Gary Burghoff had to reshoot his final M*A*S*H moment

The actor who played Radar revealed his teary goodbye wasn't the first take

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution

Parting is such sweet sorrow. And in the case of Gary Burghoff, it's also a chance for a do-over.

For seven years, Burghoff was Radar, M*A*S*H's trusted second lieutenant (and later corporal) with extra-sensory paperwork-pushing prowess. In many ways, Radar was the show's beating heart. He was sweet, and maybe a little too innocent for the horrors of war. But aren't we all? The question posed is exactly why Radar's role is so important. There isn't much of an audience surrogate, what with all the battle-hardened seen-it-all doctors of the 4077th. So, Radar serves as the show's soft emotional center.

As the show went on, Burghoff saw less and less of his family. The demands of one of our country's most popular TV shows were many, and they were disruptive to what Burghoff wanted to be a quiet life spent with loved ones. So, as the show concluded its seventh season, Radar bid farewell in "Good-Bye Radar." 

Particularly, part 2 of the episode was to feature a teary send-off to both the character and the actor. As Burghoff recalls in the TV special M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television, he was as emotional as his onscreen counterpart. 

"I said to myself, what a wonderful moment, I can cry my eyes out and I can do this wonderful dramatic moment, I can just completely fall apart," said Burghoff.

"And the director said, 'If I were you, I would fight the tears.' And I said, 'No, no. Just let me do it, okay?'"

The actor got his way, but the emotional climax didn't pan out how he'd planned. 

"The next day, in dailies, I look at the screen and it's awful. I mean, it is just terrible," Burghoff recalled. "The director was right, I was wrong... I said, 'Please can I do this again?' And he said, 'Yes, you may.'"

It's funny to think about how many iconic TV moments come down to a series of decisions made by an actor day-of on the set. Luckily for viewers, M*A*S*H was in very good hands, and the creative powers continued to make excellent decisions until the show reached its finale. 

Watch M*A*S*H on MeTV!

Weeknights at 6 PM, Sundays at 7 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

9 Comments

Avie 8 days ago
"For seven years, Burghoff was Radar, M*A*S*H's trusted second lieutenant (and later corporal) with extra-sensory paperwork-pushing prowess."

"Second lieutenant?" Is that supposed to be clever, some kind of joke? Because, in a literal sense, Radar was never anything other than a corporal, NEVER an officer.
klt83 Avie 7 days ago
In "Lieutenant Radar O'Reilly, Radar was an officer. After a poker game, this Army personnel sergeant owed Hawkeye and B.J. money he couldn't pay. After they turned down his offer to be "promoted" to majors, Hawkeye and B.J. said they'd forgive the debt if he could get the paperwork to promote Rader to second lieutenant. Rader discovered he didn't like being an officer and asked to be returned to his old rank.
gmail 8 days ago
In regards to Radar, his final scenes is the way the Director wanted it.
Just like the Allegra commercial of the girl singing "Been there done that " people say she has an attitude and she nearly knocked a child down" well that's the way the Director and Allegra wanted it. Same with Radars final scenes!
djw1120 8 days ago
The problem with that is the fact that except for only one episode Radar was a Corporal.
That was when Hawkeye and BJ arranged for him to be promoted to a Second Lieutenant for "bugling" and "Near Sightedness" beyond the call of duty and then back to Corporal again.
Potter had said that his horse could bugle better than Radar did!
Yes, Radar kept up the daily, weekly and monthly reports pretty much to perfection, but that was the job of the "Company Clerk".
sagafrat69 9 days ago
It's like they're three different Radars during Burghoff's run. The Radar that Burghoff played in the movie, the teddy bear, animal loving, kind and gentle Radar during most of his run, and the mad and grouchy Radar we got in his farewell episode. Not one of my favorite episodes. I understand there was some turmoil with him behind the scenes. That " And Starring Gary Burghoff as Radar" credit always gives me a laugh. Not even close to being true. It was time for him to go which was really the first two episodes of season 8.
Eighties_Child 9 days ago
Unfortunately, the "farewell" episodes for Radar came off as a jarring mess. Burghoff seemed ticked off and miserable in every scene, as if someone was twisting his arm and forcing him against his will to film those few season 8 episodes. He barely wore his famous little "jeep cap"/beanie, his hair was like a disheveled rat's nest (instead of neatly slicked back, as was usually the case whenever he *wasn't* wearing his hat), and he even spoke in a lower-pitched voice the whole time. He didn't act like the lovable, innocent, naive Radar everyone loved at all—just cold, irascible, and stiff. And his final scene was anything but teary or emotional. When asked by the jeep driver "Are you ready to go, sir?" he just hatefully replied with a curt "Yeah" and rode off with a crabby scowl on his face, leaving viewers wondering, "What the heck did I just watch?!"

If an alternative take was indeed filmed in which Radar broke down in tears and had a more fitting, highly emotional send-off, it really needs to be released to help erase the bitterness of that awful second take! Until then, I prefer to consider the Season 7 finale as Radar's true final M.A.SH. appearance (the episode when B.J. succeeded in persuading everyone to contact their parents and arrange a big get-together of their families back in the States). That was a very sweet and special episode, and Radar was at his finest—the version we all know and love.
Rob Eighties_Child 8 days ago
I agree. I never cared for the way Radar acted in the farewell episode, it was so out of character.
He wanted to leave at the end of the eighth season but the producers resisted until they realized he was serious. So they finally wrote the four episodes in the ninth season that he appeared in. It took a while to film the two-parter perhaps because Burghoff wasn't available (the "Period of Adjustment" episode was filmed before "Goodbye Radar").
LabLove 9 days ago
Radar leaving his teddy bear on Hawkeyes bunk was very sweet.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?