As of November 2011, the series finale, "Goodbye Farewell, Amen," is still the most watched television broadcast in US History. It was watched by approximately 125 million viewers. The finale aired from 8pm - 11pm on February 28, 1983. At 11:03 pm, EST, New York City public works noted the highest water usage at one given time in the City's history. This was due to the fact that in the three minutes after the finale ended, approximately 77% of New York City flushed their toilets.
McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake, died of a heart attack on 15 February 1996. The next day, 16 February, Roger Bowen, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the movie, died of the same cause.
Gary Burghoff's left hand is slightly deformed, and he took great pains to hide or de-emphasize it during filming. He did this by always holding something (like a clipboard), or keeping that hand in his pocket.
As the series went on, the producers began interviewing actual M*A*S*H veterans for their stories and impressions; many of their recollections went into storylines. The gradual thinning of fresh ideas prompted work on the series conclusion.
In his blog, M*A*S*H (1972) writer Ken Levine revealed that on one occasion when the cast offered too many nit-picky "notes" on a script, he and his writing partner changed the script to a "cold show" - one set during the frigid Korean winter. The cast then had to stand around barrel fires in parkas at the Malibu ranch when the temperatures neared 100 degrees F. Levine says, "This happened maybe twice and we never got a ticky tack note again."
Three characters (but only two actors) appeared in both the pilot and the finale: Hawkeye, Margaret Houlihan and Father Mulcahy. The latter role was played by George Morgan in the pilot, and by William Christopher for the rest of the series. Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda, appears in every episode, and is the only character to do so.
It was Mike Farrell who asked to have his character's daughter's name be Erin, after his real-life daughter (the character's name was originally going to be Melissa). When BJ spoke on the telephone on-camera, Erin or his then-wife Judy were on the other end.
Col. Blake's alma mater was the University of Illinois. When word of this reached the university, a U of I sweater (of appropriate vintage) was donated to the show, and Blake can be seen wearing the blue sweater with a large orange "I" in several episodes. An orange mug with a blue "I" also appeared on his office desk.
Radar's teddy bear, once housed at the Smithsonian, was sold at auction July 29, 2005, for $11,800. (It was originally found on the Fox Ranch, where the series was filmed, and became part of the show.)
Colonel Potter fought in the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. At age 15 he joined the cavalry, lying about his age to enlist. When World War I started he was married, his mother-in-law moved in with them, and the war started the next day.
BJ's real name is never given. In one episode, Hawkeye goes to extreme lengths to learn what "BJ" stands for, but all official paperwork concerning his friend claims that BJ really is his first name. Toward the end of the episode, BJ explains that his parents' names are Bea and Jay, and claims that this is the reason for his odd name, but whether this is actually true is never made clear.
When Col. Potter took command of the 4077th at the beginning of the fourth season, the stated date was 19 Sep 1952. This means the first three seasons and 72 episodes covered the first 15 months of the war and that the following eight seasons and 179 episodes covered just the remaining ten months.
Klinger often mentions a restaurant in his home town of Toledo Ohio called Tony Packo's. This is a real restaurant on Toledo's east side that is still popular with many who live in Toledo and the surrounding area.
Throughout the run of the series, any "generic" nurses (nurse characters who had a line or two, but were minor supporting characters otherwise) were generally given the names "Nurse Able", "Nurse Baker", or "Nurse Charlie". These names stem from the phonetic alphabet used by the military and HAM operators at the time. During the time period of the Korean War, the letters A, B, and C in the phonetic alphabet were Able, Baker, and Charlie (since then, the standard has been updated, and A and B are now Alpha and Bravo). In later seasons, it became more common for a real character name to be created, especially as several of the nurse actors became semi-regulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in season three before becoming the semi-regular "Nurse Kellye"; on the other hand, Judy Farrell (then Mrs. Mike Farrell) played Nurse Able in eight episodes, including the series finale.
Hawkeye hated guns, and never carried a sidearm when he was Officer of the Day, despite Army regulations. Col. Potter insisted Hawkeye carry (then later fire) a pistol when they visited an aid station. Hawkeye reluctantly complied, shouting warnings and firing into the air.
The cast did not usually wear Army boots on set. They proved to be too noisy for a soundstage, and uncomfortable to wear during filming. The actors were usually shot from the waist up as it was, so boots were only worn when necessary to a scene. Most of the cast actually wore sneakers on set.
By the time the series ended, three of the regulars were promoted: Klinger (Jamie Farr) from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from Lieutenant to Captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel when he was shipped back to the US following Margaret's marriage. (Farr and Christopher also saw their names move from the closing credits of the show, to the opening credits.) Radar O'Reilly was temporarily promoted to Second Lieutenant, but disliked officer's duties, and asked Hawkeye and B.J. to "bust" him back to Corporal. Samuel Flagg (Edward Winter), the paranoid intelligence officer, was a Lieutenant Colonel for the first three seasons of the series, but had been promoted to full Colonel by the fourth season.
When the series was first going into production, the network wanted a laugh track (a sitcom staple), while the show's producers didn't. They compromised with a "chuckle track", played only occasionally. (DVD releases of the series mostly allow viewers a no-laugh-track option.) However, even the "chuckle track" -- it was agreed upon by all involved in the discussion -- would not ever be used during the scenes in the surgical tent.
Frank Burns' nickname "Ferret Face" came from his brother; he mentioned it to Hawkeye and Trapper John once, during a rare drinking binge, and they never forgot it. (Even BJ's first words to Burns when they met were "What say you, Ferret Face?")
When originally developing the character of Max Klinger, it was established that he was more "swishy" and played up the wardrobe. This worked, but not well. It was Jamie Farr's idea that the character would work better if Klinger acted naturally, as if wearing dresses were completely normal. This approach worked, and Klinger found his niche in the show.
During the filming of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", a fire ravaged the area, burning away the set. (The fire damage shown was real, not created by the crew) and as a result they decided not to rebuild the sets, so all subsequent episodes were filmed on the indoor sets, which explains why most of them are set at night and take place inside buildings.
Gary Burghoff was the only regular actor to leave the series without being replaced, as Klinger took over Radar's duties as Company Clerk. Producers intended to move up recurring character Sidney Freedman to regular status to replace Radar, but Allan Arbus turned it down, not wishing to commit to a full time role on the series. Producers also considered G.W. Bailey 's character Luther Rizzo to take over Radar's job as company clerk, but Alan Alda convinced them to let Klinger's character have the job instead.
When the series was shown in the UK, it didn't have a laugh track. Once, the BBC left it switched on by mistake and received a number of complaints that the intrusive canned laughter spoilt the show's atmosphere.
Jamie Farr chose to gradually phase out Klinger's recurring joke of wearing women's clothes because he didn't want his children, who were young at the time, teased about it while growing up. After Klinger took on the role of company clerk from Radar (Gary Burghoff), Farr practically stopped the gag altogether.
The game Trivial Pursuit claims Hawkeye only ever saluted once during the entire run of the series. This is false. He saluted Radar twice-once when awarding him a purple heart and once when he went home. He saluted Frank without thinking about it early in the series. Hawkeye and BJ saluted Colonel Potter in the series finale. Hawkeye along with Trapper also salute Nurse Cutler in 'Requiem for a Lightweight' when she loses her towel after she bumps into them while running from the shower. Also, in the season 4 opener 'Welcome to Korea', when picking B.J. Hunnicutt up From Kimpo Airport, Radar is temporarily promoted to 'Corporal-Captain' to gain access to the Officers Club, Hawkeye salutes Radar right before they enter. In the 1/14/73 "Tuttle" Hawkeye salutes the recently deceased (and fictional) Jonathan S. Tuttle when giving a brief eulogy. And the list goes on...in Series 8, Ep13 "Captain's Outrageous", Hawkeye promotes Father Mulcahy to Captain when they are all in Rosie's Bar, and the whole gang salute Mulcahy at that time.
The ubiquitous helicopters were military versions of the Bell 47. In the real Korean War, the OH-13s evacuated 80% of American casualties. (Roads in Korea were primitive, and often treacherous, so helicopters were favored over ambulances.) The OH-13 was responsible for saving over 18,000 lives during the Korean war, a historical fact still taught today at the air assault school at Fort Campbell, Ky home of the 101st airborne division.
Gary Burghoff created his own wardrobe for Radar, emphasizing that his clothes would be a size too big. It was also his idea for Radar to have glasses, feeling that it would accent his ESP whereas his lack of sight would heighten his hearing.
Early in production planning it was decided to show how brutal the climate could be in Korea by having the show take place during a frigid cold snap occasionally. Since much of the filming was done in the summer the actors had to wear coats and act cold even when the temperature was over 100 degrees F.
The creators and writers had often stated that the show was not anti-Army, it was anti-bureaucracy and anti-incompetency and thus would appeal to any viewer who ran or dealt with large institutions of any kind.
Robert Alda, Alan Alda's father, had guest appearances in two episodes, "The Consultant" and "Lend a Hand". "Lend a Hand" also featured a guest appearance by Antony Alda, Alan Alda's brother. According to Alan Alda, "Lend a Hand" was his way of reconciling with his dad; he was always giving suggestions to Robert for their vaudeville act and in "Lend a Hand" Robert's character was always giving Hawkeye suggestions. It was Robert's idea for the doctors to cooperate as "Dr. Right" and "Dr. Left" at the end of that episode, signifying both a reconciliation of their characters and in real life as well.
Charles carried a photograph of himself having lunch with movie star Audrey Hepburn, whom he met through a family associate. Though thoroughly charmed by Hepburn, Charles had still never seen any of her movies.
Klinger's wedding dress was worn on three different occasions and by three different people. By Klinger when he married Laverne Esposito, by Margret Houlihan, when she married Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott and by Soon Lee, when she married Klinger.
Recurring character Luther Rizzo was initially to have been from Brooklyn. G.W. Bailey wasn't able to believably mimic a Brooklyn accent, so Rizzo's background was changed to a southern one to match that of Bailey and his natural accent.
While most of the characters from the movie carried over to the series, only three actors appeared in both: Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) and G. Wood (General Hammond) reprized their movie roles in the series (though Wood appeared in only three episodes). Timothy Brown (credited as "Tim Brown") played "Cpl. Judson" in the movie and Spearchucker Jones in series.
Klinger married his first wife, his childhood sweetheart Laverne Esposito, while he was serving in Korea. The ceremony was performed over the shortwave radio and officiated by Father Mulcahy, who also performed Klinger's marriage ceremony to his Korean war bride Soon Lee.
The 4077th actually consisted of two separate sets. An outdoor set, located in the mountains near Malibu, California, was used for all exterior and tent scenes for the first few seasons. The indoor set, located on a sound stage at Fox studios, was used for the indoor scenes for the run of the series. Later, after the indoor set was renovated to permit many of the "outdoor" scenes to be filmed there, both sets were used for exterior shooting as script requirements dictated (for example, night scenes were far easier to film on the sound stage, but scenes at the chopper pad required using the ranch).
Hot Lips's parents must have had quite a bridal night as they exchanged at least three gifts. In "Rainbow Bridge", Margaret gives Frank the small silver gun her father gave to her mother, engraved: "To my little shot from her big shot. Your loving husband, Lt. Col. Alvin F. Houlahan, Regular Army"; in "For Want of a Boot", Margaret gives Frank for his birthday the calvary riding crop her mother gave to her father; in "Alcoholics Unanimous", Margaret shows Frank the silver flask her father gave to her mother, engraved: "To my Buttercup, from Alvin. The best things are worth waiting for. Bottoms up!"
There was one nude scene throughout the entire series. It occurred during the M*A*S*H: The Sniper (1973). When Radar was running outside wearing only a towel and the sniper is firing at him, he runs back into the showers at which point, the towel he was wearing was rigged to fall of. This was director Jackie Cooper's idea and only one frame was left in for the effect.
From the beginning actor McLean Stevenson had several disputes with the producers over the conditions the actors had to work in. When the offer for a contract was made, McLean left the show, and his character of Lt. Col. Henry Blake was literally killed off.
Actor Soon-Tek Oh appeared five times on the show in different roles. In "The Bus" during the fourth season he played a Korean soldier who gives himself up to Hawkeye and BJ. Later in "The Yalu Brick Road" during the eighth season, he again played a Korean soldier who gives himself up to Hawkeye and BJ.
Loudon Wainwright III appeared in three episodes in the third season (1974-75), playing the character "Captain Calvin Spaulding". The name is taken from "Captain Jeffery T. Spaulding", a character played by Groucho Marx in Animal Crackers (1930).
In the series pilot, after reading Ho John's acceptance letter Hawkeyes says he can "stay with my folks". In "Mail Call", Hawkeye shows Trapper the sweater that his sister knitted for him, and in "Dear Dad...Again", he asks his father in a letter to "kiss Mom and Sis" for him. However, in "Sons and Bowlers" he tells Charles how his mother died when he was a boy, and in "Hawkeye", he mentions that he has no siblings.
Hawkeye's home town is Crabapple Cove, Maine (the only home town of the characters that is fictitious.) However, in "Dear Dad," Hawkeye mentions the family home in Vermont; in "The Late Captain Pierce", Hawkeye tells Klinger that Crabapple Cove is where his family summers; in "The Party", he says that his father hasn't left Crabapple Cove in years; in "Hawk's Nightmare", he says that his father was born in Crabapple Cove, and has never left.
The filming location for the exteriors of the 4077 M*A*S*H camp is today known as Malibu Creek State Park in Malibu, California. Formerly called the Fox Ranch, and owned by 20th Century Fox Studios until the 1980s, the site today (early 2001) is overgrown with foliage, and marked by a rusted Jeep and an ambulance used in the show, as well as a small sign. The state park is open to the public. It was also the location where How Green Was My Valley (1941) and the Planet of the Apes (1974) TV series were filmed.
Max Klinger frequently refers to a baseball team named the Toledo Mud Hens. This team exists in reality. Founded in 1896, it is the AAA minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, and is part of the West Division of the International Baseball League.
Of all the main cast who "go stateside", only Trapper John's return is not the result of a specific event. Henry Blake is going home, but his plane is shot down, killing all on board. Frank Burns gets transferred home after having a nervous breakdown. Radar O' Reilly goes home, but only because a beloved uncle has died, and Radar gets a compassionate discharge to return home and tend to his family's farm.
The baseball cap worn by Klinger (and on occasion, Col. Potter), starting in the eighth season is supposed to be a Toledo Mud Hens cap, but it was actually a Texas Rangers cap, that the Rangers wore in the 1970s and early 1980s. Texas Rangers became a team in 1970, that was the Washington Senators.
The only time Trapper John wore a red MD robe like Hawkeye's was in the Pilot. After that, he only wore a yellow robe. Hawkeye wore a red robe, and B.J. wore blue, but more than one as they were different shades of blue. (Light and dark) Although his robe appears red, as Hawkeye is making out his will, he bequeaths to Charles his bathrobe because, "Purple is the color of royalty."
G.W. Bailey, who played recurring character Sgt. Rizzo, lobbied to join the cast in the ninth season to replace Gary Burghoff but CBS refused. Rizzo continued to appear occasionally until the final episode.
In an episode where Radar is doing impressions, he does John Wayne, from a movie that hadn't even been made. The "I'm not gonna hit ya" quote would have to wait for around 10 years after the Korean War. The movie was 1963's "McLintock". The Korean "conflict" ended July 27, 1953. "McLintock" was released November 13, 1963
Though many of the nurses' names were used interchangeably among several actresses, Father Mulcahy was the only regular character to be played by 2 different actors. George Morgan played the character in the pilot episode, but was replaced by William Christopher. There was a short-lived attempt to carry over the character's nickname (Dago Red) from the film. Hawkeye compliments Father Mulcahy's Christmas tree in the first "Dear Dad" episode by commenting "it's looking good, Red" but the nickname was dropped thereafter.
Like several of the recurring characters, Major Sidney Freedman was originally introduced under a different name. In his first appearance the character was named Milton Freedman. It is probable that the change was motivated by the rising public profile of economist Milton Friedman who wrote the bestseller "Free to Choose" and won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1976
Alan Alda was living in New Jersey when cast for the series, but didn't want to move to California full time so as not to displace his wife and young daughters. Throughout the making of the series, Alda would fly home to New Jersey and back every weekend and on other breaks to be with his family.
MASH was not the first series in which actor Mike Farrell played a military doctor. He did a guest appearance as 'Doctor' playing a doctor in an episode of 'Combat!' called 'The Bankroll' in December 1966.
Stuart Margolin appears as two different characters during the first and second seasons - both of whom try to get fresh with a resisting Major Houlihan. Oliver Clark and Tim O'Connor also played two different characters on the show, and even John Orchard ("Ugly John" from the first season) returned for a guest spot later, in another role.
H.R. Hornberger, author (under the pseudonym Richard Hooker) of 'MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors', so resented the portrayal of Hawkeye in the series that in the 1977 sequel 'MASH Mania', he wrote Hawkeye as liking to "go down to the state university and kick the shit out of a few liberals, just to keep his hand in".
Major Winchester was stationed in Tokyo before he was transferred to the 4077. His commanding officer, Col. Baldwin, sent him for a 48-hour stay (annoyed because he owed Winchester $672.17 for losses in cribbage), but Potter asked for Winchester to be permanently reassigned. When Baldwin visited the 4077th later, Winchester let Baldwin win his money back, hoping to go back with him to Tokyo.
The dog tags worn by Jamie Farr on the show were his own personal dog tags from when he served in the military prior to becoming an actor. In one of the archival interviews found on on the extras DVD's in the Medicine and Martinis box set of the show, Jamie Farr states that they are his own tags with his actual personal military info, including name, serial number and religion.
By coincidence, Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter) died on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, back on Sunday, December 7th 1941. In 2011 December 7th, 2011, was a Wednesday. Wednesday, December 7th 2011 was 25,567 days (3,652 weeks & 3 days) differ in 70 years & 17 leap years (February 29th's).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
When Larry Linville announced that he was leaving at the end of the fifth season, the storyline of Margaret's impending marriage to Lt. Colonel Donald Penobscot was used as a way to write Burns out of the show.