Blake after M*A*S*H: The McLean Stevenson Show

Stevenson's follow-up wasn't a M*A*S*H-sized smash.

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All good things come to an end, and that was truer for some more than others in the cast of M*A*S*H. Trapper John was the first to go when Wayne Rogers exited the show shortly before production began on the fourth season. Then (spoiler alert), Col. Henry Blake's helicopter is shot down, leaving no survivors, when McLean Stevenson decided he was out as well. His departure seemed a bit more abrupt, as cast members were unaware of the character's death before they began filming the scene.

It's hard to be the star in an ensemble cast that had eight heavy hitters sharing the opening credits. So, Stevenson opted for (potentially) greener pastures, opting out of his contract and heading towards late-night TV. It was not a smooth transition, by any stretch, as several Tonight Show stints left viewers yearning for the days of Henry Blake.

Stevenson was first set to host a variety program, where he'd anchor at the center of a rotating list of guests and musicians. Plans were put on hold when the concept was tested out as a one-off special. The special was received less than favorably, though, as it was clear that the format was devoid of everything that made Stevenson likable on M*A*S*H. The special's failure, paired with Stevenson's lukewarm attempts at filling in for Johnny Carson, caused executives to drop the variety show idea.

Instead, Stevenson's star power was put toward a brand new situational comedy, titled, simply enough, The McLean Stevenson Show, which debuted in December of 1976.

"This is not a good show," Stevenson told Florida Today. "It is not a fine show. It's a great show. It's great because it's honest; because it could really happen. It doesn't go for jokes. The comedy grows out of the situations that develop, situations that could happen to people you know. Situations that could happen to you." 

Despite its star's enthusiasm, The McLean Stevenson Show was canceled during its first season, broadcasting twelve episodes while leaving two unaired. Executives were really banking on viewership from fans of McLean's work on M*A*S*H. However, the show failed to draw an audience, and the show only aired for three months. But, the story ends well with Stevenson making regular appearances as a panelist on The Match Game, keeping his face fresh in audiences' minds for years to come.

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20 Comments

Jon 9 months ago
There were only six actors in the opening credits when McLean Stevenson was on the show. Jamie Farr was added the season after he left, and William Christopher was added the season after that.
Bapa1 9 months ago
Hello Larry, more like Goodbye Larry. Wasn't that a "spin-off" from Different Strokes? Whatcha talkin about, McLean?
WilliamJorns 9 months ago
Guys, you need to research your stories better. Henry Blake's helicopter wasn't shot down, his PLANE was, over the Sea of Japan. Radar even said so as he read the message informing the 4077th about his death. Obviously, Henry rode the chopper to the airbase, where he transferred to the plane he rode to his doom.
Go back and review the OR scene at the end of "Abyssinia, Henry" and listen to Radar's dialogue.
CoreyC 9 months ago
Who wrote this article? Abyssinia Henry was the third season finale when McLean Stevenson decided not to return.
daDoctah 9 months ago
I watched that special, and about the only thing I remember from it is when Mac and Racquel Welch sang a duet of "Love Will Keep Us Together". While the concept and choice of material is more than a little puzzling, it was the first time I realized that either of them could actually sing.

Apart from a whole string of failed post-M*A*S*H sitcoms, Mac spent a lot of this period as a frequent guest and occasional guest-host on the Tonight Show (Johnny was taking a lot of random days off). He was pretty good in both roles.
WordsmithWorks 9 months ago
I liked "Hello Larry." With a teenage Kim Richards who hadn't transitioned from her "Escape From Witch Mountain" self to the unpleasant "Real Housewives" persona.
Mblack WordsmithWorks 9 months ago
Kim was on the Nanny and the Professor.
daDoctah Mblack 9 months ago
She was also on the first season of Little House on the Prairie as a girl whose father wouldn't let her accept a shoe that Pa Ingalls came up with to compensate for her club foot.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
Doesn't seem like the pastures were greener on the other side, but it's all dependent upon perspective. If Stevenson was happier after leaving M*A*S*H, then I'd say that he made the right choice (-:
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 9 months ago
If I recall correctly, Trapper John wasn't gone until the next season, after Henry Blake's plane was shot down. This article has things backwards.
No, Blake was killed and Trapper did a Chuck Cunningham! Harry Morgan & Mike Farrell came on together! Strangely, no one talked about how Potter looked like a certain crazy General...LOL!
Moody cperrynaples 9 months ago
Trapper didn't do a Chuck Cunningham. Chuck Cunningham just disappeared with no explanation. Just ask our resident Happy Days fanatic. They clearly explained that Trapper got his orders and left for the states. The same episode that introduced B.J. to the show.
I think you are right - I am told that Stevenson wanted out of his 5-year contract, so they wrote him out (and killed off his character) for the last episode of season 3. Then, during the off-season, Rogers told the studio that he was leaving the show. They told him he was still bound by his 5-year contract, to which he replied "what contract?" When they couldn't produce a contract that bore his signature (apparently he never signed one), he was free to leave.
I thought so too. 🤔
Rob 9 months ago
Not to mention, Hello Larry.
cperrynaples Rob 9 months ago
Bonus Question: What show came in between? Hint: I reverenced it in a post last week!
Rob cperrynaples 9 months ago
In the Beginning. I had to look it up.
Cougar90 Rob 9 months ago
For McLean Stevenson "Hello, Larry" became "Goodbye MASH Bank Account."
Wiseguy70005 cperrynaples 9 months ago
Why can't people just state facts instead of turning everything into a game or quiz?
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Blake after M*A*S*H
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That's Showbiz. That's Hollywood.
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