Gary Burghoff gives “M*A*S*H” fans one of the show’s most memorable characters in Walter “Radar” O’Reilly, but he left the show. Why?
Well, he apparently wanted to focus more on his family, according to an article from Distractify. But there’s a little more to the story than that as “M*A*S*H” director Charles S. Dubin talks about it.
“Gary Burghoff always made me feel sorry for him,” Dubin says in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “Because he felt, not neglected, but he felt he wasn’t getting his proper dues.
“He was having trouble with his wife at the time,” Dubin says.
‘M*A*S*H’ Director Recalls Burghoff Breaking Down During Time On Set
The director talks about filming a two-part episode called “Goodbye Radar” where Burghoff returns to the show for this show after bowing out of “M*A*S*H” a season earlier.
They show “Radar” falling in love with a woman he had to say goodbye to in the “M*A*S*H” episodes.
Rubin says that Burghoff “couldn’t go on.”
“He broke into tears and I had to stop everything for 15 minutes and walk him around the backlot of Fox,” he says.
In the interview, Rubin is reminded that Burghoff could have been upset since that was his final episode on the popular CBS sitcom. Rubin, though, says there was more to it.
“In the script, he was talking about a future with her, possibly, [which] related to his own domestic problems,” Rubin says. “I think that was a large part of it.”
Burghoff Actually Left CBS Sitcom in 1979 Before Returning for Two-Part Episode
As we noted earlier, Burghoff actually left “M*A*S*H” after the show’s seventh season in 1979. He did return, though, to do that two-part episode.
So the 4077th needed another person to help Col. Sherman Potter, played by Harry Morgan, on the show. Who would take the coveted spot? Jamie Farr, who played Cpl. Max Klinger from the show’s first season onward, takes the place of “Radar” O’Reilly.
These days, Burghoff, 78, is pretty much retired from show business. He originally played the “Radar” role in Robert Altman’s 1970 movie “M*A*S*H” but it was a different character from the TV one. Burghoff wanted some changes made to it and they were done.
Besides Burghoff, Morgan, and Farr, other “M*A*S*H” cast members included Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville, and David Ogden Stiers. It is a show that started out as a strict comedy based in the middle of the Korean War. But those scripts, thanks to Alda, would move the show toward a more serious tone in future seasons.
Fans can notice the shift from first- and second-season episodes to later ones as “M*A*S*H” focused on topics that soldiers faced on the battlefield. Burghoff was nominated for six Emmy Awards and won in 1977. Alda accepted the award in his honor.