MAS*H remains one of the most iconic sitcoms in the history of television. Set during the Korean War and following the struggles of a team of field surgeons at the 4077, the series had eleven seasons and earned the undying love of fans both during its run and after. In fact, its finale remains one of the most widely-watched events in television history.
The series is frequently shown in reruns on a variety of networks. With so many seasons, there’s a lot of trivia to keep track of and things to know. Here are ten things that you might have missed in M*A*S*H.
10 Harry Morgan Appeared In The Show Before He Became Colonel Potter
Though he would later go on to become famous in the role of Colonel Potter, actor Harry Morgan had actually appeared much earlier in the show, in the episode “The General Flipped at Dawn” as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele.
In the episode, Steele insists that they move the field hospital closer to the front line, even though this would put the men in substantially more danger. He is, to put it mildly, an eccentric and rather unbalanced character, and he even goes so far as to threaten to have Hawkeye court-martialed.
9 Alan Alda Was More Than An Actor In The Show
Alan Alda made quite the name for himself playing the brilliant surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, he also took up a variety of other roles, including writer and director as the series progressed. In fact, he had such a significant amount of creative control over the series that M*A*S*H is often divided into two periods: the Larry Gelbart/Gene Reynolds era and the Alda era.
Alda’s episodes are known for being more dramatic than their predecessors, and he would push the show to explore some of the darker aspects of the war experience.
8 The Theme Song Is Actually Pretty Dark
Everyone knows the iconic theme music to M*A*S*H. However, what you might not know is that it’s actually a lot darker than it appears on the surface. It’s actually an instrumental version of the song “Suicide is Painful,” which was the song used in the original film (which the series was based on).
The original song’s lyrics are similarly dark, and they were actually written by film director Robert Altman’s teenage son. CBS mandated that the lyrics be taken out and that a purely instrumental version be played since they were too dark for television.
7 There’s A Reason Frank Is Such A Bad Person
Perhaps no character in the entire series is as insufferable as Frank Burns (although they all did something bad at one time or another). Not only is he an incredibly inept surgeon and prone to emotional outbursts and overt cruelty, but he also cheats on his wife with Margaret. However, he does have a few moments when he lets his guard down, and we get to see that there are actually some pretty good reasons why he’s such a bad person.
When Margaret finally ends their relationship, for example, he calls his mother and says that he was recently betrayed by someone who pretended to like him, just like his father did.
6 Gary Burghoff Was The Only Movie Cast Member To Come Back For The Show
You might know that M*A*S*H was a movie before it was turned into a television show, but you might not know that there is only one cast member that appeared in both the movie and the television show, and that is Gary, who played Radar, the mousy young corporal who has an uncanny ability to hear incoming helicopters (hence the name).
Burghoff would stay with the show from its first season until the end of season eight when he leaves to return back to his family in the United States.
5 Colonel Potter’s Wife Was In The Show
Anyone who has seen M*A*S*H knows that Colonel Potter has a photograph of his wife sitting on his desk. It is there in every episode, and it comes to be as much a part of his character as his love for his horse. The woman in the photo was, in fact, Harry Morgan’s wife in real life.
Her name was Eileen Detchon, and they were married for 45 years, until her death in 1985. One of Colonel Potter’s well-known (and most consistent) mannerisms was to salute his wife’s picture every morning.
4 The Show Lasted Longer Than The Korean War
Everyone knows that the show was set during the Korean War (even though it was also commenting on the Vietnam War). What you may not know is that the show actually lasted significantly longer than the war itself. The Korean War officially lasted from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953 (for a total of three years, one month, and two days).
M*A*S*H, on the other hand, lasted for a full eleven seasons on its network of CBS, from 1972 to 1983. That means the show lasted almost four times as long as the war.
3 This Was One Of Patrick Swayze’s First Roles
Before he became a heart-throb and one of the most famous movie stars of the 1980s, Patrick Swayze starred in an episode of M*A*S*H. In the episode, he plays a young man named Sturgis, who is brought into the hospital with what appears at first to be an inconsequential injury. Soon, however, it comes to light that he is actually suffering from cancer and that is actually terminally ill with the disease.
This is one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the series, and it really showcases Swayze’s range as a dramatic actor.
2 The Cast Knew About Colonel Blake’s Death Before The Scene Was Shot
One of the most iconic and devastating scenes in the series comes when Radar announces to the assembled doctors that Lieutenant Colonel Blake has been killed in a plane crash. A persistent myth insists that none of the cast knew about this until actor Gary Burghoff delivered the news as Radar.
In fact, the entire cast knew of it prior to filming, though it is true that Larry Gelbart kept the script from the entire cast (except Alan Alda) until right before the scene was filmed and it actually took two takes because of technical issues.
1 Radar Almost Always Had A Teddy Bear
Radar, the youngest of the show’s main characters, was often seen with a teddy bear that he kept in his bed (he also once had an issue of The Avengers). This little mannerism is original to the show, and the teddy bear in question was found on the set by an actor and added in order to highlight the fact that Radar was so young and innocent.
When Radar went back to the States, the bear was added to Margaret’s time capsule. Gary Burghoff has stated that its name was Tiger. It was later sold (in 2005) for almost $12,000 at an auction.