The TV classic M*A*S*H was about the doctors and staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea in the early 1950s. In order to cope with the stresses of war, the gang often resorted to hijinks, frivolity and petty rivalries when off-duty. The run of this edgy “dramedy” lasted three times as long as the real life Korean War did, and became one of the highest rated television programs of all time. Think you know everything there is to know about the acclaimed sitcom? Here are some behind-the-scenes things that the producers of the show never wanted you to know.
1. Max Klinger was supposed to be gay
The character Corporal Maxwell Klinger, played by Jamie Farr, was originally written as a gay character who was to appear in just a single episode. But then they changed the character to a straight guy who was trying to get himself discharged by pretending to be a cross-dresser. This seemed to work with the audience and the role was extended to 215 episodes. Once the character had been promoted, however, they dropped the cross-dressing shtick.
2. That awkward laugh track
When the show first aired, CBS required that it use a laugh track, even though the producers and actors didn’t want it. Funny as the show was, it always seemed out-of-place to have canned laughter out there near the front lines of a war. However, studio audiences were the norm back then and all comedies had laughter in it to highlight the jokes – a holdover from radio days. The network felt that viewers wouldn’t know it was supposed to be a comedy without it. Producers negotiated that the laugh track would never be used in the operating room. As the series went on, they toned it down significantly. It was still poignant and funny without the overt “ha-has.” If you watch the DVD version of MASH, you can opt to turn off the fake laugh track and it really makes a difference to the impact of the material.
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