HomeEntertainment‘M*A*S*H’: Why Alan Alda Said Show Hit Its ‘Stride’ with Controversial Season 1 Episode

‘M*A*S*H’: Why Alan Alda Said Show Hit Its ‘Stride’ with Controversial Season 1 Episode

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images)

During its iconic television run, “M*A*S*H” was a series that was known for its humor. It was also known for its many dramatic moments. The show offered both comedy and drama to its viewers – and it did both well.

In fact, according to one of its stars, it was a dramatic moment that made him realize that the series could be both a great comedy and a great drama at the same time.

That star was Alan Alda. He talked about this dramatic moment during a 2013 interview with The Comic’s Comic. The scene in question took place during the first season of “M*A*S*H.”

In this episode, titled “Sometimes You Hear The Bullet,” a friend of Alda’s character passes away during surgery. Alda, of course, played Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce in the popular wartime series.

While the actor was a fan of the scene and the dramatic weight it brought to the show. In fact, he said it was the episode where the show hits its “stride.” The network, however, wasn’t as thrilled with this change in “M*A*S*H,” according to Alda.

“The network really hated that, that somebody would die in a comedy show. The head of the network said, ‘What is this, a situation-tragedy?’’ But that was when we hit our stride because that was the most overt occasion of letting the harsh results of war have a place in a show that was also a comedy, and it was the mixture of those two and we were finally able to find the right proportions, that gave the show a wallop,” the actor explained.

‘M*A*S*H’ Actor Alan Alda Said Comedic Moments in Series Were a ‘Relief’

“Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” was the 17th episode of the first season of “M*A*S*H.” It aired on Jan. 28, 1973. Interestingly, the star of two other very popular television shows appeared in this episode. That star was Ron Howard. He also appeared in “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days.”

Alan Alda also said that the funny moments in the “M*A*S*H” were meant as a “relief” for viewers.

“We wanted the comedy as a relief to the other stuff you were seeing,” he said. “And I think you welcomed the difficult stuff because you knew that was how life really is.”

Alda also said in 2013 that he wanted to be part of a show that dealt with the realities of war. He did not just want to play a character in a war-based comedy.

“’It wasn’t hijinx at the front that we were doing.’ That was exactly our conversation the night before we started to work on it, that it wasn’t going to be ‘McHale’s Navy’ — which totally ignored the hard parts,” Alda said.

In fact, Alan Alda waited until almost the last minute before agreeing to appear in “M*A*S*H.”

“I couldn’t meet with (the producers) until the night before we were to start rehearsals,” he shared. “It wasn’t until we had that conversation that I could agree on whether to be in it, because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be ‘McHale’s Navy,’ and just take all of those things lightly.”

“M*A*S*H” aired from 1972 until 1983.