Alan Alda admits he was ready to see his time on “MAS*H” come to a close. Alda said he pushed for CBS to just let the sitcom stop.
“The last day we were all crying all the time,” Alda said in a 2019 interview with SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. That year, Alda, who played “Hawkeye” Pierce on the show, was the 55th Live Achievement Award recipient from SAG-AFTRA [Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists].
As for reaching the decision to end the 11-season show, Alda said, “It came a lot from me because I felt we were still doing our best most of the time. But it looked like, before long, we’d be headed downhill.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Did Not Want Quality Of Show To Start Going Downhill
When Carteris asked if Alda was concerned about “MAS*H” “jumping the shark,” Alda replied, “Well, jumping the shark at the slightest provocation. But I didn’t want the quality to go down and not doing something we weren’t proud of.
“Some of us said, ‘We could go one more,’” Alda said. “The head of the studio said, ‘Why do you want to stop? I love it.’ We could have gone on, we could have enjoyed it, but we were too old for the characters. Those people [who actually were in “M*A*S*H” units] were in their 20s.”
The “jumping the shark” term is a phrase synonymous with a TV show staying around a bit too long on the air. Its origins are with a “Happy Days” episode that features star Henry Winkler, as Fonzie, water-jumping over a shark. That didn’t fit the 1950s theme of the show. So, Alda did not want “M*A*S*H” to follow down a road of no return.
Classic TV Show Had Millions Of People Watching Series Finale In 1983
Alda not only acted on the show, but also directed numerous episodes throughout “M*A*S*H” being on CBS.
When the 4077th closed up shop with the epic series finale “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” millions tuned in to see it on Feb. 28, 1983. The show, which depicted life for doctors and nurses during the Korean War, would go from being a solid comedy to have a bit more serious tone.
A few cast changes along the way happened. Alda, Loretta Swit, who played Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and Jamie Farr, who played Cpl. Max Klinger, were among the longest-tenured “M*A*S*H” cast members.
Col. Henry Blake, played by McLean Stephenson, originally led the motley crew of “meatball surgeons,” as “Hawkeye” called them at times. His character was killed off “M*A*S*H” and he was replaced by “Dragnet” star Harry Morgan as Col. Sherman Potter.
Original cast members Wayne Rogers and Larry Linville also left the show, with Mike Farrell taking over Rogers’ role as Pierce’s buddy in B.J. Hunnicutt. David Ogden Stiers filled Linville’s spot as Charles Emerson Winchester III.
“MAS*H” took its inspiration from director Robert Altman’s more adult movie of the same name.