Some of M*A*S*H's best ad-lib moments were a byproduct of trust between cast and crew

'There are very few series that had ad-lib shows, most of them were always written, but they trusted the actors in it.'

There is no denying the amount of chemistry the highly-acclaimed actors of M*A*S*H portrayed throughout the show's 11 seasons. Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, Larry Linville, Wayne Rogers, Mike Farrell and others who played critical roles on the show are the ones who made it all come together. 

Every hit show needs a strong group of writers, producers and directors too. M*A*S*H had no shortage in any category, as lead writer and co-creator Larry Gelbart gave plenty of creative freedom to the other writers and the cast members themselves.

Within the series we know Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce, but he went beyond the lead role as well. Alda has 32 directing and 18 writing credits to his name for his behind-the-scenes work on M*A*S*H. Several members of the crew were also credited with directing episodes, to go along with various writing credits. 

M*A*S*H took chemistry to a different level and it's evident in some of the best episodes from the series. A good script combined with actors who were seemingly always on the same page is what made the show the hit that it was in the Seventies, and is why so many still watch regularly five decades later. 

Sometimes, however, the best scenes from the show resulted in ad-libbed lines and improv from the actors. Plenty of classic TV shows have left a few ad-libbed lines in an episode here and there, but M*A*S*H went a few steps further on a few occasions.

Maxwell Klinger actor Jamie Farr shared his favorite episodes with MeTV and told us a little about why he considers them the best.

He says "The Interview" is one of the most well-remembered episodes of the show for a few reasons: The interview-style format (hence the name), it was shot in black and white and parts of it didn't come from a direct script.

"I picked 'The Interview' because that was an episode where Larry Gelbart, our head writer, interviewed us and then took the interview and put it on paper. It was really an ad-libbed show, which incidentally won the Peabody award." 

The season five episode "Movie Tonight" is also a Best by Farr selection for the same reason.

"There are very few series that had ad-lib shows, most of them were always written, but they trusted the actors in it," Farr told MeTV.

In the classic scene where Klinger can't get the projector to work during a movie night, everyone begins entertaining the room. The best part: the scene came directly from the actors, right in that moment. 

"Everybody had to get up and do something," Farr said. "Loretta got up and sang, I think Harry Morgan got up and sang. Gary Burghoff as Radar got up and did imitations... Father Mulcahy, Bill Christopher, was at the piano. He did Dennis Day and I did Rochester... and we imitated Father Mulcahy." 

While few shows had the cast-crew chemistry M*A*S*H did, even fewer had the ability to let the actors completely take the reins in some cases, and have the results turn out as good as they did.

When thinking back to that level of camaraderie, Farr can't help but be grateful to have been a part of such a unique cast, one with so many freedoms.

"It was remarkable because it wasn't written, it was just a spontaneous thing that we did. That's how much that the writers and the actors trusted one another and the director did. It was a great show. [I'm] proud to be on it." 

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cperrynaples 22 months ago
Anyone remember when the film sent was "The Moon Is Blue"? Hawkeye thought it was a dirty movie but it definitely wasn't...LOL!
Pacificsun cperrynaples 22 months ago
Don't you originate very many comments?? I had to come way over hear, because the back and forth of the Walton's Thread was so convoluted.

Anyway, here's an idea for one of your famous "Bonus Questions!" I think I know the answer, but I know YOU will!!

What other actor earned the respect of a Miss in front of her name, beside Miss Michael Learned!

I think there's more than one, but will accept one answer too!

Either way this will earn you a free pass to FreeTV (or whatever they're calling it) 😎
Wufferduck Pacificsun 22 months ago
Miss Barbara Stanwyck from the Big Valley.
Pacificsun Wufferduck 22 months ago
Exactly. Thanks for playing
Moverfan cperrynaples 22 months ago
It wasn't that it was a dirty movie--the lead female character actually said the word "virgin" in reference to herself. Apparently nice girls didn't go around using that word...and nice screenwriters weren't supposed to, either...
rfjindra Pacificsun 19 months ago
Miss Barbara Stanwyck
mrdoolin 22 months ago
I hate to do this, but the writer in me cannot be silenced. In the third from the last paragraph, there is an error in grammar, which surprised me since you always do such a wonderful job! In this case, where it says "have the results turn out as GOOD as they did, clearly should be, "as WELL as they did". Since I love MeTV so much, I pay lots of attention. Have a great day and keep up the good work!
nd1irish mrdoolin 22 months ago
I hope you feel better. Now go yell at those no good kids and tell them to stop playing on your lawn 😂
Pacificsun 22 months ago
Okay. It's good to see a Svengoolie promo out there. I believe we've paid our dues now concerning all things MASH. About 12.5 hours the prior week, including a block party. And at least 8 sequential stories and quizzes the past week.

Are you going to be doing this for other beloved series turning 50? I certainly don't remember this much attention being paid for other series, except for ST.
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Pacificsun LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Or another notable series with an even more notable anniversary in 2024!!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 22 months ago
I doubt that MeTV would do a week long celebration of The Walton's as they did for M*A*S*H's 50th Anniversary. I'm sure they did some planning ahead of time for that week long celebration. Also the year is coming to a close. What would be nice and again most likely wouldn't happen is some type of commercial(s) or advertisement(s) or even just promos, with members of the Walton's cast, promoting the series here on MeTV. However it seems the interest on the whole is just not there. viewership wise when comparing the two series. It's fun to think about it though. JMO
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 22 months ago
More notable? as in 75 years? There aren't any from 1949 that MeTV broadcasts.. Your going to make me guess too, aren't you LOL
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 22 months ago
I remember when MeTV was posting other stories about The Walton's; which seemed like a cluster. And ultra-fans were coming out of the woodwork. Connecting all these relatives. And which actors had which roles, and then appeared as others. It was mind-boggling how it seemed like Walton over there on the Mountain. I left when Grampa passed, who IMO was the most authentic of the characters (and as was reported in interviews about him). He seemed to be a genuinely inspirational patriarch even of a fictitious family. With a lot of wisdom to share. By the time they tried to give us a new John-Boy, and that the original deserted what made him famous, was history for me. Am not good with substituting actors for the same role; it messes with my loyalty to alternate universes.

Side note: 𝘐𝘵'𝘴 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵, 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘭. 😎
djw1120 22 months ago
Another great episode with ad-libs was when "Hawkeye" was in a car crash and ended up at a Korean house where nobody spoke English and he just went on and on in an effort to stay awake in case he had a concussion.
F5Twitster 22 months ago
"He says 'The Interview' is one of the most well-remembered episodes of the show for a few reasons: The interview-style format (hense the name), it was shot in black and white and parts of it didn't come from a direct script."

Please write BEST-REMEMBERED episodes, instead of the wordy gobbledygook of "most well-remembered."

And it's HENCE, not "hense."

Jeez, people.
AlF F5Twitster 22 months ago
"Grateful", not "greatful"...
Pacificsun F5Twitster 22 months ago
I think it's tough now. When "precise" spelling (or grammar for that matter) isn't emphasized in school anymore. Rather, with an emphasis on creative spirit expressing itself. Content wise, and viewer interest wise, I think the writers have a creative spirit. And an interest it satisfying their readers.

I always like to express my appreciation. It's not easy coming up with as much new material as the writers do. Or the interest (enthusiasm) they put into their copy. I would rather read a piece offered with genuine enthusiasm and personal interest than something technically well-crafted, but a waste of our time.

We're fortunate to have what we do, and giving a shout-out, meaning appreciation, never hurts the creative spirit. Thank you MeTV Staff writers for finding stories which interest us, and for all the work that goes into researching and developing a final copy!
LoveMETV22 AlF 22 months ago
You're lucky. There happens to be seats available in F5's SP&G ( Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar )
class. Probably Limited Availability.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Babarino returns to James Buchanan High...LOL! Was he planning to kill Mr. Kotter? He's too late for either Epstein or Horshack...LOL again!
JohnBates 22 months ago
Andybandit 22 months ago
It is good when the director, writer, creator, and Allen Alda was part of the creative team have good chemistry to make to a great show like MASH.
LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Loved "Gee Ma, I Wanna Go Home" Performed by the Cast of M*A*S*H."

M*A*S*H - "The Father Mulcahy Sound-a-Like Contest."
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Yes I did too. Fun episode.
cperrynaples 22 months ago
BTW, didn't Burghoff had to read that famous telegram off a script page he got only moments earlier? True fans know what episode I mean!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 22 months ago
The scene where he had to announce the unfortunate event about Henry Blake's Plane,
from "Abysinna Henry." That was a sad scene.
Cowgirl cperrynaples 22 months ago
Yes. Nobody knew how the episode was going to end until it was filmed.
djw1120 Cowgirl 22 months ago
To this day I still cry when Radar comes into the surgical room and announces that "Lt. Col. Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors."
CoreyC cperrynaples 22 months ago
Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart wanted a genuine reaction from the cast.
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