‘Trapper John, M.D.’ with Pernell Roberts Premiered on This Day in 1979

by Joe Rutland

For many people, Pernell Roberts is known for another TV role but he started playing “Trapper John, M.D.” on this date in 1979.

Before anyone asks, yes, Roberts did play Adam Cartwright on “Bonanza.” After leaving that show over a number of issues, Pernell Roberts was involved in stage work and other projects.

The character of “Trapper John” McIntyre goes back to “M*A*S*H” when Wayne Rogers played that role on TV. Rogers, who left that TV franchise after three seasons.

RetroNewsNow reminded its Twitter followers of the show’s anniversary. Take a look at its opening credits.

“Trapper John, M.D.” puts Pernell Roberts in a San Francisco hospital where he faces different patients and cases.

Other cast members included Brian Stokes Mitchell, Charles Siebert, Gregory Harrison, Christopher Norris, and Madge Sinclair.

Meanwhile, some big-name actors appeared in limited roles on the show. They included Timothy Busfield, Janis Paige, Lorna Luft, Howard Morris, and Jessica Walter.

The show ran for seven seasons from 1979 to 1986.

Pernell Roberts Had Memorable Run On ‘Bonanza’ But Left That Show

As we mentioned, Outsiders, Pernell Roberts was on “Bonanza” but would leave the long-running NBC western after six seasons.

His last episode was “Dead and Gone” on April 4, 1965.

In the episode, which featured Roberts, he stops guitar-singing Howard Mead, played by singer-guitarist Hoyt Axton, from a robbery. He brings him back to the Ponderosa. But his ways ended up causing a ruckus with the Cartwrights.

Among the reasons that Pernell Roberts left included his desire to have people of color play those roles. Back in the 1960s, a lot of shows would use actors that resembled Native Americans or put makeup on white actors so they looked like Native Americans.

Actor Was An Activist and Didn’t Like Some Of The Ways Minorities Were Represented

Roberts was a civil rights activist. He and his wife joined other high-profile celebrities on the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala., marches.

“Bonanza” survived after losing Roberts. The show ran 14 total seasons and ranks as TV’s No. 2 longest-running Western. In case you don’t know, then “Gunsmoke” sits at No. 1.

Roberts died on Jan. 24, 2010, of pancreatic cancer at his home in Malibu, Calif., according to an article from The New York Times.

But, based on some of Roberts’ comments, when his contract was complete for “Bonanza” that he was ready to get out of the Ponderosa ASAP.

“It got so I was upset the minute I arrived for work,” Roberts said in a 1986 interview with The Washington Post. “That’s no way to live. I don’t have the psychological stamina to last under artistic compromises over a prolonged period of time. I get hostile and vindictive. It wears me down.”