The MASH TV show has an almost entirely different cast from the 1970 MASH film, with the exception of one actor who returned from the movie. Some characters from the MASH movie made cameos on the TV show, but they were fairly irregular, especially as the show went on. However, one MASH movie actor became a recurring member of the main cast in the TV show, and bringing him back was definitely the right choice.
Although MASH originated as a 1970 movie, the franchise soared to new heights of popularity with the 1972 MASH TV show. The immensely successful series ran for 11 seasons, with MASH getting several spin-offs during and after the series’ initial run. The movie and show are loosely connected, with the two MASH projects sharing similar stories and characters while featuring entirely different tones and casts. Although the MASH show is a new take on the movie, the series did bring back one actor to reprise his movie role in the show.
Gary Burghoff Played Radar In Both Versions Of MASH
Gary Burghoff, who played Corporal Radar O’Reilly in the MASH movie, reprised his role for the MASH TV show. Radar is the awkward and childish member of the mobile army surgical hospital, with the character often dealing with paperwork, security, and running the army radio station. Burghoff is a major player in the 1970 MASH movie, the TV show, and even the original 1968 novel, making it interesting that Burghoff is the only actor to consistently portray his character throughout the entire franchise.
Although Burghoff does play Radar in both versions of MASH, the two iterations of the character slightly differ. In the original movie, Burghoff’s Radar was sneaky and lustful, reflecting the much more sardonic tone of the original film. However, as the MASH TV show departed from the movie’s cynical edge after the first few seasons, Burghoff and the writers decided to change Radar. The TV show’s version of Radar is much more immature and naive, with Radar in the later seasons being almost completely different from his movie counterpart.
Why MASH Was Right To Bring Burghoff’s Radar Back
While changing most of the cast of the MASH movie worked, bringing Gary Burghoff back for the MASH TV show was the right decision. Gary Burghoff’s performance as Radar in MASH has defined the actor’s career. Although other MASH movie actors like Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall have gone on to have incredibly successful film careers outside of MASH, Burghoff has always been closely associated with Radar. Having Burghoff return as his beloved character in the TV show worked not only for the show, but also for Burghoff’s career as well.
Gary Burghoff’s portrayal of Radar O’Reilly was so beloved that he almost got his own spin-off show. A pilot for a MASH spin-off titled WATLER was produced and aired once, but the series wasn’t picked up. Even though the pilot didn’t get turned into a full show, the fact that a Radar spin-off was even considered just goes to show how popular the character was. This provides further evidence that having Radar actor Gary Burghoff be the only actor that returned for the MASH TV show was ultimately a great decision.