This television series, set during the Korean War, lasted eleven seasons. The actual Korean War lasted only three years.
While most of the characters from the movie carried over to the series, only three actors appeared in both: Gary Burghoff (Radar O'Reilly) and G. Wood (General Hammond) reprized their movie roles in the series (though Wood appeared in only three episodes). Timothy Brown (credited as "Tim Brown") played "Cpl. Judson" in the movie and Spearchucker Jones in series.
Throughout the run of the series, any "generic" nurses (nurse characters who had a line or two, but were minor supporting characters otherwise) were generally given the names "Nurse Able", "Nurse Baker", or "Nurse Charlie". These names stem from the phonetic alphabet used by the military and HAM operators at the time. During the time period of the Korean War, the letters A, B, and C in the phonetic alphabet were Able, Baker, and Charlie (since then, the standard has been updated, and A and B are now Alpha and Bravo). In later seasons, it became more common for a real character name to be created, especially as several of the nurse actors became semi-regulars. For example, Kellye Nakahara played both "Able" and "Charlie" characters in season three before becoming the semi-regular "Nurse Kellye"; on the other hand, Judy Farrell (then Mrs. Mike Farrell) played Nurse Able in eight episodes, including the series finale.
By the time the series ended, three of the regulars were promoted: Klinger (Jamie Farr) from Corporal to Sergeant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) from Lieutenant to Captain. Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel when he was shipped back to the US following Margaret's marriage. (Farr and Christopher also saw their names move from the closing credits of the show, to the opening credits.) Radar O'Reilly was temporarily promoted to Second Lieutenant, but disliked officer's duties, and asked Hawkeye and B.J. to "bust" him back to Corporal. Samuel Flagg (Edward Winter), the paranoid intelligence officer, was a Lieutenant Colonel for the first three seasons of the series, but had been promoted to full Colonel by the fourth season.
It was Mike Farrell who asked to have his character's daughter's name be Erin, after his real-life daughter (the character's name was originally going to be Melissa). When BJ spoke on the telephone on-camera, Erin or his then-wife Judy were on the other end.
Radar's teddy bear, once housed at the Smithsonian, was sold at auction July 29, 2005, for $11,800. (It was originally found on the Fox Ranch, where the series was filmed, and became part of the show.)
Hawkeye's home town is Crabapple Cove, Maine (the only home town of the characters that is fictitious.) However, in "Dear Dad," Hawkeye mentions the family home in Vermont; in "The Late Captain Pierce", Hawkeye tells Klinger that Crabapple Cove is where his family summers; in "The Party", he says that his father hasn't left Crabapple Cove in years; in "Hawk's Nightmare", he says that his father was born in Crabapple Cove, and has never left.
The baseball cap worn by Klinger (and on occasion, Col. Potter), starting in the eighth season is supposed to be a Toledo Mud Hens cap, but it is actually a Texas Rangers cap, that the Rangers wore in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Col. Potter's Horse Sophie is played by several different horses in several different episodes. In many cases Sophie, a mare, is in fact played by a male horse.
Tom Skerritt was approached to reprise his role as Duke Forrest on the series but he declined, because he felt a TV version of the movie would be unsuccessful.
Lt. Col. Blake's daughter's names were Molly and Jane, and his son's name was Andy. Molly was seen in a home movie, and Jane and Andy spoke with Blake by telephone, in different episodes.
Col. Blake's alma mater was the University of Illinois. When word of this reached the university, a U of I sweater (of appropriate vintage) was donated to the show, and Blake can be seen wearing the blue sweater with a large orange "I" in several episodes. An orange mug with a blue "I" also appeared on his office desk.
Harry Morgan, who played Col. Potter, had an earlier guest appearance as a crazy General named Steele.
Col. Potter was from Hannibal, Missouri. (Some early episodes give his home as Nebraska.)
Col. Potter's horse was named Sophie. He gave Sophie to Sister Teresa's orphanage after the war ended, since he couldn't take her back to the States.
Jamie Farr and Alan Alda were the only two cast members to have actually served in the US Army in Korea. Both of them did their tours of duty after the 1953 cease fire.
Many of the actors from the cast appeared in a series of TV commercials for the IBM Personal Computer. Alan Alda also endorsed the Atari personal computer.
"M*A*S*H" stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.
McLean Stevenson, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake, died of a heart attack on 15 February 1996. The next day, 16 February, Roger Bowen, who played Lt. Col. Henry Blake in the movie, died of the same cause.
The character of Spearchucker, played by Timothy Brown, appeared in episodes 1, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 11 in the first season, until it was discovered that there were no Black surgeons in Korea at the time.
Edward Winter first appeared in the series as Halloran in "Deal Me Out", but went on to play Col. Flagg six times, although "Halloran" may have been one of Flagg's many aliases.
Gary Burghoff's left hand is slightly deformed, and he took great pains to hide or de-emphasize it during filming. He did this by always holding something (like a clipboard), or keeping that hand in his pocket.
All of the replacement characters (BJ, Col. Potter, and Charles) lasted longer then the characters they replaced (Trapper, Henry, and Frank).
Spouses: BJ: Peg Hayden; POTTER: Mildred; MARGARET: Donald Penobscot; KLINGER: Laverne Esposito/Soon Lee; HENRY: Mildred (Lorraine); BURNS: Louise; TRAPPER: Louise (Melanie); RIZZO: Zola; ZALE: Hillda; WINCHESTER: (unofficially) Donna Marie Parker
The filming location for the exteriors of the 4077 M*A*S*H camp is today known as Malibu Creek State Park in Malibu, California. Formerly called the Fox Ranch, and owned by 20th Century Fox Studios until the 1980s, the site today (early 2001) is overgrown with foliage, and marked by a rusted Jeep and an ambulance used in the show, as well as a small sign. The state park is open to the public. It was also the location where How Green Was My Valley and the Planet of the Apes TV series were filmed.
When the series was first going into production, the network wanted a laugh track (a sitcom staple), while the show's producers didn't. They compromised with a "chuckle track", played only occasionally. (DVD releases of the series mostly allow viewers a no-laugh-track option.) However, even the "chuckle track" -- it was agreed upon by all involved in the discussion -- would not ever be used during the scenes in the surgical tent.
When the series was shown in the UK, it didn't have a laugh track. Once, the BBC left it switched on by mistake and received a number of complaints that the intrusive canned laughter spoilt the show's atmosphere.
Alan Alda had a running guest appearance on the TV show ER in which he plays Dr. Gabriel Lawrence, who reminisces about being a doctor in a war.
Col. Henry Blake is from the central Illinois twin cities of Bloomington-Normal. McLean Stevenson, who played Blake, was born and raised in Bloomington-Normal (in McLean County).