The Korean War-themed comedy series “M*A*S*H” is a mainstay of discussions about the greatest television programmes in history. “M*A*S*H” debuted on television in 1972 and went on to rule the primetime ratings for the following decade and more (per The Washington Post), garnering 14 Emmy Awards out of 109 nominations. It was based on Robert Altman’s Academy Award-winning film of the same name. Gary Burghoff, who plays fan favourite character Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly for the majority of the television series’ run, did get one of these Emmy awards.
According to IMDb, Burghoff was the only cast member from the Altman movie to return for the adaptation, and if you’ve watched either of his performances, you know that no other actor could’ve filled the role. He deservedly won an Emmy, but he probably ought to have won a few more awards for his work on “M*A*S*H.” Nevertheless, it’s simple to overlook the fact that Burghoff’s involvement was brief, with the actor abandoning Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and the rest of the 4077th to continue without him in Season 8. Why did Burghoff leave “M*A*S*H”?
A two-part 1979 episode of “M*A*S*H” titled “Good-Bye Radar” provided Gary Burghoff with a fitting send-off. While “M*A*S*H” continues brilliantly without Radar, one could argue that it never quite feels the same without him. Frequent “M*A*S*H” director Charles S. Dubin indicated in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation that Burghoff resigned because he thought he “wasn’t getting his full dues” as Radar.
Burghoff was allegedly having problems with his wife at the time, which Dubin believed may have contributed to his departure. The actor struggled to complete a certain sequence in his farewell episode, according to Dubin, who claimed Burghoff, “came down in tears, so I had to stop everything and take him on a 15-minute tour of the Fox backlot. I believe it was a big part of it because in the script, he was discussing a future with [a character Radar had fallen in love with].”
Burghoff himself hardly ever discussed the reasons behind his departure from “In a 2006 radio interview with Oakville, Ontario’s JOY 1250, he reportedly acknowledged that the desire to spend more time with his family played a part. He said, “Family, to me, became the most important thing. I was not available as a father because of my work” (via ASSIST News Service). Cleary, the time commitment of being in a network series had been taking a toll on Burghoff’s personal life. Even though he is sorely missed in the later seasons of “M*A*S*H,” it is hard to hold him accountable for prioritising his family over his career.
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