M*A*S*H was one of the most popular television shows of all time, but it did have its critics. Most notably M*A*S*H movie director Robert Altman, who called the show “racist.” And he also hated the show had eclipsed his film in popularity over the years.
Alan Alda, who played the lead surgeon Hawkeye, said he heard Altman wasn’t a fan of the show. But he’d never interacted with the director.
When the PopEntertainment.com reporter pressed Alda on if Altman had been consulted on the show, Alda said he didn’t know why Altman would have a grudge.
“He was nice,” Alda said in the 2007 interview. “He said I was ok, but he didn’t like the show. I don’t know what he had against it.”
If Alda wanted to know, he could have just turned on the director’s commentary for the film.
“I didn’t like the series because that series to me was the opposite of my main reason for making this film — and this was to talk about a foreign war, an Asian war, that was going on at the time,” Altman said. “And to perpetuate that every Sunday night for 12 years — and no matter what platitudes they say about their little messages and everything — the basic image and message is that the brown people with the narrow eyes are the enemy.
“And so I think that series was quite a racist thing. I didn’t approve of it, I don’t like it, and I thought it was the antithesis of what we were trying to do. But most people don’t even know this movie exists. If you poll the world, they’d say, ‘Oh, that was that series with Alan Albert,’ or whatever his name was.”
Altman died in 2006.
Book Author Was Also Not Fan of ‘M*A*S*H’ Series
H. Richard Hornberger, writing under the nom de plume Richard Hooker, penned “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors,” about his time as a surgeon in the Korean War. He wrote two sequels as well.
He based the character of Hawkeye on himself. But the version that ended up making it to TV wasn’t his Hawkeye. Hooker hated Alda’s portrayal. He felt the writers had taken his dark, sardonic sense of humor and made it into a slapstick farce.
Hookers’ son told The New York Times that his Republican father didn’t appreciate Hawkeye espousing liberal views.
”He liked the movie because he thought it followed his original intent very closely,” William Hornberger said in Hookers’ obituary in 1997. ”But my father was a political conservative, and he did not like the liberal tendencies that Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce as having.”
But there is one other major reason he disliked the show. According to History.com, he received $500 per episode. He sold the show’s rights for pennies on the dollar. His checks were nothing compared to that of Alda, who made $235,000 per episode.