOL while camouflaged as a bush
"Soldier of the Month" (S4) - Radar is arrested and brought back to camp after getting drunk and disorderly while on R&R (and even he can't believe his charges); this is alluded to later in "The Interview".
"The Gun" (S4) - Frank limps from the graze on his foot, which he claims is a football injury, though Hawkeye and B.J. know better
"The Price of Tomato Juice" (S4) - Potter thanks Radar for going through so much trouble to get tomato juice for him, while Klinger returns from having a fun time in Tokyo with General Barker
"Dear Sigmund" (S5) - A brief voice-over from Sidney during another long O.R. session, "They look everyday into the face of death. On the surface, they may seem like other doctors and nurses, but underneath... ah, Sigmund... underneath..."
"Mulcahy's War" (S5) - Hawkeye and Radar bid farewell to Corporal Cupcake, while Radar remarks how strange it'll feel to be outranked by a dog when Cupcake receives his promotion
"The Korean Surgeon" (S5) - Frank tries to play up going along with the North Korean guerillas by saying he gave them medical supplies since they're human too, when prompts Potter to put him in charge of tending to wounded P.O.W.s brought into camp
"Hawkeye Get Your Gun" (S5) Potter prepares for bed, while Frank and Klinger (as Zolton) check in on him before lights out
"Exorcism" (S5) - Hawkeye and B.J. play a prank on Frank, leading him to believe his radio needed to be exorcised of spirits, when B.J. was actually just plugging and unplugging it out of sight of Frank
"Hawk's Nightmare" (S5) - Hawkeye apparently is sleeping well again, while Klinger assumes his nightmare and sleepwalking episodes were a crazy act, and he considers giving it a try himself
"38 Across" (S5) - Frank finally finishes his B.B. game, and Hawkeye purposely knocks them loose
"End Run" (S5) - Frank, who has his ears bandaged from Klinger and Zale's illegal boxing match, intends to court martial them, but Klinger and Zale threaten to call him out on breaking regulations as well, so Frank drops all charges
"Hanky Panky" (S5) - Margaret finally gets through to Donald and learns he had a double hernia note Early in the episode, another scene where Margaret attempts to reach him the night before is also cut
"Hepatitis" (S5) - B.J. is hungover, while Hawkeye attempts a handstand, throwing his back out again, and falling over on B.J.; this episode is a special case as only the syndication copy of this episode is known to exist.
"The General's Practitioner" (S5) - Frank asks Potter to recommend him for General Korshak's personal physician, but Potter, Hawkeye, and B.J. add all of Frank's surgical gaffes and slipups to his application
"Movie Tonight" (S5) - Everyone sings along to, "My Darling Clemetine," in O.R.
"Souvenirs" (S5) - Margaret discovers Frank had the ring she gave him inscribed to his wife, and demands he pay her to have it removed
"Margaret's Marriage" (S5) - Hawkeye, B.J., and Potter sit up with Frank, as they imagine what Margaret and Penobscott are probably doing as they speak, prompting them to head for a cold shower
When "Abyssinia, Henry" first aired in syndication, the final scene where Radar announces Henry's death was removed, but it eventually was re-instated.
Depending on how a network chooses to treat the finale, it either runs the conclusion in full or divides it into five parts to fit 30-minute segments of scheduling. The final season itself has a shortened length to 16 episodes, because the finale, in production terms, is the size of five full episodes. If viewed as such, then it is like a normal twenty-episode season.
And just to add insult to injury, for the longest time, the only way to see the uncut show was if you had the DVD's. When the show was on Netflix, they only had the edited cuts. As of this writing, however, the show is no longer on Netflix, but the uncut episodes are on Hulu.
Enforced Method Acting: Used (though not to the extreme that is sometimes claimed) for the final scene in "Abyssinia, Henry". The cast, save for Alan Alda, were not given the script for the scene until just before they went to film it, the better to capture their shocked reactions (and also to prevent foreknowledge coloring their performances in the earlier scenes). Unfortunately, a technical glitch forced the scene to be shot a second time. The second take featured another mishap, but it was one that actually improved the scene; somebody accidentally dropped an instrument on the floor in the midst of the Stunned Silence, which further enhanced the emotion of the scene.
One of the few moments we see Frank Burns actually does have some normal human feeling in him. As the camera passes by him, he has tears in his eyes.
Executive Meddling: Especially prevalent in the first couple of seasons. A lot of it was mostly restrictions on language, sexual situations, excessive blood shown on screen in the O.R., among other things. CBS practically forced them to make the episode "Major Fred C. Dobbs" (which the entire cast and crew hated) simply because one of the executives read that Korea was the fifth-largest gold producer in the world, and decided M*A*S*H needed to have a "gold rush" episode.
The show's Laugh Track was also very much a result of this. Apparently the network was afraid viewers wouldn't know it was a comedy without it.
Executive Veto: One early season episode would have dealt with Hawkeye getting two different nurses pregnant simultaneously, and not wanting to marry either. After the script had been finished, CBS rejected it, feeling it would be a Moral Event Horizon for Hawkeye.
Fake Australian: English actor John Orchard did this twice: as Ugly John in the first season, and as MP Muldoon in a later season.
Fake Nationality: Due to a dearth of Korean actors in Hollywood at the time, most of the featured native Korean speaking parts were played by Asians of different ethnicities. Klinger's girlfriend/wife Soon-Li was played by actress Rosalind Chao (second-generation Chinese-American); Japanese-born actor Mako Iwamatsu played a Chinese Army surgeon, a South Korean Army officer, a North Korean soldier, and a North Korean surgeon; and Japanese-American actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita played South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak.
The only native Korean actor to appear on the series was Soon Tek Oh, playing various Korean characters. Not too bad, except whenever he played North Korean characters and had to speak Korean, he'd be using the standard Southern dialect (aka Seoul Korean) rather than the more unique sounding Northern accent and dialect.
The female shaman in "Exorcism" was never credited, and probably was an actual mudang, but most likely was from Southern California, where many Korean Americans live and carry on the traditions.
I Am Not Spock: Almost all of the cast fall into this trope, but some more specific examples include:
Both Loretta Swit and David Ogden Stiers, in particular, become very agitated when they are asked about the show, or their characters, as they feel that M*A*S*H and their respective roles of Margaret and Charles shouldn't be the only thing that defined their careers.
Gary Burghoff has said that he loved Radar, and enjoyed playing the part, up till about Season 3 or so, then admits that he started growing tired of Radar turning into his identity outside of the show.
In Memoriam: "As Time Goes By" (the last episode filmed, and the next-to-last aired) was dedicated to Connie Izay, a registered nurse who served as the show's technical consultant for several years and died while the final season was in production.
Money, Dear Boy: Alan Alda was inspired to take over creative control of the show because he desperately needed the money that came with more responsibility. A year before, his business manager "invested" his entire fortune in a Ponzi scheme without his knowledge or approval. Alda lost almost everything.
The Other Darrin: Father Mulcahy was played by George Morgan in the pilot episode before William Christopher took over the role, and the character was openly named "Dago Red" in that episode. When the blond Christopher was cast, the "Red" part of the name no longer applied, and the "Dago" was quietly dropped to avoid the wrath of Italian-American groups.note Although in the 1950's 'Dago' was a common nickname for San Diego, Mulcahy's hometown.
Likewise, in the pilot episode, a minor, recurring character from earlier Season One episodes, Boone, was played by Bruno Kirby, before Bob Gooden played the character in other appearances.
Another Season One-only character, Kaplan the camp dentist, was played by Jack Riley in his debut episode, and was afterwards played by Harvey J. Goldenberg for the remainder of the season.
Margaret Houlihan's fiancé, Lt. Donald Penobscot, was played by a different actor in each of his two appearances on the show.
Three different actresses played Rosie, the proprietress of Rosie's Bar, during the course of the show.
There were also several different actresses playing "Nurse Able" or "Nurse Baker" in various episodes. From a Doylist perspective, they're placeholder names in the scripts (Able and Baker being the first two letters of the pre-Vietnam radio alphabet, so they're literally "Nurse A" and "Nurse B."). Since the writers used those names primarily for throwaway gags, it's just cheaper to use whichever studio actresses were available that day than to cast regulars.
Two different guys voiced the camp P.A. announcer, when it wasn't obviously Radar or Klinger doing it.
A vehicle example: in the finale, a tank is driven into the compound by a wounded tanker. After it starts drawing enemy mortar fire, Hawkeye drives it out of the camp. The tank driven into the camp is an M24 Chaffee light tank◊; the tank Hawkeye drives out is an M4 Sherman medium tank◊. The two look nothing alike.
"Preventive Medicine" was originally scripted to have Hawkeye and B.J. falsely diagnose a gung-ho Colonel with appendicitis and then remove his (healthy) appendix, to keep him from resuming his command and getting more soldiers needlessly killed. However, Mike Farrell objected, believing the removal of a healthy organ was wrong and could never be justified and also because he felt B.J. would never do such a thing, even if it was for the best possible reasons. Alan Alda felt that removing a reckless, dangerous man from command in order to save lives was worth it. Their argument was actually written into the episode. As was the reconciliation at the end, as apparently the actors had been at odds with each other over the matter.
The various instances of main characters being Put on a Bus probably counts as well as those actors all wanted out for one reason or another - Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson resented being treated as sidekicks to Alan Alda (additionally Rogers had been at odds with the producers over his contract while Stevenson couldn't cope with the tough working conditions of the Fox Ranch), Larry Linville was tired of playing Frank and his contract was up, and Gary Burghoff had personal problems as well as a thinning hairline to deal with (by the time he left he looked like George Costanza).
The final scene of the finale shows B.J. riding down the hill leading up to the chopper pad, going off the side of the pad instead of following the path. Reports tell that Mike Farrell broke his foot doing the stunt. The finale's production code is 9B04, and the next episode produced (9B05) was Friends and Enemies, in which B.J. has an ingrown toenail, keeping him off his feet most of the episode. This was most likely to accommodate Mike's inability to walk properly.
Reality Subtext: Sure, Klinger stopped running around in dresses because he was being promoted to company clerk, and therefore, pretty much had to forget about trying to buck for Section 8 (that and the show wasn't funny anymore, and therefore Klinger running around in dresses would have been just plain odd during Cerebus Syndrome)... but also because Jamie Farr felt that his kids were starting to feel embarrassed about seeing their dad dressed "like a transvestite" week after week on national TV.
In Season 1's "The Ringbanger", Hawkeye and Trapper gaslight a gung-ho colonel (Leslie Nielsen) - with twice the casualty rate but half the ground - into thinking he has battle fatigue and needs time to cool off. "White Gold", the penultimate episode of Season 3, ends with Hawkeye and Trapper removing Colonel Flagg's appendix to send him stateside for severel weeks. Season 7's "Preventative Medicine" has Hawkeye perform an unnecessary appendecemy on a colonel to stop him from provoking the enemy to attack him so he could take a hill he was ordered to avoid. note Interestingly enough, the original script for "Preventative Medicine" had B.J. going along with Hawkeye's scheme (just as Trapper had in the earlier episode), but actor Mike Farrell objected as he believed that B.J. would never do such a thing. The producers eventually agreed, so they let Farrell and Alda ad-lib their way through the scene, acting and reacting the way they felt their characters would.Ken Levine, writer of the latter episode, said the recycling was unintentional, and when they discovered it they were so embarrassed that they deliberately had it scheduled opposite that year's Academy Awards so fewer people would see it.
Two conversations between a Swampman and his nominal nemesis (Trapper and Frank in "O.R.", Hawkeye and Charles in "Sons and Bowlers") were recycled pretty closely in subject matter. Being the different characters they were and the different points in the show, though, the scene with Frank saying he came from a loveless home was Played for Laughs, while Charles' admission of a distant family life and envy of Hawkeye was treated as showing his good side.
In "Pay Day" in season three, Hawkeye complains to Radar about how he could have made $3,000 in his civilian practice, and Radar pulls a few strings and has him paid. "Back Pay", in season eight, has Hawkeye outraged that doctors in the states make $4 an x-ray for draft boards, so he bills the Army for his services. Both have him get into trouble with a bureaucratic officer.
A facade of a old, rundown, straw roof shack is used in numerous different episodes, for different locations, such as an abandoned schoolhouse to be used for the 4077th's new hospital in "Bug Out" (S5), a bombed-out house Hawkeye and Margaret seek shelter in from "Comrades in Arms", a burned schoolhouse where stolen penicillin was being hidden (both S6), hideout for a trio of black marketeers Mulcahy does dealings with in "Out of Gas" (S7). In fact, in "Point of View" (S7), when we see the 4077th compound from the chopper, we can see the facade actually stands alongside a dirt road that runs around the outer perimeter of the compound.
The same set is used for the 4077th's Pre-Op ward, kitchen and supply room. It's also been used for someone's office in other locations, like Charlie Lee in "To Market, To Market" (S1) or a crooked supply sergeant in "Good-bye, Radar" (S8).
The Post-Op ward was used as the courtroom for Hawkeye's court martial in "The Novocain Mutiny" (S4)
One specific tent on the sound stage set is pretty much a general purpose tent, and is used for Klinger's tent, Mulcahy's tent, the nurses' tent, the V.I.P. tent, among other things.
On occasion, the Officer's Club building is the Supply Hut instead.
Donald Sutherland, who'd played Hawkeye in the original film, once told a story on a talk show about when he was standing next to his television counterpart in a receiving line for Queen Elizabeth II. Alda whispered in Sutherland's ear: "Thank you for my life."
Too Soon: "The Life You Save", in which Winchester almost gets shot and suffers an existential crisis afterwards, was supposed to air March 30, 1981. However, that same day, President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, so it got pushed to May 4, 1981, serving as the season finale.
During filming of the scene in "Abyssinia, Henry" where Radar announces Henry's death, somebody accidentally (and noisily) dropped a prop surgical tool during the long, shocked silence. Director Larry Gelbart decided to use it anyway, and later wrote that it worked so perfectly for the scene he wished he'd written it that way.
The "Radar's Report" episode has a scene where Hawkeye and a nurse are making out on a cot in the Post-Op ward. Suddenly we see the lights dim and go out, and the P.A. announcer comes on to say the generator's gone out. This was an actual power outage on the set while they were doing the scene; Alda and the nurse actress played through it, and the P.A. announcement was dubbed in during post-production.
Much of the dialogue in "The Interview" is ad-libbed, with the cast improvising in-character responses to Clete Roberts's questions.
William Christopher was absent for much of Season Five, due to hepatitis. Once he returned, they did an episode in which Father Mulcahy comes down with hepatitis, and has to be quarantined.
Much of the interaction between Hawkeye and B.J. in "Preventive Medicine" was based on the actual feelings of the actors towards the topic of the episode. Originally, B.J. was supposed to be a willing participant in Hawkeye's quest, but Mike Farrell objected.
When a wildfire destroyed most of the show's outdoor set in Malibu during shooting for "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", a storyline involving a fire was added to the script.
Truth in Television: The writers and producers Did the Research very well, and had actual Army doctors supervising the scripts and showing the actors how things were done. A number of details about Korean every day life and spiritual traditions are also accurate, including the mudang shaman in "Exorcism". She is doing a mudangchum ceremony, probably a dodang-gut, which purges evil spirits from a community; her regalia and dance are completely authentic. Klinger might be especially interested in the fact that these shamans cross-dress because they embody both male and female spirits.
Unfinished Episode: It had a ton of them, although most were unsolicited "spec scripts" that were probably never actually considered for production.
"Hawkeye on the Double," the most infamous example, was originally written for the first season, in which Hawkeye is secretly seeing two different nurses at the same time, and when they both find out about each other, they both pretend to be pregnant to get back at him. The subject matter was considered too risque for television at the time, so the episode was never produced; the original script is a special feature on the complete series DVD set.
"Father Hawkeye Knows Best," was also written for the first season, and dealt with Frank's wife visiting the 4077th with the Congressman of Indiana, so the gang try to cover up Frank's affair with Margaret by having Margaret pretend that it's Radar she's seeing, and Frank is simply her confidant. In the end, it turns out Louise is actually cheating on Frank as well with the Congressman.
"The Contract," was written for Season Seven, and dealt with Klinger saving Charles's life after he was nearly killed by mortar fire when collecting rare spices in the Korean countryside; afterwards, Charles wants to repay Klinger for saving his life, while Klinger wants it in writing. (The Klinger-saving-Charles premise was later used as a subplot in Season Nine's "Operation Friendship", albeit without the contract element.)
"A Toast to Mildred," was written for Season Nine and has the subplots of Hawkeye indulging in a lobster cookbook from home, Klinger making his own perfume to sell, and B.J. suspects Potter is cheating on his wife with Margaret, even though they're both simply emotionally drained from Army life and had been leaning on each other's shoulders.
"Peace is Hell," was originally written for Season Ten, and deals with a rumor that Klinger started that a ceasefire is in effect, and the war will soon be over, which starts a chain reaction of craziness among camp; it's possible this episode wasn't produced because it's virtually recycled from Season One's "Ceasefire."
Reportedly, there are many other unproduced M*A*S*H scripts in existence as well; titles for these scripts have been released, but no other details are available. They: "War's a Grind" (written for Season One), "The Fighting 4077th" (written for Season One), "Yankees 7 - North Korea 8" (written for Season Two), "Hawkeye Go Home" (written for Season Three), "A Matter of Time" (written for Season Three), "The Tub" (written for Season Three), "The Key," or "Hawkeye for the Defense" (written for Season Three), "Dear Everyone" (written for Season Three), and "Up the Flagpole" (written for Season Five). Interestingly, "A Matter of Time," was written by Allan Katz & Don Reo who were later hired as producers for the show during Season Five, while, "The Tub," was written by Elias Davis & David Pollack, who were added to the writing and production staff later in Season Nine.
Unintentional Period Piece: As an allegory for Vietnam, it loses something after the Paris Peace Accord (ending the Vietnam War) and the repeal of the draft in 1973 and the Fall of Saigon in 1975. The film was unambiguously about Vietnam (to the point the producers forced a text crawl at the beginning stating it took place in Korea), while the producers of the show claimed it was about war in general, though the various subtle references to Vietnam make it inexorable with Vietnam.
A somewhat sad example, considering the series suffered in the ratings during its inaugural season, that an alternate version of the episode "Ceasefire" was written, in which the war actually did end; this was done in case the series wasn't renewed for a second season.
Wayne Rogers has gone on record saying that had he known the show was going to last eleven seasons, he would not have walked away after Season 3. McLean Stevenson echoed Rogers' statements as well.
When the producers learned that Gary Burghoff was not going to renew his contract at the end of Season 7, G.W. Bailey was originally being brought in as a character replacement for Radar. However, the producers realized Radar was too beloved and irreplacable, so Klinger was instead promoted to company clerk, and Bailey's Rizzo wound up effectively replacing Johnny Haymer's Zale instead.
Similarly, the producers actually wanted to promote Sidney Freedman to series regular, with the explanation that he had somehow been assigned to take Radar's place as company clerk. However, actor Allan Arbus didn't want to commit to be anything other than a guest star, so Sidney remained an occasionally recurring character.
Loretta Swit actually wanted to leave the series in the show's penultimate season to play Christine Cagney on Cagney & Lacey, but the producers wouldn't let her out of her contract.
In 2006, Larry Gelbart posted transcripts for interviews with Col. Blake, Trapper John, and Col. Flagg, as they would have been had the characters been in Season 4's "The Interview".
The biggest example is probably the infamous "lost episode" entitled, "A Sound, a Song, and a Surprise", which supposedly contains a version of the theme song with lyrics sung during the opening titles, and a plot basically filling in all the gaps that were left open during the rest of the series (including off-screen departures of Spearchucker and Trapper, among other things). Further examination and investigation seems to indicate that "A Sound, a Song, and a Surprise" may have actually existed, not as an actual episode of the series but rather as a localized retrospective special a TV station cobbled together to celebrate the show's Grand Finale.
McLean Stevenson is supposed to have appeared in character as Henry Blake on The Carol Burnett Show (sitting in a rubber raft and shouting "I'm okay!"), the very next night after Henry was McLeaned on the show. However, there are no actual logs, data, or information to support that such a Carol Burnett Show appearance actually exists... because it aired as a clip on The Cher Shownote After Sonny Bono and Cher divorced, Sonny left The Sonny and Cher Show, so Cher presented it solo for 26 episodes in 1975 and 1976. and not on The Carol Burnett Show. During Cher's introduction for an episode in which Stevenson appeared as a guest, she joked that he had been reported "missing in action", leading to the cutaway to Stevenson dressed as Henry in a dinghy with plastic sheeting posing as water. (Some fanfiction authors have taken this and run with it, with various explanations as to why Henry had to be reported dead.)
Speaking of which, Stevenson's departure sheds some spotlight on Dante as well. Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds have said, numerous, repeated times, that they decided to use Henry Blake's departure as an example to really show the true horrors of war, and remind people that not everybody was fortunate enough to make it home from a war, however, a number of people are convinced that killing off the character was a ploy pulled by both Gelbart and Reynolds, as well as the network, to permanently get rid of Stevenson, for being such a meddler on the set (in all fairness, he actually did speak up and protest the awful working conditions the actors were forced to work in, even when others were too afraid to speak for themselves, which apparently got him into hot water a lot).
Many fans keep insisting that Radar kept appearing on the show less and less each season, to the point that his last full season on the show had him absent practically every other episode. This is certainly not the case at all. If one were to actually watch the series, and keep note, they will see that in Season Four, Radar appears in 23 out of 25 episodes; 23 out of 25 episodes in Season Five; 15 out of 25 episodes in Season Six; and 22 out of 26 episodes of Season Seven.
There's an urban legend that's been around for years that Mike Farrell bears animosity towards Wayne Rogers, the legend was even joked about on The Simpsons, where Homer reads a book by Farrell and remarks, "Wow, he really does hate Wayne Rogers!", however, there is absolutely no Real Life evidence that supports this story.
Farrell said once that he is constantly confused with Wayne Rogers by fans, and that does get annoying after awhile.
Similarly, some fans insist that Jamie Farr hates Alan Alda, but likewise, there is no Real Life evidence to support this. Trivia items on IMDB suggested that Farr once complained about Alda being preachy and once punched Alda for taking dialogue from him in a script while Farr was "playing dress-up", but both have since been removed.
And, in fact, there's excellent reason to doubt it: Loretta Swit apparently organised annual reunions of the cast. According to Jamie Farr, the only two who regularly did not attend were Harry Morgan (whose age and health made it impossible) and David Ogden Stiers (who disliked that M*A*S*H overshadowed the rest of his career so heavily).
Write Who You Know: Pretty much done throughout the entire series, as a number of the stories came from the personal experiences of actual doctors, nurses, soldiers, corpsman, etc., who actually served tours of duty during the Korean War. Episode-specific examples include...
"In Love and War" was written by Alan Alda after he heard the story of an Asian aristocrat, who pretty much lost almost every thing she had in the world because of the war, and yet, continued to look after others who were even less fortunate, such as the elderly, and orphaned children.
Towards the end of the show's run, the potential storylines started to dry up. At that point, Korean War veterans offering stories were often told that they'd already done an episode with that premise several seasons ago.
Klinger was based on two Real Life people. One was comedian Lenny Bruce, who was in the Navy in WW2, and allegedly tried to get a psycho discharge by wearing dresses (specifically, dressing as a WAVE), though such stories are apocryphal; the other was a corpsman at the Real Life 8055 (which the 4077 was based on) who wore dresses, though unlike Klinger, this man actually was a gay transvestite, and wanted to stay in the Army, while everyone else in camp actually did try to have him discharged, much like in the original script, where Klinger was gay and wanted to stay in the Army, while it was his commanding officers who wanted him discharged, but it was felt that a straight man wearing women's clothes for a discharge was funnier and more interesting.
Written by Cast Member: Alan Alda wrote 19 episodes in all, including the Emmy-winning "Inga" from season 7. McLean Stevenson has story credit on "The Army-Navy Game" and receives sole credit for "The Trial of Henry Blake," while Mike Farrell wrote "The Yalu Brick Road" and "War Co-Respondent", co-wrote "Death Takes a Holiday", and shares story credit on "Run for the Money".
Written-In Absence: During the first part of Season 8, Radar was constantly said to be on R&R in Tokyo, explaining his absence during those episodesnote In reality, Gary Burghoff had contractually reduced his appearances in preparation for leaving the series. This was often written into the episodes, with Klinger calling Radar to ask for advice on how to be a clerk, deal with Potter, etc. Radar's first 'real' appearance in Season 8 focused on him trying to get back from Tokyo, explaining that he was overdue and stranded because of a travel snafu.
Harry Morgan had earlier appeared in season 3's "The General Flipped at Dawn", as a general who showed up to inspect and review the 4077th (and turned out to be nuttier than a fruitcake). The producers were so impressed with his performance that it led to his being cast as Potter.
Long after Ugly John was written out of the series, actor John Orchard returned in a season 8 episode as a different Australian, an MP named Muldoon who takes bribes to let Rosie's Bar stay open.
Edward Winter had previously played a different character, one Capt. Halloran from CID, in the show's second season. However, since that character was also involved in intelligence work and acted in a similar (albeit milder) manner to Flagg, it's fanon for some that Halloran was actually one of Flagg's aliases. (Possibly lampshaded and made canon by the show when, upon meeting Sidney Freedman in a later episode, Flagg says that the two had once played poker together - which Freedman and Halloran had done in Winter's first appearance.)
A handful of Asian (Or sometimes only Asian-looking) actors tended to be various villagers as well.
Also, the two main actors who provided the voice of the PA announcer during the show's run each had an episode where they appeared onscreen, but as different characters. Call it You Sound Familiar.
Done with a few of the guest actors over the years. For instance, Mako appears in four episodes between seasons 3 and 9, each time as a completely different character.