Falling off the Radar: Gary Burghoff after M*A*S*H

No, not "AfterMASH," just after M*A*S*H.

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Gary Burghoff spent an entire career being confused for the character he famously portrayed on TV. Whatever he appeared in, whether on stage or screen, people wanted him to be Radar. It's hard to forge one's own identity after being associated with a cultural phenomenon like M*A*S*H. But Burghoff's face was no longer only his. Whether he wanted to or not, he shared it with Corporal Walter Eugene "Radar" O'Reilly. Maybe it was because he played Radar on both the big screen and the small screen. Regardless of why, Gary Burghoff struggled to establish himself as separate from his most notable role.

By his third season on M*A*S*H, the actor renegotiated his contract, so he'd only need to appear in 13 of the following seasons' respective 24 episodes. By season seven, burnout had set in so entirely that Burghoff had no choice but to leave the show. The rigorous M*A*S*H schedule had upended his personal life, causing irreparable damage to his relationships. "I was burned out... overloaded... tired... irritable," said Burghoff in a 1982 interview with The Courier-Daily. "I didn't know how I felt anymore. I had to get back to things I knew were real."

In addition to the upheavals in his personal life, what finally sealed the deal for a M*A*S*H exit was the constant Gary/Radar confusion. People everywhere were addressing him by a name that wasn't his and expecting to greet a personality that belonged to a TV character. 

"We all have identities outside our work," said Burghoff. "If the only identity we have is what we do, then we're in big trouble — especially if we lose a job. Then we don't have an identity anymore." This was all, of course, easier said than done for a man who spent close to a decade as another man.

Luckily though, like a phoenix from the ashes, Gary Burghoff was born again. In more ways than one: He bounced back post-M*A*S*H with renewed faith, attributing his second act to religion. 

In the end, Gary Burghoff's story had a happy ending. Just don't call him Radar!

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17 Comments

timothys71 13 months ago
I believe Burghoff was the only M*A*S*H actor to play the same character in both the movie and the TV series.
Wiseguy70005 timothys71 13 months ago
G. Wood played General Hammond on both the movie and series. Also Timothy Brown and Corey Fischer appeared in both the movie and series but playing different parts.
Adanor 13 months ago
Anyone who has suffered burnout can commiserate and be sympathetic. And one surefire way to deal with it is to just leave before making fodder for the gossip columnists. So suddenly, "his uncle had passed and he had to go home and run the farm." and voila he was gone.
DocForbin 13 months ago
One of the things Burghoff did after M*A*S*H was being the narrator of a TV special entitled "The Invisible Children", which was about disabled children. At the end of the special Burghoff did the "This is the church, this is the steeple" bit and you can clearly see the short fingers he has on his left hand.
AnnieM 13 months ago
I wonder if he still paints. For years I wished I could get one of his wildlife prints; now that I'm older and can afford one, they're nowhere to be found. Oh well. 🤷🏻‍♀️
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13 months ago
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LoveMETV22 13 months ago
"Without Wiseguys Annoying Comment !!!!!!!!!! "
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Would that be this comment? :

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Seems you deleted whatever pic or comment it was sent to originally.
Looks like a question, in simple terms, not to overstate it.
But, if you found it " Annoying" that's your prerogative.
13 months ago
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13 months ago
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LoveMETV22 13 months ago
" In the end, Gary Burghoff's story had a happy ending. "𝗝𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗵𝗶𝗺 𝗥𝗮𝗱𝗮𝗿!"
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But wait....
Have to wonder, when Leslie Nielsen was enjoying time outside his work, if people were addressing him by a name that wasn't his.

LoveMETV22 13 months ago
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Billreick LoveMETV22 13 months ago
Shirley he'd hear it time to time.
Runeshaper 13 months ago
From what I read, it seems like a lot of actors and actresses have faced similar circumstances, but I bet they miss being greeted by people if the time comes that they are not as famous anymore. 🤷‍♂️
LoveMETV22 13 months ago
Loved the teddy bear and Radar's love for animals. Good for him for making the choice(s) that worked best for him.
Andybandit 13 months ago
Good for him that he got into fishing, and owned a fish farm. I think, I could be wrong.
cperrynaples 13 months ago
Not only did Burghoff did 2 episodes of AfterMASH, he did an unsold pilot called W*A*L*T*E*R!
Zip cperrynaples 13 months ago
This might put me in a minority, but I actually liked the W*A*L*T*E*R pilot and would have been interested in seeing more of it.
Coldnorth Zip 13 months ago
Didn’t know that pooled existed. You learn so much in here. Trivia of sorts
Moverfan cperrynaples 13 months ago
Two episodes? I only remember one. He wrote to Potter and the letter gave the impression he and his mom were about to lose their farm. When he came to visit, everybody fussed...only to find out the government was paying him NOT to grow certain crops (or maybe any crops--hey, it's been forty years!) and he and his mom were doing just fine, thank you.
Wiseguy70005 Moverfan 13 months ago
Burghoff was in two episodes "Yours Truly, Max Klinger," and "It Had to Be You." Perhaps because they were shown on Jan 16 and Jan 23, 1984, perhaps as a two-parter, it only seems like it was one episode.
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