Despite its success, the original creator of MASH didn’t really like the show. The groundbreaking sitcom ran on CBS for 11 years, making Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce and Mike Farrell’s BJ Hunnicut household names. Dubbed as one, if not the best comedy-drama show of all time, MASH earned 100 Emmy Awards nominations and won 14, not to mention countless other accolades such as Golden Globes and Peabody. Aside from being a critical darling, the series was also beloved, with its finale becoming the most-watched and highest-rated TV episode in US history. Amid all of these, the man who created the fictional 4077 MASH unit isn’t exactly impressed by it.
MASH started out as a novel, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, written by H. Richard Hornberger Jr., who goes by the pen name, Richard Hooker, with the help of W.C. Hein. The book was eventually adapted as a feature film in 1970 and then a TV show, which was spearheaded by Alda and Farrell. The events of MASH were inspired by Hooker’s own experiences serving as a United States Army surgeon doctor during the Korean War. Somehow, however, he never liked how CBS spun his work into a TV show.
2MASH’s Author Didn’t Like The Show (Or His Depiction)
There are a couple of reasons why Hooker wasn’t fond of the MASH series according to History.com. For starters, he didn’t like that the show made commentary about the war. As someone who knew first-hand what it was like being a surgeon doctor during the Korean War, he thought that the creatives didn’t earn the right to express their sentiments about it. Per The Daily Mirror, Hooker had some very stern words against those who worked on the MASH show, specifically targeting its actors.
“No one in their right mind would be pro-war but I operated on 1,000 or so wounded kids and I know more about war than a bunch of under-educated actors who go around blithering those sanctimonious, self-righteous noises.”
“If you’re going to start a war, you might as well play to win.”
Secondly, he was barely compensated for the work that inspired the hit TV show. Hooker was reportedly only paid $500 per episode. He also got very little when he sold the rights to the franchise. In 1970, the doctor/author sold the rights to 20th Century Fox. Director Robert Altman then made it into the Golden Globe-winning MASH movie. Not long after that, it became the classic TV series that many still love.
1MASH’s Book Is Completely Different To The TV Show
CBS took some liberties when making the MASH TV show. While the primary premise of the narratives was maintained, some specific details differed. One of the biggest changes was getting rid of the third main surgeon in the series. In Hooker’s book, Hawkeye and Trapper were joined by Duke Forrest — a doctor from Georgia. The MASH sitcom also added new characters, including the dress-wearing Max Klinger, Col. Sherm Potter, Hunnicut, and Charles Winchester. In terms of tone, the 1970 MASH film was more similar to the original source material. It’s also worth noting that Hooker penned countless more MASH book sequels that were never adapted on the screen.