MASH, was a great show for a lot of reasons. The actors, the writing the directors ect , but in my MASH was on a great successful path almost from day one, and it has a very crazy gamble when the ’74-’75 season ended. The show lost two of it’s most popular cast member’s of the show at the same time, and appear on there finial show at the same time. Which was MacLean Stevenson’s charachter finial show, and the writers, and producers had to scramble to fix this mess. MacLean There no special goodbyes or send offs for Wayne Rogers he abruptly because of a dispute regarding is role on the show, and just did not return for the 1975-1976 season.
So on the finial show of MacLean Stevenson, it was also the last show for Wayne Rogers, and the fall 1975 season began. It shows Hawkeye returning from Tokyo, and learning that Wayne Rogers character Trapper John McIntyre got all his point and was sent home. Well written, to explain his absence. Which was an easy fix. Its the Army at war in Korea, and people go home.
The big gamble was replacing Trapper with squeaky clean BJ Hunnicut family man, and all the above, young just out of medical school. The chemistry with Hawkeye and Trapper was very good, and to flip the chemistry was a major gamble that worked. The show was enormously popular so the flip in the show was something they could try.
Lets take it a step farther, we had to replace the Colonel with a veteran full bird Colonel with Henry Morgan veteran character actor from old Hollywood, this guy was kind of forgotten. The last major thing he did was Dragnet in the late 60’s; which ended in 1970; he was old school acting appearing in classic movies such as The Ox Bow Incident opposite Henry Fonda. High Noon with Gary Cooper, and a string of B movies along the way up to his MASH time.
The key to the show, as long as they had Alan Alda as there anchor, and kept him happy they could try these, and make these radical changes. The most wild thing about MASH the show was stingy, as long as MASH was on TV; from 1972 to 1983; there was not one spin off while the show was in its full run. The show Aftermash started the fall of ’83; and there was a very, very horrible show that never got past a pilot which was called WALTER.
Unlike all those great CBS Normal Lear show, like All In The Family, and Maude, he was all about the spin off. I think you just had some anger, with some departing cast mates of MASH, that kind of killed opportunities for Stevenson, and Rogers. Wayne Rogers did not fair well after MASH he did a show that lasted maybe 13 or 14 episodes called City Of Angels that debuted in the fall of 1976; Wayne Rogers started an investment company which were his wealth came from, but his TV career floundered, with a small spark in the 80’s with House Calls. The same pretty much went for MacLean Stevenson he did 3 very poor TV shows that came out back to back to back. He had The MacLean Stevenson Show 1977; In The Beginning 1978; and the worst of all Hello Larry 1979; but it was the only of the three shows that lasted a full season, and a few shows into 1980
In the following years other original cast member would leave. We lost Larry Linville, and Gary Burghoff, with the addition of David Ogden Stiers another risky move, but with the show in full swing in a new direction his add to the cast worked.
As the show got into the late 70’s; and it was getting kind of silly that a show about a war that only in real life lasted about 3 year, from 1950 to 1953; was dragging on about 7 season, and by 1982 10 seasons. It must have been getting harder and hard to write shows. Well that’s just me, MASH became a much serious show, by the late 70’s and early 80’s. A lot of the main stars of the original show are gone now. MacLean Stevens died in 1996; Wayne Rogers died 2015; and Larry Linville died in 2000
MASH when it first aired it did not do well. It was bounced around to several different days of the week, but with Alan Alda getting the spotlight it jumped in the ratings, and the rest is history. The MASH finale Goodbye Amen and Farewell which aired February 28, 1983 with 125 million viewers, I watched of course, was the most watch TV show ever. A record that will never probably be broken.