Gary Burghoff’s Departure from the Original M*A*S*H Was More Emotionally Charged Than the Final Scene

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In the new Fox special “M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television,” Burghoff revealed that he disagreed with director Charles S. Dubin when it came to the emotional tenor of his final scene. At the end of the two-part episode, the 4077th has prepared to throw Radar a huge party before he returns to the United States. Alas, a fleet of wounded soldiers gets flown in right as they’re about to fete the beloved company clerk. By the time Hawkeye and the gang are done stitching up soldiers, Radar will be long gone.

According to Burghoff, he initially viewed this turn of events as an Emmy reel opportunity:

“I said to myself, what a wonderful moment, I can cry my eyes out and I can do this wonderful dramatic moment, I can just completely fall apart. And [Dubin] said, ‘If I were you, I would fight the tears.’ And I said, ‘No, no. Just let me do it, okay?'”

Burghoff tried alright, only to realize Dubin, who’d directed 13 episodes of “M*A*S*H” prior to “Good-Bye, Radar,” was absolutely correct:

“The next day, in dailies, I look at the screen and it’s awful. I mean, it is just terrible. The director was right, I was wrong… I turned to [showrunner/producer Burt Metcalfe] and said, ‘Please can I do this again?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you may.'”

While we don’t have the option of comparing Burghoff’s differing takes on the moment, underplaying feels like the right call. As Radar quietly wanders around the mess hall decked out signs wishing him well, we do all the crying for him until he scrapes off a piece of icing from his cake, tastes it, and makes a sour face. No sitcom could nail a bittersweet note like “M*A*S*H.”

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