Monday, July 19, 2021

Debunking another MASH rumor

One nice thing about having a blog is being able to set the record straight when there are articles about the shows and people I’ve worked with that are not accurate. 

There’s a rumor going around that there was some tension between Alan Alda and Mike Farrell on MASH.  A recent article suggests this.   I’m here to tell you it’s not true.

They point to a specific episode, “Preventative Medicine,” from one of our years (season 7).  I’ve written about this before — how I discovered they already had done that story in year three and how mortified I was.

A recent article uses the debate Alan and Mike had over the ethics of whether a doctor would remove a perfectly good appendix to keep a company commander off the front lines where he was notorious for volunteering for combat and putting his men needlessly in harm's way.  It was a story we got from research.

At the table reading Mike objected that his character wouldn’t do it.   In the piece they claim that this caused a real (but temporary) rift in Alan & Mike’s relationship. 

It made it seem like they were really fighting.

Here’s the true story from someone who was right in the middle of it:

Mike did bring up his objections at the table reading, and Alan did disagree.  They debated the issue for about a half hour.  And it was truly a debate.  No one raised their voice, no one said anything personal, and the argument stayed on point.  It didn’t drift into other grievances.  

At the end of the discussion it was agreed that some of this debate would be good for the episode.  So we went back to the office to write it.  We knew it would be a long night.

But here’s the thing:  Alan joined us for the rewrite.   He didn’t have to, especially since he disagreed with Mike’s reasoning.  But not only did he help rewrite it, he was super positive and excited about incorporating this new argument.  It gave the script a shot of adrenaline.  

And ultimately we were extremely happy with the final product. 

It seems like every couple of months I have to debunk an Alan Alda rumor, and in this case I can assure you there was no friction between he and Mike Farrell.  My writing partner, David Isaacs, and I have fought way more (and louder) than those two happy fellas. 

Don’t believe everything you read, except when you’re reading me.  


Steve Bailey said...

I love reading insider stuff like this! Great to hear it from the source and to know that you're debunking some old gossip.

Tom Asher said...

Not sure if it's been mentioned here yet, but Alan Alda is on TikTok and it's such a breath of fresh air.

Markus said...

Oh lord. Some Vietnamese content mill, regurgitating (read: stealing) text from other sites. This isn't a "recent" piece, it's a MeTV article from two years ago. Someone in the comments even points to the rebuttal you blogged back then:

Dave H said...

That same storyline situation happened a few years earlier on the show where Hawkeye put something in Col. Flagg's drink to put him out of action for a month and then operated on him but the difference was Trapper and Henry supported Hawkeye and Trapper helped him. Fans have always used that as a example of how the show changed over the years.

kent said...

It's a tribute to MASH that after all these years an alleged rift between Alda and Farrell is still worth mentioning. That people still care proves the remarkable staying power of the show.

Mike Barer said...

I saw a movie called "The Girl Most Likely To" a very dark comedy where the subject, as a revenge, tricks a doctor into having his healthy appendix removed and he dies on the operating table.

Call Me Mike said...

I love that some of the real argument was used in the episode. Can't remember how many times I've seen fans argue over some moral dilemma from a movie or TV show and I think, 'This is good. This should have been in the show they're arguing about!'

Michael said...

Over the years, I've read that there was some tension on the set involving one cast member. I've seen no real evidence of it myself, and I marvel at the media's ability and desire to make something out of absolutely nothing. It would be nice if they did their jobs instead.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

Just another example--unfortunately--of how rumors take over reality in our world. I never thought there was any serious conflict between Farrell and Alda, or for that matter any of the MASH cast members. It's good for actors and writers to talk things out in table readings, but it is almost never some kind of bitter feud.

Gossip rags, they just want a story.

Kaleberg said...

Fake ancient Chinese saying: "Only enemies dare not quarrel."

(It's from a great short story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Ambiguities of Lo Yeing Pai.)

Buttermilk Sky said...

People love to read that successful partnerships masked deep personal hatred. The legendary Cubs infielders Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers didn't speak for 33 years and there was a ceremony at Wrigley Field when they ended the feud. Ginger Rogers spent years denying that she fought with Fred Astaire because of his obsessive perfectionism. Neil Simon wrote a terrific play called THE SUNSHINE BOYS about vaudeville comedians who drove each other crazy. We all want to know how the magic gets made, so don't expect mere facts to get in the way of stories like the Alda-Farrell "rift."

Cowboy Surfer said...

As a kid, I was disappointed that Hawkeye did the operation. Given his character, I can understand why he did it.

The episode ends with BJ downing a martini just as helicopters arrive. Nobody is perfect.

Mike Bloodworth said...

What about the rumor that Alan Alda was actually an alien android from Beta Reticuli sent to turn human males into wimps to make us easier to invade?

I saw your tweet about being back at the RUSKIN Theatre. I'm glad. I will be nice to be able to see your plays in person again.


Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I saw a movie called "The Girl Most Likely To" a very dark comedy where the subject, as a revenge, tricks a doctor into having his healthy appendix removed and he dies on the operating table.
Stockard Channing and Ed Asner?

(in my day, you youngsters, we had to remember bits of trivia like this, there was no internet to look it up on)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I've heard of similar rumors that Mike Farrell hated Wayne Rogers, and I think THE SIMPSONS added a little fuel to that fire.

Bob Paris said...

Speaking of MASH, random thought: If I were to open a store to compete with Goodyear or Firestone, I would call it David Ogden's Tire.

tavm said...

Did Mike Farrell even MEET Wayne Rogers?