In the early days of MAS*H before it became a hit show, a dispute between CBS and the cast led the actors to band together and confront the network.
Fans of the beloved classic TV show when it first aired may remember that CBS kept changing the time and day of when it would air. The inconsistency of the varying time slot frustrated MAS*H producers. In fact, according to MeTV, things got so bad that the producers asked the entire cast to come together at the network’s headquarters. The showrunners planned for the producers and cast to confront the then-CBS president and then-VP of programming.
The actors all showed up together at CBS’s headquarters to help convince executives to give them a firm time slot. In addition, they simply wanted to be treated better than they had been so far. The cast knew they were making a good show, but the network was doing them no favors.
Thankfully, the producers were right though. The entire cast banding together made all the difference and convinced CBS to give them a regular slot on Monday nights. The decision helped M*A*S*H eventually become the hit show that millions of fans came to love.
In 1982, MAS*H producer Burt Metcalfe touched on the importance of Alan Alda to the cast’s camaraderie.
“Alan Alda was the linchpin of the cast,” Meltcalfe told The Auburn Journal. “His creative input was enormous. He was a role model for the others — his caring, his sensitive concern and his feelings for the show. If anyone had a right to a large ego, it was Alan, but he was a pussycat. His example was such no cast member could exercise his ego at the expense of the others. Alan’s been a great guy and so have all the others.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Alan Alda Revealed Show Had to Fight CBS Over the Laugh Track
MAS*H‘s varying time slot isn’t the only issue that the show had with its network. During a 2013 interview, “Hawkeye” Pierce actor Alan Alda revealed that the hit show had to negotiate with CBS over its laugh track and when to play it.
The actor talked to The Comic’s Comic back in October 2013 as part of a Q&A session. While speaking about the popular series, Alda opened up about a disagreement over the laugh track on the show. M*A*S*H didn’t always use laugh tracks, but showrunners had to negotiate with CBS about when to utilize them. For example, one may think it would be obvious not to have background laughter during an operating room scene. Yet that wasn’t the case for the show.
“Larry (Gelbart) and Gene (Reynolds) got the network to agree that they wouldn’t have a laugh track in the operating room. The operating room scenes. I don’t know what the rationale was,” the MAS*H actor revealed to the outlet.
“It didn’t make any sense in the tent either,” Alda added. “But, where’s the audience? I didn’t know where the audience was supposed to be. It wasn’t in the studio. Somehow it was the tradition that if we didn’t show the audience at home where to laugh, they would think it wasn’t funny.”