Did M*A*S*H ruin the opening credits by removing Radar?

Season eight removed Radar from the first shot — but not entirely, oddly.

Every little moment in the opening sequence of M*A*S*H matters to fans. It's so much more than seeing the drama of the choppers descending, delivering wounded as doctors scurry to respond. We also see the cast — Hawkeye hunched over a fallen soldier, B.J. giving a curt nod. The better you know these characters, the more meaningful watching the opening credits becomes.

However, it's not Hawkeye nor B.J. who is intended to resonate most with viewers. It's Radar O'Reilly, the childlike company clerk who's perhaps the most relatable character on the show.

In the original opening sequence, therefore, it's an incredibly meaningful choice to begin with a view of the back of Radar O'Reilly's head as the helicopters sail over the mountains. It's arguably the entire set-up of the show, instructing the audience to step into Radar's shoes and see what it's like to be in this foreign scene, where doctors confront the realities of the frontlines and experience the personal wear and tear of operating in the sometimes relentless tent.

Now, even the most casual fans know that the M*A*S*H credits changed over time as the cast changed. When Wayne Rogers left the cast, his opening credits scenes got cut, and after B.J. Hunnicutt was introduced, the credits even got updated once the decision was made to give him his iconic mustache.

But before viewers even knew that Gary Burghoff — the actor who played Radar O-Reilly on TV and in the movie — was leaving the show, producers made the decision to cut him from the opening credits early. The first episode of season eight, "Too Many Cooks," opened without the familiar sight of Radar's head. Compare the first shots from both intros up top.

This was arguably a spoiler to attentive viewers because everyone at that point was very used to seeing the show start with that frame showing the back of Burghoff's head, obvious in his signature cap.

We wouldn't blame you if you wondered, where did Radar go?

Four episodes later, Burghoff officially departs in the two-part episode "Goodbye, Radar," and then the move to cut Radar from the opening moment of the opening credits begins to make more sense.

However, it is arguably the worst decision producers made when it came to updating the opening credits, and here's why.

When Trapper John left, his character got entirely cut from the opening credits. On the other hand, careful viewers can still pick out Radar in the title sequence — after Burghoff left the show. About 30 seconds in, you can see Radar running up steps to respond to the landing chopper. And then, there he is again a few seconds later, crouching behind Hawkeye. (To further ruin continuity, note that the Father Mulcahy squatting behind Radar is George Morgan, who only played the character once, in the pilot episode!)

Radar remained in the opening credits, even after they removed his head from the first shot.

In fact, these two shots of Radar remain in the credits right up to the series finale.

So, why? Why did they have to cut that opening frame of Radar that so poignantly set up the entire series?

If you want to see an opening sequence that focuses on helicopters, check out Airwolf, that far less emotionally touching 1980s military drama where they go on "exotic missions."

M*A*S*H was a different, special show, and everybody knew it. It deserved to open up with a moment charged with the stuff that made the show great: character. And even though Hawkeye serves the show's central figure, Radar was and remained the show's biggest heart.

If he was going to stay in the credits anyway, why ruin the opening moment by focusing on two helicopters that could've been introducing us to any old action show?

When it comes to great TV, M*A*S*H was the genuine article, and in the words of Alan Alda, what set the character of Radar O'Reilly apart was that he was the only completely genuine character on the show.

In a perfect world, M*A*S*H would’ve always opened up by having us symbolically step into Radar's shoes, even after he left the 4077th.

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Randall 3 days ago
I can't watch Good bye Radar without crying, they probably should have had Jamie in the opening credits because Radar's office was Closed, Klinger's office was open
JanineRandall 1 month ago
Random Radar related question: Who did the outside speaker announcements of incoming patients? It wasn't Radar, because he was visible during some of the announcements. I don't know why, but this bugs me, not in a bad way, but I've always wondered who it was.
I used to wonder why we never saw him.
Most of the PA announcements were done by two actors: Todd Susman and Sal Viscuso, both of whom actually appeared onscreen as other characters (Susman in one episode, Viscuso in three episodes). There was an article here on the MeTV website last year.
https://www.metv.com/stories/these-are-the-actors-who-made-pa-announcements-on-m-a-s-h
EmBee 1 month ago
One can tell which block of seasons the show is in based on the opening. Seasons 1-3 the actors title cards print is smaller than in subsequent season. Seasons 4-5 have the larger actors title cards are larger and, of course, Wayne Rogers and McClean Stevenson are no longer part of the cast having been replaced by Mike Farell and Harry Morgan. Seaons 6-8, the shot of the helicopters changes to a higher (and smogless) shot - Exit Larry Linville and enter David Ogden Stiers. Finally, the very opening shot, as discussed here, removes Gary Burghoff. And of course over time, Jaime Farr and William Christopher are added to the opening credits.
Scott138 1 month ago
Can you please put COMBAT! back on the air??? There are many of us that really the miss the show.
Ilovelalaw Scott138 1 month ago
I don't know if MeTV is ever going to have it on but it's on Heroes & Icons (H&I), at least in my area (suburban Philadelphia Comcast), Saturdays @ 9. It's part of their Saturday "WAR" lineup.
Edward 1 month ago
They ran that 'show' way too long and that made the story lines get too stupid. Even the characters did not want to stick around for the most part. I hate MASH.
Wiseguy 1 month ago
This article is a lot of baloney. The only reason Radar is in the opening was because that's the way the scene was shot in the pilot. All of the scenes in the opening were edited from the pilot's opening* which was longer, except for scenes added later, like shots of B.J. He was taken out simply because the actor was no longer on the show. Guess MeTV needed an article so this nonsense was written.
*Curiously the shot of the van with the red cross was taken from early in the pilot's opening and was inserted near the end of the series opening.
Hogansucks1 Wiseguy 1 month ago
Bologna- you’re no fun. How about ‘Criminy’ !! 😆
Wiseguy Hogansucks1 1 month ago
The meat can be spelled bologna or baloney (bologna is preferred). Nonsense (the meaning I used) can ONLY be spelled baloney.
StrayCat 1 month ago
I did notice the removal of Radar from the opening credits, but it was after he’d left the show so I thought it was probably a royalty/residual thing. If he was still there I guess they would have had to pay him even though he left the show.
And I disagree with radar resonating with most viewers since I thought his sweetness became insufferable. In an interview with Burghoff he said his intention was to portray Radar as a darker more mysterious character which showed in the first season. In that first season he was seen drinking booze from Henry Blake’s liquor cabinet and smoking his cigars as well as swilling gin in the swamp. Then they changed him to a naïve NEHI soda drinking urchin oozing with innocence. Ugh!
Wiseguy StrayCat 1 month ago
Well, it was before he left, as mentioned in the article (he was on R&R the first three episodes of the season). However, by then EVERYONE knew Gary Burghoff was leaving so it was no great mystery. And no, they can show previously shown scenes with actors without crediting them.
Hogansucks1 StrayCat 1 month ago
Oh yea- ‘Chief Surgeon Who’ episode, what a gas ! Klinger’s first appearance I believe- “then I’ll just have to try harder, Mary”. 🤣
Hogansucks1 1 month ago
OH- almost forgot- “TUTTLE DID IT”. 😂
Hogansucks1 1 month ago
Yea, I guess they needed to keep the show’s credits accurately and proper for all the actor’s(respectfully),and for the TV audience. I also thought over the years, also, another possibility might exist. If they kept Gary Burgoff opening shot in the credits- would that mean they would have to still pay Gary for that? Actor’s contracts, if they signed one, I guess it’s probably a lot jockeying with the Studio . Just a thought.🙂
Wiseguy Hogansucks1 1 month ago
Only if it were new footage. For example, actors appearing only in clip shows such as "Our Finest Hour" or in scenes from previous episodes (such as the start of part 2) don't HAVE to be credited, but in many cases they are (such as "Finest Hour.") They simply removed Radar's appearance because he was no longer on the show. No big mystery. Most people would never notice his (or George Morgan's) shots in the rest of the opening, and besides, it would cost more money to gather a group of actors together to film a new scene.
By the way, actor's should be actors - plural not possessive.
Hogansucks1 Wiseguy 1 month ago
Thank- you 😊
daDoctah 1 month ago
How long did Bleeding Gums Murphy remain in the Simpsons opening sequence after he died? And Buckley from King of the Hill?
Woodie 1 month ago
Wayne Rogers/Trapper John's presence can also still be seen in the opening credits. Even thought the camera pans away from him, so you can't see him in his brownish aloha shirt, you can still see his shadow as the two jeeps drive to the main facility.
Pacificsun 1 month ago
One thing about the MASH “through point” (meaning core theme) was about evolution. Most everyone (except career officers) joined MASH with a beginning and concluded MASH with being changed. The Producers never did anything unintentionally. So the revised opening shot was Season 8’s “hit” (meaning the emotional punch that would strike for that year). The sacrifice made was not only fitting and appropriate. But was to counter-balance the emotional loss of McLean Stevenson’s death. (Which fans protested). Radar was a bitter sweet departure. Not due to dispute or other opportunities. Yes, he would be missed. But he also represented the optimism that was wished for all the remaining characters. That they would all be going home. Which they deserved. So, in that opening shot, not so much about cleaning up the details (minor shots) which they could’ve easily done. But was to contrast the difference between the beginning of one of the most innocent personalities (as the article states) with his absence. Gone was innocence replaced by all the effects that war left on people. In the end, perhaps emptiness and absence. Radar being cut from the shot represented ALL the characters (people) who were lost in that war. Physically and psychologically. Yes, the scene looks empty and almost thankless. But that was the toll the war took on all of them.
stephaniestavropoulos 1 month ago
The article makes it sound like the MASH writer's gave BJ his 'stache. Not true. It was Mike's best bud Alan Alda who came up with the idea. Seems most of the characters Mike has portrayed were clean shaven, but AA thought it would give the BJ character some character if BJ were sporting a 'stache.
Great trivia! Thanks for sharing that Stephanie!!
I'm glad he grew a moustache at this point. It makes it easier to tell people when M*A*S*H started that downward slope: pretentious writing and dialogue full of unfunny puns.
Look like a 70s porn stache to me.
stephaniestavropoulos 1 month ago
Here's a trivia tidbit on Radar:
For those who don't know, {or may have forgotten:}
The scene where Hot Lips is in the shower, and the tent flaps lift up to reveal her: Sally Kellerman was really reacting to seeing Gary Burghoff stark naked! This was his idea. I guess he, a couple of other actors and the director Robert Altman or the producer Ingo Preminger, were talking about how to make Sally feel more comfortable doing the nude scene. This was the solution they settled on!
I know this has nothing to do with the show, but it's still Radar related.
"This isn't a hospital...it's an insane asylum!"
Ingo. Otto was his brother. Check out the credits to make sure I'm 100% correct. But, I'll be honest, I just found out this info. over the weekend. I was watching the extras on the MASH dvd. So hopefully, I didn't forget that quickly!
OH! You're welcome for the trivia, by the way!
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