‘M*A*S*H’: Why Alan Alda Said Show Was Subjected to ‘Censorship’

by Joe Rutland
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For a classic TV series like M*A*S*H, it would show every week different sides of the war with star Alan Alda at the center of it. Sometimes, the scenes would be tough to watch for viewers. Writers would present scripts that were challenging yet very real when it came to reflecting on war. Censorship always was an issue with the show’s language or clothes. Alda knew all too well about the censorship battles as he would write and direct episodes.

“We weren’t ever in danger of political censorship,” Alda said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “We were subjected to other kinds of censorship all the time, every day.” At the time of this interview, he said that he’d just heard that the standards and practices offices at networks weren’t around anymore.

Alan Alda of ‘M*A*S*H’ Says Show’s Success Affected Censorship

“The network not only would censor you, they would get you to collaborate,” Alan Alda of M*A*S*H says. “They would get the artists to collaborate, the writers, directors, to collaborate in that self-censorship. Here’s the funny thing. We were censored much more stringently in the beginning, when we weren’t successful, than we were when we were successful. All of a sudden, as soon as we were successful, we could pretty much do or say anything we wanted.”

Alda goes in-depth during this interview about the different stages and forms censorship did take on the TV show. At one point, Alda discusses the differences in how men’s and women’s undergarments were handled. He recalled scenes where his character, Hawkeye Pierce, would run into a clothesline of women’s bras and underwear. That would be OK to the censors but they drew a line at a man’s jockstrap.

One Time, Alda Forgets His Lines And Has to Make Something Up

Alda, Jamie Farr, and Loretta Swit are among the longest-tenured original cast members on M*A*S*H. With all of his different duties on the show, one of them that’s always prevalent for Alda is remembering his lines. One time, Alda forgot his lines and had to make up something on the spot.

The scene involved Hawkeye performing a painless medical exam. Hey, that’s the way Hawk tells the soldier about what is going to happen. Yep, it happens until “the only pain you’re gonna feel is when you find out that I don’t know the rest of this line.” Obviously, this is not Alda’s line. The director has to yell cut and stop the filming at that moment. Always the consummate professional, Alda would gather his wits and they’d reshoot the shot. We can only imagine the laughter and hilarity that having Alda mess up would stir up among the cast and crew at that time.

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