Larry Linville thought the M*A*S*H finale was ''boring''

The "ferret-face" actor prefers rewatching a different M*A*S*H episode.

In the first season of M*A*S*H, Frank Burns has some villain vibes, painted in early episodes as foil to Hawkeye, the series hero. Whenever those two were at odds, audiences were rarely on Frank’s side.

In the first season episode "Sticky Wicket," for example, Hawkeye and Frank are at odds after Hawkeye insults Frank’s surgical skills and Frank ridicules Hawkeye over an unfortunate patient situation.

On the show, Frank Burns sticks around for five seasons before the actor behind the character, Larry Linville, decided his time trading barbs with Hawkeye was done.

And though Linville never had any regrets about leaving the series, in 1986, he once again proved himself a villain in the eyes of M*A*S*H fans when the character actor gave The News and Observer a three-word review of the show’s most-watched episode, the series finale.

"Boring as hell," Linville said.

In the interview, Linville declared that the best episode of M*A*S*H was not its last episode, but an episode from the first season: "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet."

This episode is a favorite of classic TV fans because it guest stars Ron Howard, but for Linville, the episode was special for a different reason.

Linville said when they were filming the episode, he ended up giving notes to Hawkeye that changed the way Hawkeye behaves in a scene where he loses one of his oldest friends on the operating table.

Originally, Hawkeye was supposed to storm out of the O.R. in tears, but Linville suggested that instead Hawkeye be ordered to work on another patient.

Linville preferred the drama of episodes like "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" to the final note of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," which features less drama in favor of providing closure.

In interviews, Alan Alda has said that the only reason he wanted to do a final season was to do this finale episode.

His tender scene with Mike Farrell at the episode’s end likely packs more meaning for him personally than for Linville, who was by that time six years removed from the series.

Alda was also more involved than Linville in writing for the series as it stretched on.

But for Linville, in interviews, he expressed feeling detached from the show right from the beginning, so his detachment to the finale makes a certain sense, beyond any potential bias he might have in feeling it was "boring."

He only auditioned for the show because M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds asked him to, and when he signed on, he only expected to stick around a few weeks.

Instead, his character Frank Burns became notoriously popular for his slimy ways, and he stuck around for five years longer than Linville ever imagined the series lasting.

His negative view of the show apparently stuck around, too, from the first episode to the last.

"When the show began, we thought it was a disaster," Burns said. "We were on the shirttails of a brilliant motion picture. The public and critics thought we were going to be doing F-Troop. They were all over us; they hated us."

Perhaps Linville – whose character was sometimes portrayed as jealous on the show – envied how much more invested Alda was in the show by its finale, and possibly how much he earned.

In the Eighties, Alda became the highest-paid TV actor, pulling in $5.6 million a season on M*A*S*H, while Linville reported in 1986 that he’d only made $6,000 for his final episodes.

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TinaMarieHaddadRhodes 25 months ago
The Finale was not boring by any means but it did bother me that Hawkeye had a break down, he was usually the strong one. And the reason he did have a break down was more sadness than I wanted to see. I think they should of showed the chicken to get the point across but only had Sidney say about the baby not actually showed the baby. The only other thing I wish they would of done at the end was show the characters going home and seeing their loved ones if only for a brief 30 seconds each. But the finale was still amazing…
chrisjm13 26 months ago
I was a recent returnee(sp) from Vietnam when the movie M*A*S*H was released. I couldn’t watch it for some reason. Maybe it was a reference about the size of of stitches to be used ( fine for officers and wide for enlisted) I thought that was very insensitive so refused to watch it. That may have carried over to the TV series but looking back now, some 50 years later, I see the comedic aspect of it and constantly watch the series. As much as I liked LtCol Henry Blake, I think that Harry Morgan’s part as Col. Potter was better and better developed. He played a great commanding officer, and believe that of the 22 years that I was in the service, I had only one commander that had his style and concern for his troops under him.
I’d like to be notified when the last episode is scheduled to be broadcast again. I was out of the country for the last one so wasn’t able to see it.
iloveromance 28 months ago
I've only been watching MASH for about three years and I love it. Granted I don't love every episode and although I did enjoy the finale, it wasn't my favorite. I certainly didn't find it boring, though. I'm partial to the mid seasons like 4-6, although my plan is to watch them all eventually. My favorite character by far is Radar so one of my most favorite episodes is "Goodbye Radar". I was never a fan of Frank Burns at all, but I respect Larry Linville's opinion of the finale. It's rare to find a finale of any show that lives up to viewer's expectations; at least in my experience.
Antdawn111 28 months ago
MASH was brilliant tv in an era where tv was beginning to be taken seriously. I often thought that it was unfair that the Frank Burns character was not given the chance to grow or change as Margaret’s did in the later years. The shows producers and writers let an excellent actor in Larry Linville just walk away.
bagandwallyfan80 29 months ago
The Last Episode of Happy Days
FOLLOWING Happy Days Characters.Were Not Invited to
The Wedding of Joanie and
Chachi Arcola:
Either Gavan O'Herlihy or
Randolph Roberts
MOOSE:Barry Greenberg
MELVIN BELVIN:Scott Bernstein
Spike Fonzarelli:Danny Butch
WENDY:Misty Rowe
MARSHA SIMMS: Beatrice Colen
Trudy:Tita Bell
KC Cunningham Crystal Bernard
Flip Phillips Billy Warlock
harleydan 29 months ago
Love MASH. Love the characters! Love the actors! God bless them all!
Jimo 29 months ago
As a son of Fort Wayne,In.(Frank Burns hometown) Larry Linville played a great turd to the 4077...brilliant!
PulsarStargrave 29 months ago
I AGREE with Linville on this one. I usually watch the first hour up until the resolution of Hawkeye's final "flakeout" over the " noisy chicken"!

I'm mostly a fan of The BLAKE YEARS, especially SEASON TWO but a fairweather fan afterward, because Winchester made them bearable! I mised the dynamic. Linville had with LORETTA SWIT, once the writers separated their characters I thought the show started to take itself too seriously.
Pacificsun PulsarStargrave 29 months ago
That's very well said. Unless Houlihan was being a "nurse" or revealing a bit of her rare inner emotion, when Linville left, IMO she lost her footing too. Part of the problem happens whenever a series starts referencing a character we practically never see. They pulled it off in Cheers (with Vera) because they were one-shot funny lines. But (IMO) it was hard to sympathize with Hotlips regarding an off-site relationship. And the viewers have to care to make story arcs work. Yes, Winchester seemed to make the series interesting going forward since he was an atypical intelligent personality.

But a major thing we all need to give the series (creators) for is that it has given us plenty of conversation for all these years, love or disappointed in it. If a series is going to run that long on ANY network, it better have something to say one way or another.

Perhaps that's why it's there.
PDCougar 29 months ago
I've long felt that Larry Linville deserved some Emmy nominations for his portrayal of Frank Burns, for bringing something extra to that character and just staying so solidly consistent with his acting in perfectly defining Major Burns. Linville essentially portrayed the same type of character that John Larroquette earned several of those awards for on "Night Court."

Back in the spring of 1984, I wrote Linville a letter suggesting that he reach out to the "AfterMASH" people to come onto that program as the new administrator of the V.A. hospital for the 2nd season, since this would have created an interesting dynamic of Frank Burns now becoming in charge of Sherman Potter and allow his character to expand somewhere else. (Writer Ken Levine has since noted in his blog and on an interview that this possibility was actually considered during the show's 1st and 2nd seasons.) In his reply back to me, Linville wrote that my letter to him was "brilliantly perceptive" but that the key people from "M*A*S*H" were no longer involved in the new show "as is easily seen in the sequel."
Pacificsun PDCougar 29 months ago
What an extraordinary compliment of your initiative. And I totally agree. Productions rarely ever accept "unrepresented" creative suggestions (for legal reasons) and to hear back from the actor himself must've made you proud.

I do appreciate actors being consistent in their portrayal of characters. Not in a boring way of course. But in finding the right sparks to reveal a little something more about the role as it moves on!
Kenner 29 months ago
Actually, Larry Linville ‘preferred’ (not prefers, as the sub-title says) watching a different episode. He’s been dead for several years now. Hopefully he’s watching harp playing where he is now.
StrayCat 29 months ago
The MASH final episode was different to say the least. It was longer than it needed to be but wasn't entirely boring. That said, the way it's presented today constantly being interrupted with all the cast comments does indeed make it boring. The MASH final episode should have been shown without all the comments and remembrances.
Mrusso 29 months ago
I do agree with that, coming from Larry Linville. I always thought the best season was by far their first season. I wish that Wayne Rogers, Larry Linville and McLean Stevenson would’ve hung out for the next 10 seasons
The last episode had its pros and cons, there were some good twists but the episode seemed to draw out the storyline longer than it should’ve been.

It just appeared that when you have that closeness to each other, you don’t want it to end.

Still an iconic show to watch, MeTV has better shows on now from decades past then current TV shows, sitcoms
ma2lyssa Mrusso 29 months ago
I agree with you. My husband and I often say we prefer the Henry/Trapper/Frank episodes. I happen to find BJ very bland.
K ma2lyssa 28 months ago
I was never a fan of Mike Farrell's portrayal of Honeycutt. He did better acting after MASH.
Liplager 29 months ago
The greatest series ever made on television, with the most disappointing ending. Whilst MASH became more drama orientated as the series got older, the finale should have been blended with a bit more slapstick to pay homage to the earlier episodes, after all it was slapstick comedy that got the show off the ground in the first place. I still choke up at the ending, because it was an 11 year relationship with the show and some of it's characters, but as said before me, Hawkeye as a mental patient was dragged on and the finale lost a bit of it's personality. I think Alan just got a bit to serious, and he forgot about laughter.
CouchPotato19 29 months ago
I found that entire series to be boring. Never watched since those days. Just not interested.
David CouchPotato19 29 months ago
W-H-A-T the ---- are you TALKING ABOUT?????!!!!! Are you ok?
rikkirat 29 months ago
I agree with Larry “Major Frank Burns” Linville. I liked getting closure on the series, but it was long and boring.
MaryAnnArlotta 29 months ago
The MASH finale, I couldn't see Hawkeye as a mental patient. With all he got thru during the series, he shouldn't have carried that burden. He was known for his surgical excellence, he didn't need that drama for the finale.
F5Twitster 29 months ago
"Linville said when they were filming the episode, he ended up giving notes to Hawkeye that changed the way Hawkeye behaves in a scene where he loses one of his oldest friends on the operating table."

You mean he ended up giving notes to Alan Alda, not to Alda's character.

As for

"In interviews, Alan Alda has said that the only reason he wanted to do a final season was to do this finale episode."

That's a pretty ridiculous way of phrasing it: the show had to have a final season, whichever season it was. When the show ended, THAT would've been its final season.

Regarding Linville's opinion of the show's finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," he was essentially correct: the extended episode was tedious and not a worthy conclusion to the series, BUT his view may have been affected by the inescapable fact that Frank Burns was replaced as Hawkeye/Trapper's/B.J.'s foil by the more nuanced character of Charles Winchester, played by a more nuanced and skilled actor, David Ogden Steiers, and that the only real feeling generated by the show's finale was in the subplot featuring Charles and the North Korean musicians.

The unfirtunate and inconvenient (for Linville) fact is that Frank Burns was as one-dimensional as a character can be, and that Linville did not, or could not, elevate Frank beyond the simple self-absorbed scoundrel as conceived in the show's scripts.
PulsarStargrave F5Twitster 29 months ago
ALL the characters were fleshed out and given more to do AFTER the departures of Stevenson, Linville and Rogers, that was to Ogden Steiers benefit not because of any skill deficiencies from Linville.
K F5Twitster 28 months ago
Your point is a fair one about the "final season". They should have said an "11th and final season". Many series have a final season, but don't get to plan it as the final season.
MaryPineda 29 months ago
I wasn't that fond of the finale, either. Though I didn't think it was boring.. In fact, the whole last season was a let down with Hawkeye having a mental breakdown.
PulsarStargrave MaryPineda 29 months ago
I remember Hawkeye's having a few near breakdowns leading up to the finale, but he never got a discharge!
MichaelFields 29 months ago
I have to agree with him, it seems to rushed in spots and like they just had extra footage from the years filming they threw in,there was a fire so they had to move out, then the fire was out and they moved back to the same spot all within 5 minutes, the chicken part I think could have been taken out as it was just morbid and I think a better way to show Hawkeye losing his sanity would have been something he was directly involved in like one of the mash members hurt or a friend from his hometown coming to see him on his way back to the states with a limb missing, something that would affect him personally, and if you look BJ on his ride down the hill looks like he almost killed himself by riding to fast. But that is something else. But just the end part where everyone says goodbye was good and sad but 80% of it was not that great
57Tbird 29 months ago
I didn't like it. They could have had actors and actresses who appeared during the 11 seasons. A curtain call for them. Edward Winter as Flagg. Richard Lee-Sung who was the wood worker farmer "That's me!" Rosie and her bar. They missed big time.
K 57Tbird 28 months ago
Seinfeld did that, and it was still considered a disappointment by many.
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