Mike Farrell on his feelings about Alan Alda upon their first meeting

Were the two as close as B.J. and Hawkeye?

There were issues renegotiating Wayne Rogers' M*A*S*H contract as early as the show's second season. While Trapper John would remain with the series through the following year, there were widespread rumors regarding his discontent throughout Hollywood. But, what may have seemed like an impending disaster for the M*A*S*H producers was a huge opportunity for actor Mike Farrell.

It was a tricky situation. At first, the news of Trapper John's departure was just a rumor. But there were some serious inquiries into Mike Farrell's interest in joining the show. The matter was further complicated because Farrell was then under contract with Universal Studios. 

Things changed, though, the following year, when Rogers made his intentions to leave clear. Farrell's agent told his client the news, asking if Farrell would be interested in pursuing a new role on the already-successful series. The interest was mutual, and so both parties, Fox and Farrell, entered discussions about him joining the show.

One of the most crucial components of the conversations that followed was whether or not Farrell could successfully share the screen with Alan Alda. As M*A*S*H entered its fourth season, the show continued to grow in focusing more on Hawkeye Pierce specifically. Alda needed an onscreen partner with whom he could develop a clear, natural chemistry. Luckily, Farrell was the perfect choice,

In his 2008 autobiography, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist, Mike Farrell explained what it was like getting to know his new onscreen bestie, Alan Alda. Specifically, Farrell wrote about the day his agent confirmed that the part of B.J. Hunnicut was secured.

"That same afternoon I got a call from Alan Alda, asking if I could meet him for dinner that night to give us a chance to get to know each other and talk about the show, the characters, and the future. We ate at a Chinese restaurant in Hollywood, and I pretended I wasn't nervous as we talked and laughed and ate until well into the night.

"And at some point, I stopped being nervous. 'This is a nice man,' I kept thinking. 'He didn't have to do this.' Of course, it could just be good business to warm me up this way, but it was soon clear that it wasn't business.

"The guy really cared about the show and the characters. He wanted the relationships to mean something, and he wanted the show to succeed. And not just with good ratings and awards, though there's nothing wrong with that; he wanted the show to succeed by honestly and honorably exploring the lives and relationships of the real people who had been in this terrible situation, while at the same time entertaining the audience."

Farrell's initial impression of Alda proved to be rooted in truth. The pair had an all-time great onscreen rapport. While Trapper John was great, it's clear that Farrell was born to star in M*A*S*H opposite Alan Alda.


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16 Comments

KellyO 3 months ago
I liked the BJ character, as well as my favorite, Sherman T. Potter. After rewatching the series I find I still never liked Trapper or the first 3 seasons. From 4 on it was much better with good character development. Surprised at all the criticism of the final seasons. To each their own opinion.
John 3 months ago
I'm probably in the minority but I think the real MASH died on that plane with Henry Blake. It turned into the Hekyll and Jekyll show with Farrell and Alda.
The constant bantered proved very annoying
KellyO John 3 months ago
I am the total opposite. I much prefer the later episodes with no Frank or Trapper. To each their own.
sagafrat69 3 months ago
Seasons 1 thru 4 look pretty much the same in terms of quality and style. That's with all the cast changes in season 4. Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds were the two major losses in the show's history, not necessarily any particular actor. The show started downhill after season 4 with Gelbarts departure and after Reynolds exit after season 5. Losing Linville did turn out to be a major loss for the comedy in the show. Winchester was only the antagonist for a brief time and then the new writers couldn't keep up with that premise. So many changes with writers and producers over the years brought the show down to a real low with the shockingly unfunny series finale. Also, Alda was the one who told Farrell to grow that stupid mustache. We have the great episodes before lip hair and the bad episodes with the stache. Should've grown that mustache for Vietnam. Also, David Ogden Stiers is the only cast member to not work with Gelbart or Reynolds.
KellyO sagafrat69 3 months ago
I just rewatched the whole series while recovering from a medical thing. I way prefer the latter seasons with Harry Morgan. I like that the Margaret character developed and wasn’t such a raging harpy with that boring Frank. Everyone has an opinion.
Mycarr 3 months ago
Altough I watched every episode dozens of times, I prefer the first 3 seasons by far. The show became much too political and not nearly as funny. I was shocked that it lasted 11 seasons. The reason it took so long to catch on was it's time slot. 0nce it hit syndication, people watched seasons 1-3 over and over. Then they started tuning in to the newer episodes to see the characters develop. The show became a drama and the humour was gone!
McGillahooala 3 months ago
Mike Farrell was under contract with Universal? Wow, maybe I’m under contract with somebody. I really didn’t know the guy did anything but the less desirable episodes of MASH and some urban version of the Waltons a few decades later.
Andybandit 3 months ago
I probably the only one, who liked BJ on MASH. He was my favorite MASH character.
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KellyO Mycarr 3 months ago
I disagree entirely. Surprised at all the criticism of the matter seasons.
KellyO McGillahooala 3 months ago
Actually not. Why be rude?
KellyO Andybandit 3 months ago
I prefer the later seasons and liked the BJ character a lot. My favorite was Sherman Potter.
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