‘M*A*S*H’ Star Alan Alda Reflects on Show’s Legacy on 50th Anniversary

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

While it has been 50 years since M*A*S*H first hit the airwaves on CBS, Alan Alda is still in amazement of the show’s success. Alda, who famously played Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on there, would talk about the show’s impact. Did he really know how much of a lasting legacy the show would have years later? He told PEOPLE in an interview, “I’m not sure we ever knew what kind of impact it was having.” He would continue by saying that the show took a while to catch on. It would be “lingering near the bottom of the ratings for the first season.”

These days, Alda, who is 86 years old, hosts his own Clear + Vivid podcast. Back on the subject of M*A*S*H, he said, “We got used to coming to work, doing the best shows we could and not worrying about the numbers. By the time that huge audience watched the last episode, we were kind of shocked.” More than 100 million people reportedly tuned in to see the last episode of the show. It was a touching send-off with Alda and Mike Farrell, who played B.J. Hunnicutt, having a solid final scene together.

Could ‘M*A*S*H’ Come Back In A Reboot?

When he thinks about or hears someone mention the classic TV show, Alda says that what he thinks about is gratitude. “Gratitude that what we did all those years ago is still on people’s minds,” he wrote in an email exchange with the publication. Alda was asked it if feels like it’s been 50 years since the show first debuted. “No, it seems more like 100,” he said. “It feels like it happened to a totally different person. Fortunately, though, this person still lets me live in his house.”

One thing that some people might think about is rebooting M*A*S*H. That seems to happen when networks are looking to infuse new programming into their primetime lineup. Yet that show was on CBS in the 1970s primarily. It was a different time and place for shows like it to be on there. Could a show like M*A*S*H come on back to the world of network TV?

“I can’t see how it could be,” Alda said. “It was a lucky gathering of producers, directors, writers and actors that contributed both a sense of the times we were in and a critique of those times. For instance, Loretta (Swit) campaigned hard to have her character not be seen as a one-note joke. When her character’s name in the script went from ‘Hot Lips’ to ‘Margaret,’ it was a reflection of how she succeeded in that.”