M*A*S*H never gets old. I watch reruns and find myself laughing, commiserating, tearing up on occasion, and laughing again, just as I did during its eleven year run. I think the true test of a success is time, and M*A*S*H passes with flying colors.
M*A*S*H premiered in September if 1972 and ended in 1983 with a finale that held the record of most-watched television shows, attracting over 105 million viewers. Sadly, Super Bowl XLIV (sigh) knocked M*A*S*H off the pedestal in 2010. The total of 14 Emmy Awards, however, remain a testament to the popularity of this outstanding television show.
Four original stars remained with M*A*S*H throughout its entire run. Alan Alda (Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce) remains active as an actor, author, activist, director, and screenwriter. Hawkeye remains his best known success story, and, be honest, is there anyone who does not picture Alan Alda as Hawkeye in his rumpled bathrobe?
Loretta Switt (Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan) still makes the rounds in her continuing acting career and is an advocate for animals and animal rights. Hot Lips was perfectly cast aesthetically, and perfectly played as a strong, regimented woman with a huge heart.
Jamie Farr (Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger) was an understated character at the start, but his incorrigible insistence upon being declared section eight soon brought him to the forefront. His hysterical get-ups were almost as side-splitting as his antics. Battling severe arthritis does not stop him from continuing his career as a popular celebrity.
William Christopher (Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy) appears on a multitude of television shows, and has remained active in theater. He hung up his cross and boxing gloves and now spends time bringing attention to autism. In 1985 he and his wife wrote “Mixed Blessings”, a book about their autistic son, Ned.
Gary Burghoff (Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly) was an original character, leaving the show in 1980. He is a professional jazz drummer, an artist, an outdoorsman and a philatelist who can be seen in several commercials and a Christian movie, “Daniel’s Lot”.
Larry Linville (Major Franklin Marion Burns) left M*A*S*H in 1977. Unlike his obnoxious, bumbling character, he was regarded as a warm and likeable fellow by those who knew him. He declined an extension of his contract because he had tired of the character, and he wanted to pursue different roles in acting. He passed away in April 2000 of pneumonia, after undergoing cancer surgery.
Wayne Rogers (Capt. John Francis Xavier “Trapper” McIntyre) moved on in 1975 to star in a couple of short-lived series and guest star in several shows. He is a regular panel member on “Cashin’ In”, and a successful investment advisor, and money manager.
McLean Stevenson (Lt. Colonel Henry Braymore Blake) also left in 1975 to spiral into an acting decline. Four of his sit-coms were cancelled after dismal reviews and audience apathy. He remained somewhat active in on game shows and guest appearances until he passed away in 1996 from cardiac arrest after bladder cancer surgery.
Harry Morgan (Colonel Sherman Tecumseh Potter) joined M*A*S*H replacing McLean Stevenson. His prior film career aside, he was already well known as Officer Bill Gannon, Joe Friday’s sidekick in the television series “Dragnet”. His character was well received as a replacement, and Colonel Potter saw the show through to its finale. All accounts show the Colonel is alive and still kicking at age 94.
Mike Farrell (Captain B.J. Hunnicut) also came to M*A*S*H in 1975 replacing Trapper John. He has hosted several National Geographic presentations and guest starred on many shows. In 1985 Farrell created a production company. He is active in social causes, human rights, and the screen actor’s guild.
David Ogden Stiers (Major Charles Emerson Winchester III) graced us with his elite upper echelon presence on the M*A*S*H set in 1977, taking up the slack that Frank’s departure left. He amused and infuriated the “lesser beings” to the very end. In addition to his many appearances on screen, he is a director, conductor, narrator, and vocal actor.
Kellye Nakahara (Lieutenant Kellye Yamato) grasped her memorable M*A*S*H role in 1973. She works as an actress on occasion, but she also is a watercolor artist exhibiting her works under her married name, Kellye Wallett.
These unforgettable M*A*S*H stars entertained us for eleven years with their outstanding characterizations of the real heroes and heroines of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals. M*A*S*H worked because of the humanity it highlighted, in the midst of war. Has M*A*S*H withstood the test of time? Just ask someone what 4077 means.