Gary Burghoff's departure meant fewer dresses for Klinger
Cast changes meant wardrobe changes, too.
M*A*S*H very quickly established itself as a series with a revolving door of actors. The show's cast seemed to play musical chairs every season. Who was staying? Who was leaving? Over the course of its 11 seasons, M*A*S*H may have lasted longer than the actual Korean War, but a lot of its contracts did not.
One of the most notable changes in the show's cast was Radar's departure from the show. After the eighth season, Gary Burghoff decided he'd had enough of M*A*S*H. The public had not, though, and so the series went on without him. Walter "Radar" O'Reilly was granted a hardship discharge following the death of his Uncle Ed. America's favorite military mail deliverer was written off the show, and Burghoff rode off into the sunset.
But, like a script-altering butterfly effect, the change in casting didn't start and end with Burghoff. The character was super popular, and Radar played a crucial role in many of the stories he appeared in. He was funny, he was helpful, and he was the heart and soul of the 4077th, bringing a much-needed Midwestern naivete to offset any war-hardened apathy. So, when Radar was discharged, he left behind a vacuum.
In 1979, M*A*S*H executive producer Burt Metcalfe spoke with the Chicago Tribune about the ways the show changed in the wake of Burghoff's departure.
Metcalfe cited very few expected changes, noting that the show's core rested on Hawkeye's shoulders. However, he was aware that, for the sake of practicality, someone would have to take over a lot of Radar's duties. The vacuum, it seemed, would be filled by Jamie Farr's Klinger. This meant that audiences would have to take the character a little more seriously, as he became responsible for a lot of what made the 4077th run smoothly.
Specifically, Metcalfe said that Klinger would wear women's clothes less often "because he'll get caught up in the importance of his new job.
"All of a sudden, he's amounting to something. It beats doing KP and guard duty. Also, we'll see more of his Toledo background as a former juvenile delinquent come to the fore. It'll be a nice change for Klinger. He'll continue to do the clothes bit once in a while, but it won't be as big a part of his personality."