‘M*A*S*H’ Producers Introduced Plot Twists To Reflect Real Life

by Joe Rutland
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Loretta Swit kept on playing one of the main characters in the TV show “M*A*S*H” and even learned how to roll with plot twists.

Swit, who played Margaret Houlihan for 11 seasons on the CBS sitcom, talked about being on the show with Fox News back in 2017.

One thing the “Hot Lips” actress pointed out is that she never got tired of playing her character. Show producers would keep her busy with numerous plot twists. They did that, Swit said, to reflect real life.

“[As actors], we kept growing and changing… but the producers never tried to replace a character,” Swit said. “They brought in a new one instead, so it was like a shot of adrenaline.

“Whenever someone left, I thought, ‘That’s it, we’re done,'” she said. “But that wasn’t the case. It’s part of life! People come and go. Some stay. Some die… I thought the term ‘sitcom’ terribly described what we did. It was so much more than that.”

‘M*A*S*H’ Carried A Comedic Flavor For Much of First Seasons, Then Shifted

There is some credence to Swit’s criticism. About half of the “M*A*S*H” episodes during its run were written as situation comedies. That was primarily due to having comedy-writing veterans Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds on board.

Once they left the series, though, Alan Alda and Burt Metcalfe decided to shift the narrative. Many of their scripts veered toward looking at the Korean War and even showing its effects on soldiers, Korean citizens, and those in the 4077th.

When Larry Linville, who played Major Frank Burns on “M*A*S*H,” left, Swit’s character shifted a bit, too. Writers began giving here a little more serious tone, which also happened to other cast members. That show would find roots on Monday nights on CBS after bouncing around the network’s schedule.

The series finale, titled “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” remains one of TV’s highest-rated, series-ending episodes. “M*A*S*H” remains a popular show in syndication as episodes are shown across the United States and around the world. New generations are watching Hawkeye, Trapper John, Col. Blake, “Radar,” and others for the first time.

Gelbart Managed To Work Up Pilot Episode Script In Two Days for $25,000

As we mentioned, Outsiders, Larry Gelbart was one of the show’s early writers and helped put the show on its way.

When it came time to work up a script for the “M*A*S*H” pilot episode, Gelbart put his creative energy as well as his hands to work. In two days in November 1971, he managed to have it written and received $25,000 for his work.

That’s according to the book, “Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America: A Social History of the 1972-83 Television Series,” written by James H. Wittebols.

Outsider.com