“M*A*S*H” and its producers got away with a lot over its 11 seasons on the air. But one controversial storyline received the ax by the network for being too “unpatriotic.”
The show followed Hawkeye and a team of surgeons during the Korean War. The show famously lasted longer than the war itself had. Airing in the 1970s, the TV show was an allegory for a different war altogether – the Vietnam War. The show’s creators often pushed the boundaries of their sitcom limits. There was a darkness underneath the light-hearted efforts and a focus on the totality of war.
But one episode’s storyline proved too controversial. In a proposed plot, several of the show’s characters would stand outside in freezing temperatures. They would try to make themselves sick so the military would discharge them and send them home. Reportedly, it was a tactic that real soldiers used during the war.
But the network rejected the storyline because they viewed it as anti-war. They dubbed the storyline to be “unpatriotic” and it never made it to the filming stage.
“M*A*S*H” Focused on the Effects of War
The creators of “M*A*S*H” never intended to make a light and breezy comedy. The hit TV show was based on a popular book and movie. The creators wanted to show the gritty aspects of what life was like in a warzone. They often pushed back against the network, which was worried about the show’s “serious overtones.”
The network often questioned why the TV show didn’t follow in the same vein as other shows of its era. But the creators quickly proved they approached the material in the right manner.
“And when we did ‘M*A*S*H,’ I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out — that that’s what we dealt with, and that we didn’t gloss over that and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent,” star Alan Alda said.
For the most part, the network decided to trust the creators despite its reservations. The only time it stepped in to censor the show was for the one aborted storyline. “M*A*S*H” became one of the biggest hits on TV and remains popular even to this day.