HomeAmerican EntertainmentTVClassic TV‘M*A*S*H’: How the Showrunners’ Departure Had a ‘Devastating’ Effect on Cast, Crew

‘M*A*S*H’: How the Showrunners’ Departure Had a ‘Devastating’ Effect on Cast, Crew

by Joe Rutland
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(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

When looking at the history of M*A*S*H, one cannot discount the role showrunners Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart had on it. Both were experienced individuals in the world of comedy and did get the classic TV show off the ground. But there are pressures involved with a network TV show and it just became too much for them. They high-tailed it out of the world of the 4077th after the show’s fourth season.

Gene Reynolds, Larry Gelbart Decide To Leave ‘M*A*S*H’ After 4 Seasons

“Larry had just given his all,” M*A*S*H producer Burt Metcalfe said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Sometimes when there was pressure to have a script on the table at 9 a.m. for a table reading, he would stay all night and work on polishing it and then take it to Mimeo at 6 in the morning.

“He used to sleep on the couch in his office quite often,” Metcalfe said. “Gene and Larry got to a point where they’d done as much as they could do. We were devastated to lose them but could see their point of view. They loved it and thrived on it, but just felt enough was enough. They wanted to go off and do something new and fresh.”

Alan Alda would wear many hats on M*A*S*H beyond as its lead star. He, though, almost didn’t join the show. Alda would agree to do the show under this condition. “We didn’t gloss over it and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent,” Alda would tell Closer in an interview. He did not want to be involved with a Korean version of McHale’s Navy, the war-themed comedy starring Ernest Borgnine and Joe Flynn.

Mike Farrell Admits He Was Terrified To Take Over For Wayne Rogers

“When you’re in a war, it’s real,” Alda tells NPR. “People are going to die or lose their arms and legs. And when we did M*A*S*H, I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out. That that’s what we dealt with.”

Mike Farrell played B.J. Hunnicutt and replaced Wayne Rogers, who played “Trapper John” McIntyre. Farrell would admit that it was terrifying to replace Rogers on the sitcom. “I thought maybe they’d all resent me for replacing their buddy,” Farrell told Closer in an interview. Rogers walked out of M*A*S*H in a huff. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rogers took a hike because Alda overshadowed him, got more screen time, and even better lines. That was enough for Rogers. That situation did cause a stir on the set. Show creators even sued Rogers for breach of contract. In the end, he would win.

Outsider.com