‘M*A*S*H’: Why Did Radar Actor Gary Burghoff Leave the Show?

by Joe Rutland
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One of the most beloved classic TV characters is Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H, played by Gary Burghoff. But he left the TV show before its’ conclusion. Why did he do so? You might think it had to do with not being happy with his role. That was part of it but not the full answer.

‘M*A*S*H’ Star Gary Burghoff Leaves Show For His Family

It did come down to his family in large part. Director Charles S. Dubin, in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, elaborates a little more. “Gary Burghoff always made me feel sorry for him,” Dubin said. “Because he felt, not neglected, but he felt he wasn’t getting his proper dues.” Yet the family element was first and foremost for Burghoff in leaving a popular, highly-rated show like M*A*S*H.

“He was having trouble with his wife at the time,” Dubin said. Part of this comes out while filming episodes titled “Goodbye Radar” where the Iowa kid has now grown up into a man before the viewers’ eyes. Radar falls in love with a woman but he has to say goodbye to her. Dubin said 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.” We get more from Distractify.

Was there more going on than just the home part? Dubin would not simply say that it was about the episode itself. “In the script, he was talking about a future with her, possibly, [which] related to his own domestic problems,” he said. “I think that was a large part of it.”

Actor Also Had Sleeping Problem That Affected His Work

Burt Metcalfe, who also was a producer for a lot of M*A*S*H episodes, says that Burghoff also struggled on the set. Burghoff had a sleeping problem. He often would be late for times to be on the set. “I’m only mentioning that…because he wasn’t as happy in the show as other people were,” Metcalfe told the Television Academy Foundation in an interview. “And he was really anxious to move on and play something different.”

Burghoff did not act much after he left the show. He did guest star on the failed spinoff AfterMASH for two episodes. Heck, a plan was in place for a Radar spinoff titled W*A*L*T*E*R. That did not pan out, though. Let’s look at the “Goodbye Radar” scenario. Radar learns that his uncle has died. With this in mind and knowing the family will struggle, he gets a hardship discharge from Colonel Sherman Potter, played by Harry Morgan. Radar, knowing that the 4077th is struggling without a generator, believes he cannot leave them behind. Potter and Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda, work to let Radar know they are going to be OK.

Outsider.com