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The Real Reason Why McLean Stevenson Left M*A*S*H

In 1970, director Robert Altman released a movie called M*A*S*H, which was based on the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, which was written by Richard Hooker. The film was one of the most popular releases in the early 1970s. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, of which it won Best Adapted Screenplay. Audiences were so taken by this black comedy film that it led to a TV series of the same name, which was released in 1972.

M*A*S*H ran for over ten years, until it finally ended in 1983 with a total of eleven seasons and 256 episodes. Over the course of the series, M*A*S*H was nominated for a staggering amount of Emmy Awards; over one hundred! It won fourteen of those nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

M*A*S*H ran on CBS, and during its first season, it struggled to keep good ratings due to its time slot. However, after the time slot was moved for the second season, the ratings increased greatly. Today, M*A*S*H is recognized as one of the highest rated television shows in American history.

The television show followed the staff of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital stationed in South Korea during the Korean War. It also served as an allegory for the Vietnam War, which was still raging overseas during the time the show was aired. While the show was primarily a comedy, its dark humor also reminded audience members of the horrors of war. The writers of the show carefully walked the line between serious and hilarious.

To keep this balance, M*A*S*H became the first television show ever to use more than one plot line. A typical M*A*S*H episode featured two plots, one which was dramatic while the other was comedic.

M*A*S*H was an incredibly influential show, and it paved the way for other incredible television series to come. One of the most memorable parts of the show, however, was its talented cast. Audience members were dismayed to learn that McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Colonel Blake, was leaving the show. In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at some of the behind the scenes secrets of M*A*S*H. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal the real reason McLean Stevenson left the show prematurely.

Only One of the Original Film Actors Was Cast in the Series

The original M*A*S*H film, which was released in 1970, featured an immensely talented cast, including Donald Sutherland, Michael Murphy, and Tom Skeritt. When the film was adapted into a television show, however, the producers had to find an entirely new cast. While the original actors enjoyed working on the film, most of them had other projects already in the works, and they weren’t ready to sign a contract that required them to film a television show for several years. Instead, the show’s creators cast Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce, Wayne Rogers as Trapper John, and Loretta Swift as Hot Lips Houlihan. The only character whose actor didn’t change was Radar O’Reilly, who was played by Gary Burghoff in both the film and the series.

The Real Reason McLean Stevenson Left M*A*S*H

McLean Stevenson’s character, Lt. Colonel Henry Blake, was arguably the most popular character on M*A*S*H during the show’s first three seasons. His acting skills set him apart from the rest of the cast, and he even earned a Golden Globe Award in 1974 for his work on the show. However, he grew frustrated as his scenes were frequently cut from the show. Most M*A*S*H episodes focused on other characters, namely Hawkeye and Trapper John. Stevenson began itching for the limelight.

His dreams came true when NBC offered him his very own show after Johnny Carson retired from his position. Believing that this was a risk worth taking, Stevenson left M*A*S*H after the third season, and the writers killed his character off in a plane crash. This meant that, even if his career didn’t go well, he wouldn’t be able to return to the series as a backup.

Unfortunately, Stevenson’s gamble didn’t exactly pan out. He was given a few shows of his own, but they were ultimately failures, and his unsuccessful career became so apparent that comedians even used his misfortune as a running joke. If Stevenson had stayed on M*A*S*H, it would have guaranteed a far longer and more prosperous career. Unfortunately, the risk he took ended up costing him his fame.

The Laugh Track Was an Unpopular Choice

The producers of the show were dismayed to learn that CBS wouldn’t allow them to cut the laugh track from their show. They argued that a laugh track wouldn’t fit the tone of the show, especially since it was rather dark at times. CBS was insistent, however, explaining that every other comedy show used a laugh track at the time. Changing the status quo was risky, especially during the 1970s. As a result, the laugh track stayed. Producers were at least granted the ability to remove the lack track from the operating room, which added a more serious later to those scenes.

As the show cemented itself in American households, however, CBS finally relented, and allowed the laugh track to be removed. In DVD episodes, people can now choose whether or not they want to include the laugh track while rewatching their favorite episodes.

The Name of Radar’s Teddy Bear Revealed

Radar O’Reilly’s teddy bear was the most iconic and symbolic prop on the show. The fact that O’Reilly still slept with a teddy bear was frequently used as a joke, but it also brought a wholesome and bittersweet element to the show. It represented the way war stripped away peoples’ childhood innocence. While the teddy bear was never given an actual name on the show, the actor behind Radar O’Reilly, Gary Burghoff, once revealed that he secretly named it Tiger.

After the show ended, the prop mysteriously disappeared for a time. 22 years later, however, someone discovered the bear at an auction. A medical student bought the bear for $11,500, but instead of keeping it, he touchingly gave the memento to Gary Burghoff himself!

This just goes to show how deeply M*A*S*H affected its long-time fans. Make sure you stick around until the very end, because we’re also going to reveal how this incredibly popular show broke records with its iconic series finale! And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like the video and subscribe to our channel for more!

Some of the Actors Actually Served in the Korean War

The fact that some of the actors in M*A*S*H actually served in the Korean War brought an element of realism to the show. Lead actor Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce, served in Korea as a junior officer. He also served in the Army Reserve for half a year. This experience is probably a contributing factor behind Alda’s convincing performance as Hawkeye. He wasn’t the only actor in M*A*S*H to serve in the Korean War, however. Jamie Farr, the actor who played Maxwell Klinger, was also a veteran of the Korean War.

Furthermore, while neither Wayne Rogers nor Mike Farrell served in the Korea War, they were both war veterans by the time they were cast in M*A*S*H. These veterans were all able to contribute their knowledge and experience to the show, and they no doubt helped their fellow actors more accurately portray life in the military.

Some Historical Facts Were Left Out

While M*A*S*H was based on the real-life events of the Korean War, the writers of the show had to be careful about what they included. The show was known for bringing up very serious topics, which were often considered taboo at the time. However, certain themes were not allowed to be discussed. The writers had to keep M*A*S*H patriotic at all times, meaning they couldn’t discuss the more ugly side of the Korean War. America is an old country with a long and complicated history. While we’d all like to think of ourselves as the “good guys,” the truth is that America has made its fair share of horrible mistakes. Furthermore, the Korean War was filled with horrors and atrocities. In fact, a large number of the soldiers drafted for the war would intentionally make themselves sick in hopes of getting sent home.

However, the writers were not allowed to show this more complicated side of American history, and they had to leave out some of the more controversial topics.

The Finale Broke a Record

The final episode of M*A*S*H was titled “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.” This bittersweet finale broke the record for the highest percentage of audience members with television sets to tune into the show. The episode ran for two and a half hours, and a total of 125 million viewers sat down to watch it. One urban legend claims that so many people sat straight through the episode without using the bathroom that, after the show ended, plumbing systems broke down from so many people using the bathroom at the same time!

M*A*S*H  was both extremely popular and incredibly influential, and people today still love watching reruns of the series. Were you more surprised to learn the real reason McLean Stevenson left the show, or that Gary Burghoff secretly named Radar O’Reilly’s teddy bear Tiger? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!

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