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M*A*S*H started as a novel written by Richard Hooker. It was released in 1968, and was about a group of rebellious doctors at a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Several sequels were also written after the first book was successful. A movie and television series were based on the story.
M*A*S*H was made into a movie in 1970 that was liked by critics and audiences. It was directed by Robert Altman, and starred a large cast of talented actors that included Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, and Robert Duvall.
The movie won the Golden Palm award that year, which is the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. The movie was also a big hit with young people for its anti-establishment, wild feel. This was especially true because it was really seen to be about criticizing the Vietnam War that was going on at the time. That theme was only hidden somewhat by the setting of the movie during the earlier and less controversial Korean War.
The success of the books and movie inspired the very popular comedy television series, M*A*S*H. The series ran from 1972 to 1983 on CBS and is one of the most popular American television shows ever. Reruns are still shown on cable and broadcast channels, and most of the show's seasons are sold on DVDs. Though it is not as popular as it was, it is still popular today. The cast included Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Mike Farrell, McLean Stevenson, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, David Ogden Stiers, Jamie Farr, Allan Arbus, William Christopher, and Gary Burghoff.
Burghoff played the naive, innocent, teenage, but gifted company clerk, "Radar" O'Reilly. His role was small but memorable in the M*A*S*H movie, and he was the only actor from that movie to also play his character on the television series.
The show's final episode which aired on February 28, 1983 was one of the most watched shows in TV history. It was viewed by 125 million people. There have been several spin-off series in M*A*S*H. There have been two spin-offs of the TV series. The first was AfterMASH, which was about a Veteran's Hospital soon after the war was over. It was about Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), who got a job there, Maxwell Klinger (Jamie Farr), who became his assistant, and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), who came there as a patient who abused alcohol after he lost his hearing in the TV series. All three of them were major characters on the original series. The second spin-off was W*A*L*T*E*R*, which was about Walter "Radar" O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff). It was an unsold pilot that was shown as a special television program. The most successful M*A*S*H spin-off was Trapper John, M.D., a spin-off of the movie. It starred Trapper John McIntyre (Pernell Roberts), but never talks about anything from the movie. It lasted 151 episodes across seven seasons.
Tim Kelly made a play about the novel, movie, and TV series in 1973.