When you think of “M*A*S*H” there is a good chance that one or two characters come to mind. Those characters are probably Klinger or Radar. Neither of them was the star of the show. However, they stood out from the rest. Klinger stands out because he tried to make everyone believe he was unfit to serve by wearing women’s clothes. Radar, on the other hand, seemed to be psychic in some ways. He was a complex, quirky, and fairly well-developed character. So, it stands to reason that he would be the center of a spinoff show. However, it didn’t work out.
“M*A*S*H” inspired a couple of successful spinoff shows. First, there was “Trapper John M.D.” then came “AfterM*A*S*H,” both ran for multiple seasons. However, a third spinoff titled “W*A*L*T*E*R,” focused on Radar almost happened. In fact, a pilot for the series aired in 1984 but it was not picked up.
The “M*A*S*H” Spinoff That Didn’t Happen
“M*A*S*H” fans loved Radar. He may not have been a leading man but he was interesting. The Iowa farm boy who joined the military just out of high school won the hearts of viewers across the country. However, when it came time to give him his own show, fans didn’t tune in. At the same time, the studio didn’t much care for the show.
“W*A*L*T*E*R,” had all the ingredients for a great show. It starred Gary Burghoff, reprising his classic “M*A*S*H” role. The show also had a killer writing team, according to IMDb. Bob Schiller worked on “All in the Famly,” and “Maude,” before working on the Radar-centric show. Bob Weiskopf shared those credits as well as work on “I Love Lucy,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” and “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.” Everett Greenbaum worked on “The Andy Griffith Show,” as well as “M*A*S*H.”
In the end, though, they couldn’t breathe new life into the classic character.
The “W*A*L*T*E*R” Pilot
The “W*A*L*T*E*R” pilot focused on what Walter Radar O’Reilly did after the events of “M*A*S*H,” upon his return to the United States. In the show, he was no longer living in Iowa. At the same time, there wasn’t much left of the classic Radar character. He moved to a small town and joined the police force. During the pilot, he helped a homeless boy, tracked down his stolen wallet, and broke up a fight between two strippers, according to IMDb.
So, it was Burghoff playing a character that only went by Walter. He dropped his nickname after returning to the states. On top of that, most of his most interesting traits were gone. So, fans of “M*A*S*H,” didn’t have much to sink their teeth into.
On top of that, the show only aired in the central and eastern time zones. The Democratic National convention pre-empted the show in the Western region of the country.
It’s unfortunate that W*A*L*T*E*R” didn’t get picked up. It could have been interesting to see the adventures of Radar as small-town cop if they would have faithfully adapted his character. He could have gone on to become a great detective. Well, we will always have the good old 4077 to look back on, at least.