MAS*H was one of the most popular shows ever to hit the airwaves. It followed the lives of the doctors and nurses at a mobile combat hospital during the Korean War. It lasted eleven seasons — eight years longer than the actual war in Korea.
A big part of the show’s appeal were the fantastic characters. The naïve clerk “Radar” O’Reilly, the no-nonsense nurse Margaret Houlihan and the well-meaning priest Father John Mulcahy are just three of many favorites.
The series was led by Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin Franklin Peirce, better known as Hawkeye. For the first three seasons, Hawkeye’s friend and fellow prankster was Trapper John McIntyre, played by Wayne Rogers. But just like episodes of the show, the comradery and fun among the cast had moments of serious drama.
The duo started as relative equals, sharing screen time and funny bits. Soon, however, Alda took on a more creative role beyond just acting — he started directing episodes as well. The writers gave him more and more of the comedic material with Rogers playing the straight man.
Rogers believed he was playing second fiddle to Alda and no longer wanted to be a part of the show. He quit after the show’s third season. The producers balked and immediately filed a lawsuit. It seemed like a clear-cut case of breach of contract.
But Rogers, much like the character he played, had done something sneaky.
When he was originally cast, he objected to the contract. He thought the “morals clause” was unnecessary and outdated. He started work on the show without ever officially signing the document.
This made it easy to leave the show years later when things didn’t go his way. His relationships with his fellow cast members, including Alda, remained friendly but Rogers ultimately decided to pursue other things.