Mike Farrell said B.J. was more likable than Trapper John

Looks like we’ve got a popularity contest in the 4077th!

"One of the first things you learn out here is insanity is no worse than the common cold," Hawkeye tells B.J. the moment he arrives at camp in the fourth-season M*A*S*H opener "Welcome to Korea."

B.J. has no snappy retort ready to zip off. All he does is smile a tight-lipped, conservative grin and grunt, "Hmm," as if Hawkeye's joke has given the new captain something to think about.

When B.J. Hunnicutt replaced Trapper John on M*A*S*H, nobody knew what to expect from this new character, not the audience and not even Mike Farrell, the actor cast to play B.J. And this first scene betrayed no hint of how the character would evolve.

"The role is going great and is getting better," Farrell told The Indianapolis Star in 1975. He said the character was meant to be an "easy-going new Army inductee" whose attitude gradually changes as he settles into camp.

M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds said it was disappointing saying goodbye to Wayne Rogers and losing Trapper John, but that he didn't view adding new characters to the show as gambling with the cast's chemistry. He saw it as a chance to add even more dimension to the already dynamic cast.

"The introduction of new cast members gives a chance to re-examine the relationships and create new ones," Reynolds told The Miami Herald in 1975. "New people can be an advantage to a show."

Jamie Farr agreed that the fourth season was a turning point on the show that allowed for new growth, in particular through the eyes of Farrell's new character, B.J. Hunnicutt.

"Mike Farrell is somewhat like Trapper," Farr told The Lexington Herald in 1975, explaining that B.J. is "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 of the show."

Before B.J.'s first episode aired, however, the pressure was on, and as evidenced by The Miami Herald's preview piece, not everybody in the audience knew what to expect or even want from the new captain:

"M*A*S*H's large and devoted TV audience will expect Mike Farrell, as B.J., to be every bit as hilarious as Wayne Rogers (Trapper) was for three years," the critic Bob Thomas wrote.

But Farrell had a different, more subdued kind of character in mind. He told Thomas that if B.J. was written to be just a knock-off version of Trapper John, he strongly felt he could not have taken the part in the show.

Instead, Farrell told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 that he was excited to play B.J. as "a softer guy than Trapper, not so hard in edge and hopefully more likable, who wants to put in his Army time as constructive as possible."

Once Farrell joined M*A*S*H, he told The Indianapolis Star that, "It was a little tough to get into the role."

In particular, he struggled with the show's humor, which must've felt extra-stressful considering Wayne Rogers' portrayal of Trapper John was celebrated for the humorous banter between him and Hawkeye that consistently kept crowds tuned in.

"The keynote of M*A*S*H comedy is understatement," Farrell said. "And I'm discovering that the subtleties of this kind of humor take a while to master. I consider the series creator, Larry Gelbart, a true genius."

Of course, we all know how this story ends, with one of the most-watched TV finales of all time that hung its hat on how much audiences cherished the bond between B.J. and Hawkeye.

What do you think? Did Farrell achieve his goal of making B.J. more likable than the very popular Trapper John?

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?


Blcakandwhitetvfan 1 month ago
I don't like one character more than another, they were different. Frank was just as funny as Charles and vice versa. BJ was BJ and Trapper was Trapper.
BruceBeckwith 19 months ago
Trapper over BJ. Trapper wasn't the big baby BJ was. BJ was in country for eleven moths and acted as if he'd been there for 100 years.
Dixon 37 months ago
Never liked Alan Alda - he was not funny at all and too anti-military. Same with Mike Farrell. Wayne Rogers the best!! Never watched it after he left.
Dixon 36 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Tommygunz 37 months ago
The funniest person on the show was Klinger hands down, Hawkeye was more of a sarcastic type of humor, but was definitely the fan favorite, followed by Frank Burns. Let’s not forget everyone’s hated favorite character, Colonel Flagg or whoever his undercover name was at that moment, I really enjoyed the episodes he was in.
Plundy11 37 months ago
I enjoyed BJ far more than Trapper. Liked both, but the contrast between Hawkeye and BJ was much smoother. Also, Mike Farrell is a much better actor than Wayne Rogers.
ASperos 37 months ago
I liked Trapper better than BJ. I thought he was funnier!
ASperos 36 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Corey 38 months ago
The writers especially after the Gene Reynolds Larry Gelbart era focused on the characters instead of the anti war comedy of the first three seasons. Trapper John was a sidekick to Hawkeye and they never really established him. Wayne Rogers got tired on how his character was portrayed as a womanizer instead of a family man.
Corey 37 months ago
This comment has been removed.
DebraLouiseRobinson 38 months ago
Love Mash B.J is better
DebraLouiseRobinson 37 months ago
This comment has been removed.
I agree, BJ was much better than Trapper.
lmahabhashyam 38 months ago
Trapper was a funny comic but was like Henry Blake what happens in Korea stays in Korea or Tokyo when they had some R&R. But BJ showed a side of fidelity as did Potter and yet still had a practical joke or two up his sleeve. The best part it showed a multi dimensional group of tired stressed men and women who worked in horrible conditions doing amazing things. And it’s because of the multi dimensional characters that made the show so believable and so long lasting. I don’t have a better or worse time in the show’s history it evolved and changed and gave a view of how different personalities came together did their job and made it home without hopefully becoming a complete basket case and yet as the finale show’s nobody went home without being permanently changed forever.
Dan 38 months ago
I think he meant to say BJ was more insufferable any character on the show
WilliamThomas 38 months ago
The roles are dissimilar. Wayne Rogers (my personal favorite) saw the writing on the wall and bowed out . B J. was a sidekick from inception .
denny 38 months ago
Trapper fan here, one can only take so much of BJ whining over PEG.
tweezer 38 months ago
Yes, but, Trapper, was only on a few seasons. BJ, had time to grow into the part. Tweezer.
TheDavBow3 38 months ago
Yep, the earlier one's are, by far, the best! And we can't forget about Frank. He was a scream!! Trapper, Blake and Frank were the best. Btw, Hawkeye always sniffing his food got old and annoying.
Michael 38 months ago
And yet, the show kept going, and it lasted longer than with the original cast.

So everyone hated the episodes after 1974, but they still kept the series going until 1983?
Michael 37 months ago
This comment has been removed.
SteveKurt 38 months ago
Sorry Mike/B.J./MeTV - looks like Trapper, OVERWHELMINGLY, gets the nod! Trapper was good; shouldn't have had to play 2nd fiddle to Hawkeye(that's Alda's ego and powe-play, I'm sure). B.J. was okay, at best; and did fine playing 2nd fiddle to the stronget character!
CelticTwilight SteveKurt 38 months ago
Trapper was a loser who was quickly forgotten by most fans.
SteveKurt 37 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Peter CelticTwilight 37 months ago
Huh? What? Celtic - Opinion not fact.
musicman37 t 37 months ago
My favorite Trapper quip: in "Requiem For A Lightweight", when Trapper is "in training" for the big fight to get back Nurse Cutler, during one scene he's punching a bag clearly belonging to Major Burns. When Margaret comes by, she observes, "Wait a minute - isn't that Frank's bag?" to which Trapper retorts, "I thought YOU were Frank's bag!". The line gets me every time!
CelticTwilight 36 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?