Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.
HannibalMO suggested today’s topic and I think it’s a good one: What if Klinger hadn’t become a regular cast member?
(I’m seriously considering continuing these weekly discussions in 2018 and I don’t want to burn through my list of topics, so I may use a one or two additional topics contributed by visitors to the MASH4077TV.com this month.)
No Costumes, No Schemes
For those who might not know, Klinger wasn’t planned be a recurring character, let alone a full member of the cast. Klinger was supposed to make a single appearance in “Chief Surgeon Who?” during Season 1 and that’s it. Larry Gelbart wrote the episode and created the character of Klinger. Producer Gene Reynolds thought of Jamie Farr for the part and hired him. Later, while writing “Dear Dad,” Larry Gelbart decided to use Klinger again and Farr was brought back.
Klinger appeared in just six episodes during Season 1. He was in 12 episodes during Season 2 and 18 episodes during Season 3. Starting with Season 4, Jamie Farr received billing in the opening credits and Klinger became a regular member of the cast.
So, if you want to see M*A*S*H without Klinger, watch Season 1.
Without Klinger, what would M*A*S*H be like? Less wacky, perhaps. Not as much fun, maybe. Can you imagine M*A*S*H without Klinger dressed up as the Statue of Liberty? The Queen of the Nile? Lady Godiva? Zoltan, King of the Gypsies? Without an escape attempt using a hang glider (“a big red bird with fuzzy pink feet”), eating a jeep piece by piece, or sitting atop a pole?
Particularly in his early appearances during the first three seasons, Klinger was mostly used as comic relief. There were exceptions, like his dark turn in “Dear Dad” or heading to the front with Hawkeye and Margaret in “Aid Station.” Cut out Klinger and the series doesn’t change much. It’s not until Season 8 that Klinger becomes more than a man who wears dresses and plots to earn his Section 8 discharge.
If Klinger wasn’t around to replace Radar, what would happen? After eight seasons depicting the company clerk as an integral part of series, would the producers have created a new character to take over for Radar? Or would the company clerk disappear from M*A*S*H, referred to but never seen? Is it possible Igor could’ve swapped his chef’s hat for a clipboard and replaced Radar?
Whether or not you enjoy Klinger and his Section 8 stunts, it’s hard to deny they’re a big part of the first seven seasons of M*A*S*H. It’s difficult for me to picture the series without him.
Hit the comments with your thoughts.