‘M*A*S*H’: Alan Alda Called Out Television News in 1981 Interview, Explained Why it Was Turning to ‘Junk’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Ouch, Alan Alda. The M*A*S*H star wasn’t fond of the “junk” on TV news back in the day and it’s grown only more cluttered since then.

Alda, who played Dr. Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, is a well-spoken, very well-read actor. He has a strong, educated opinion on most any subject, especially topics like science. Alda was appropriately cast as a surgeon on M*A*S*H.

He also wasn’t fond of TV news — or TV in general — when he played starred on M*A*S*H from 1972-83. Alda appeared on an NBC news program in 1981. The program was hosted by David Brinkley, one of the most recognizable news anchors in the country, although Alda was interviewed by another reporter. But talk about biting the hand that feeds.

Alda was asked about what TV shows he watched. Note, he didn’t mention M*A*S*H.

As the Star of M*A*S*H, Alan Alda Said He Didn’t Watch TV, and Don’t Ask Him About the News

“Don’t watch much television,” Alda said. “I don’t even watch the news because the news is so full of junk now. I’m really not interested in seeing who killed whom or how much raspberries cost. And, I want to get a little more excited about what’s going on.”

The M*A*S*H star continued, obviously on a conversational roll:

“They will talk for a minute and a half about something that is liable to threaten the existence of the planet. And then they’ll talk seven minutes about somebody who kicked a football around on the field. You add up all the junk time devoted to what’s called news and put it next to the time that really affects my life, I’m astonished by it. What are they doing?”

The reporter answered the question.

“They give people what the people want,” he said. And this was before consultants got a hold of TV news. Meanwhile, ESPN was in its infancy.

Does TV News Reflect What People Want? Alda Weighed In

The star of M*A*S*H grew more animated.

“Somebody ought to be responsible,” he said, before pausing several seconds to ponder what he was about to say.

“Prostitutes give the people what they want, too,” Alda said. “But that doesn’t excuse what they do.”

Just wow.

Alan Alda appeared in all 256 episodes of M*A*S*H. He was the show’s soul and its identity, finding humor in the horrors of war. He won five Emmys for M*A*S*H, but not all of them were for acting.

In 1974, his turn as Hawkeye earned him Best Actor in a Comedy Series and Actor of the Year. He picked up the Emmy for Directing in 1977. And in 1979, he was honored with an Emmy for writing. Alda’s award-winning episode focused on Hawkeye personally confronting his chauvinism when he dealt with a female surgeon played by Mariette Hartley. Alda was a loud feminist throughout the run of M*A*S*H.

And in 1982, he capped off his M*A*S*H career winnings with best acting Emmy honors.

Check out all the interview below.

Outsider.com