3 Times the Cast of M.A.S.H. Gave You Chest Pains

From 1972 through 1983, the cast of M.A.S.H. laid siege to our television screens and left us laughing … pondering … weeping.

It was a classic that brought its share of heartbreak, what with its drawing from the savagery of war for subject matter and spending about half its run on Monday nights.

Monday nights are where hope goes to die, don’t you know.

But even beyond the inherently dark fodder the show brought to bear on a regular basis, it had a more insidious weapon of pain at its disposal — cast changes.

cast of M.A.S.H

I mean, the musical chairs began from the very start, with only Gary Burghoff making the transition from the 1970 movie to the sitcom.

But losing a Donald Sutherland here or a Sally Kellerman there was child’s play compared to what would happen to audiences during the 1970s and 1980s.

Cast came and went, and sometimes it was the biggies.

And we’re here to remember that heartbreak, so …

Hold onto your chest — here are three changes to the cast of M.A.S.H. that shook your/my/our world.

Maj. Frank Burns to Maj. Charles Winchester

Frank Burns spent five years as a whiny, smartass Major who was always butting heads with Hawkeye and Trapper/B.J.

Oh, and cheating on his wife with Hot Lips Houlihan.

He was a perfect foil, but actor Larry Linville decided he wanted to do bigger things (he didn’t), so the writers sent him into a tailspin, beginning with Hot Lips’ marriage.

That led Frank to a spectacular meltdown that landed him stateside for the long haul and opened a spot for …

Major Charles Winchester, played by David Ogden Stiers.

Winchester was way too good for the likes of the common Army docs around him, and he let everyone know about it.

It was a tough transition, but Winchester had his own battles with Beavis and Butt-Head, and he eventually carved out his own place in the 4077th.

So … who was the better villain? Definitely Hawkeye.

Just ask Frank or Charles!

Capt. ‘Trapper John’ McIntyre to Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt

So, in order to make it through war with any sort of dignity and humor intact, you gotta have a buddy.

And, right from the beginning, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) were tied at the quip … er, hip.

But then, Rogers started feeling a little sore about playing second fiddle to Alda, and he left — Trapper was discharged.

Happy day for him!

Terrible day for fans.

The Dynamic Duo was dead.

In came B.J. Hunnicutt, whose first name undoubtedly rankled more than a few adults who got it.

How could this smirky, smug, self-important dude ever measure up to Trapper? And how would Hawkeye ever even get along with another alpha, let alone adopt him as a buddy?

Never!

And it was rough going at first, as the two dudes stumbled around their rhythm and chemistry, but before long, they were replacing Frank’s breath mints with rat poison and dipping Charles’ undershorts in sulfuric acid and …

Well, all was right with the world again.

Lt. Col. Henry Blake to Col. Sherman T. Potter

Now, the losses of Frank and Trapper were tough to take.

Beloved characters shipped back to the U.S.. But, hey, maybe we’d see them again someday.

When it came time for McLean Stevenson to leave the show, though, the writers got vicious.

See, Colonel Blake was going home, too.

And in the last episode of the season in 1975. It was a time for celebration, reflection. Maybe a few tears.

But it was all good. You know, reunion shows and all that.

Except …

Except …

EXCEPT …

Not too long after Blake’s helicopter left to get him headed America-way, Radar came into the surgical tent to announce that Blake’s plane had gone down in the Sea of Japan.

All dead.

Bastards.

So, really, Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) didn’t stand a chance.

Sure, he was a sort of lovable old cantank, but he didn’t have the goofy gravitas of Blake, especially with Blake’s splat hanging over the show.

Potter grew into a cherished member of the crew in his own right, but he was never a heart and soul like Blake was.

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