‘M*A*S*H’: The Man Who Wrote the Book Behind the Show Didn’t Like the TV Series

by Madison Miller
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For millions of viewers, while the show was airing and today, “M*A*S*H” continues to be a favorite American sitcom. It had audiences of over 100 million people and collected an astounding 14 Emmy Awards. While comedic, the TV series could also be provocative, dramatic, and dark.

The show aired on CBS from 1972 to 1983. However, it wasn’t the first time audiences were introduced to the team stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea.

Characters like Hawkeye, Margaret, and Radar had been in a book first. The novel, “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors,” was written by Richard Hooker in 1968. His real name was H. Richard Hornberger and he was an army surgeon doctor himself. He also wrote two sequels to the novel. First, a 1970 movie was created and then the famous TV series in 1972.

While he agreed to having the film and series made about his book and characters, Hooker ended up not being a fan at all.

‘M*A*S*H’ Author Not a Fan of Series

According to IMDb, Hooker had said in the past that he was not a fan of the series. He got even more specific and said that he particularly was not a fan of how Alan Alda portrayed the character, Hawkeye Pierce.

Hooker was said to have based the character on himself. He said that the overall “M*A*S*H'” series was “overly moralistic.” While it’s a bit strange to dislike a series based on his own writings and specifically a character based on himself, Hooker had his reasons.

What was it that made the TV series so unbearable to Hooker?

According to History.com, part of this was because he barely got any money off the project. He received $500 per episode and sold the rights to his entire franchise for just pennies. While there were 251 episodes of the show, his earnings fell a bit short. Meanwhile, Alan Alda was making $235,000 per episode.

Disagreements with the Anti-War Sentiments

However, it wasn’t all about money. Hooker didn’t like that the show had taken on war commentary. As a wartime surgeon himself, he took the war seriously and did not agree with any anti-war sentiments. These would often appear in the TV series. In fact, the series helped shape many viewers’ perspectives on both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

“Hornberger possessed the courage and audacity to attempt arterial repair when it was forbidden, and by one account, he may have been the first,” according to Steven G. Friedman, a vascular surgeon that wrote about Hooker.

Similar to Hawkeye Pierce, his sarcasm and humor were a bright light in an incredibly dark environment and helped save lives and regain hope.

“M*A*S*H” had taken a certain direction than the book at the time to coincide with the countless anti-war ideas that circulated in the ’60s and ’70s. However, Hornberger believed that wasn’t the story he told.

“He liked the movie because he thought it followed his original intent very closely, but my father was a political conservative, and he did not like the liberal tendencies that Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce as having. My father didn’t write an anti-war book. It was a humorous account of his work, with serious parts thrown in about the awful kind of work it was, and how difficult and challenging it was,” his son William Hornberger said, according to PBS.

Outsider.com