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

by Samantha Whidden

While celebrating the 50th anniversary of his hit classic TV show, M*A*S*H, Alan Alda revealed that he and the rest of the cast never realized how successful the series actually was. 

As he spoke about the show, Alan Alda admitted to Parade he never expected to be that successful. “I don’t know if we ever really realized how successful the show was. We started out at the bottom of the ratings, and we just got used to concentrating on the work every day. For most of the first year, I’d proudly say, ‘We’re in the Top 72!’”

Speaking about being pitched M*A*S*H, Alan Alda was shooting The Glass House in the Utah State Prison. That was when a script appeared at his hotel. “It was written by Larry Gelbart and it was the best comedy writing I’d ever seen in a half-hour script. It certainly brightened up my day in cell black 9. Right away, I knew I wanted to play in it.” 

Meanwhile, Alan Alda discussed how M*A*S*H had mixed humor with the realities of war. The actor shared how he and the rest of the cast approached humor on the show. “I think a lot of what attracted people to the whole series was that even though it was mainly a comedy, we never tried to forget that real people had lived and suffered through stories like the ones we were telling. We wanted to honor that as much as we could.”

Alan Alda Reveals Details About the Relationships Between ‘M*A*S*H’ Castmates

When asked about the cast seemed to genuinely like each other, Alan Alda stated the cast put the work in to make the relationships work. 

“For the first season, every Friday night we’d stay late and eat pizza and drink beer,” Alan Alda recalled. “And end many Fridays in a circle airing our complaints to one another. During the shooting day, we’d hang out together in our circle of chairs and tell stories and play games and rib each other.”

Alan Alda then said the cast made real contact that was open and free. “So that when we’d be called to the set, the connection was still happening underneath the dialogue of the scene. We’re all still in touch by email, and before COVID, we’d try to get together for dinner at least once a year.”

In regards to how M*A*S*H changed his life, Alan Alda said he became a better actor and writer. He also learned how to direct. “But more than that, it thrust all of us into something that was more important than we were. I think we all feel gratitude for that and feel lucky that we got to experience it together.”