Jamie Farr on M*A*S*H cast shakeups

"The two we could have lost without hurting the show are the two we did lose."

Folks, we love a good unit.

When people set aside differences in pursuit of a common goal? That's the sweet stuff, right there. Individuals of all different backgrounds coming together to better the collective? Mama Mia, chef's kiss.

Imagine, now, the acrobatics that it would take to put together an effective team in Hollywood. That town's got ego flowing through its pipes. So picture how much delicate people management it would take to put together a group of actors with genuine chemistry. That's the gold that M*A*S*H producers struck when they cast their show. The M*A*S*H cast was so perfectly calibrated for heart and comedy. It was unbelievable. 

However, even the most finely tuned plans are subject to change. After three seasons, a few of the show's heavy hitters left for greener pastures. Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson, not content to share the limelight with Alan Alda, exited M*A*S*H to try their hand at other projects. These real-life moves of course had repercussions in the fictional television world, as those actors' characters had to be written out of the show. "Trapper" John McIntyre and Col. Henry Blake were written off, and Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan joined the cast.

Jamie Farr, the show's Cpl. Klinger was upgraded from a recurring guest to a starring role. In 1975, Farr spoke with the Lexington Herald about the various comings and goings.

"I think of all the characters in M*A*S*H the two we could have lost without hurting the show are the two we did lose," said Farr. "Not that they didn't contribute to the program, but one is a company commander which you can replace because he does not have an integral part of each program. And you can get someone who is similar to take that post, someone who will tolerate the antics for a reason."

"The reason for Harry Morgan is that he has two years to go and he doesn't want to make waves. He, more or less, accepts what goes on in the camp because he wants to retire.

Mike Farrell is somewhat like Trapper, er, Wayne Rogers, a doctor who has been in the Army a short time and never seen action. As a character, he has some growth yet. He's seeing what is happening and you are getting a reaction from his point of view. And we are the veterans and have seen it. It's an extra element to the show."

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

11 Comments

WordsmithWorks 7 months ago
The show could have done without the Klinger character. Never was a big fan of the "one of the gang" Klinger.
Are you kidding?! Klinger MADE the show! He was the one who kept it a comedy when Alan Alda turned into Soapbox Sam
sagafrat69 7 months ago
Alan Alda was the absolute star of that show. If Alda had decided for whatever reason to leave the show after seasons 5,6, or 7 etc ( that would've been it. The show would not have survived without him. The audience would not have accepted a show without Hawkeye. That's how much power he had not only in front of the camera but behind it. It's why they survived so many cast changes, producers and writers. The one constant that stayed with the show was Alda.
Pacificsun 7 months ago
There isn't character (role) in any recurring Series who ultimately can't be replaced. Alan Alda intentionally embedded himself in MASH. Not because he "couldn't" be replaced. But because he became a creative consultant in support of the Writers. Who eventually run out of storylines and can always use the help. Carroll O'Connor couldn't be because the premise was built for him, both as a unique character and as a personality intrinsic to the actor. Even when watching In the Heat of the Night, you can visualize a benign Archie Bunker.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 7 months ago
How true.... I had commented in another thread and jmo. any series/any genre can/does change up cast for various reasons. That doesn't necessarily translate to future success of that series. M*A*S*H and AITF are good examples.

With M*A*S*H, Alda (despite the scuttlebutt) was a major contributor both on and off screen,probably one reason he remained.

Carroll O'Connor despite his disagreeing with Norman Lear on many aspects of that series, remained throughout that series.

Studios/Production Companies, play a delicate balancing act or walk the tightrope so to say, with various actors. They know when they have gold and when the end of the day comes it's all about
💲💲simply said.

Pacificsun LoveMETV22 7 months ago
Good to hear (read) from you. Well said!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 7 months ago
Awww thanks. But you brought up good examples to start. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 7 months ago
What about Frank Burns and Radar O'Reilly? They left the show in later seasons. Frank was replaced by Charles Emerson Winchester III, who was pompous but not as nasty as Frank, and Radar was replaced by Klinger, who was already a cast member.
Farr's comments were made in 1975, before those departures.
Yep, and he said Harry Morgan would only do 2 years! Not only would he stay on for 8, he joined Jamie on AfterMASH!
HGN2001 cperrynaples 7 months ago
I think Jamie Farr was referring to the character - Col. Potter - having 18 months of needed service time until his retirement. It's mentioned in his first episode.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?