Discuss: Favorite Non-Nurse Minor Character

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.

I’ve decided to continue these Monday M*A*S*H Discussion posts through September. Why? Because in September, AfterMASH will celebrate its 35th anniversary. It’ll be the perfect time to start reviewing episodes of the short-lived M*A*S*H spin-off. So, keep your suggestions for discussion topics coming. I’ll need them.

Today’s topic comes courtesy of 007 but I’ve added a twist: Who is your favorite non-nurse minor character?

Team Zale or Team Rizzo?

Take careful note of this week’s topic. It asks for your favorite minor character who isn’t a nurse. That means Kellye is out of the running. So is Margie Cutler. Don’t worry, we’ll be discussing favorite nurses at some point over the next nine months. I’m leaving out the various generals as well; we’ll be talking about them at some point, I’m sure. And I don’t consider Sidney Freedman or Captain Flagg minor characters, so they’re not part of this discussion, either.

There are still quite a few minor characters to chose from. When it premiered, M*A*S*H featured a large supporting cast of characters, most of whom were phased out during the first season.

Here’s a list of the minor characters I can think of:

  • Igor
  • Rizzo
  • Zale
  • Spearchucker
  • Ho-Jon
  • Goldman
  • Ugly John
  • Boone
  • Rosie
  • Captain Spalding
  • Sgt. Pernelli*
  • Dennis**

*Val Bisoglio played The Cook in “The Life You Save” during Season 9. He later returned in two episodes during Season 10 as Sgt. Pernelli, the camp cook.
**Dennis Troy appeared in dozens of episodes, many uncredited, often as an unnamed ambulance driver, corpsman, or MP. Let’s assume he always played the same character.

If I’ve forgotten any notable minor characters, let me know.

Let’s Discuss

Many of these minor characters either didn’t appear in enough episodes or didn’t have large enough roles to leave much of an impression. I’ll be very surprised if anyone picks Ho-Jon as their favorite minor character, for example. The same goes for Spearchucker, Goldman, Ugly John, Boone, Sgt. Pernelli, and Dennis. Captain Spalding only appeared in three episodes during Season 3, but his songs are memorable.

The rest of the minor characters I’ve listed above likely had more substantial roles on M*A*S*H. Igor, of course, is beloved by many. Zale and Rizzo have their fans as well. Three actresses portrayed Rosie in ten episodes; Eileen Saki played her in eight of those episodes.

If you have a favorite minor character, what makes them your favorite? If you don’t, why not? Think about it and pick one right now.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

20 Comments

  • DHLA says:

    I would have put Col Flagg in this group, but I can understand why you didn’t – even though he was in few episodes, he was a major part of those half-dozen or so episodes. I always wondered why Capt. Spaulding was created – there wasn’t room for Spearchucker and Capt. Spaulding didn’t do much except sing.

    So I come down to a tie in this category – I liked Igor for the flavor he added and his longevity, but I think Rizzo was more distinctive and made more of an impression in fewer episodes. So for me it is a tie between the two of them.

    • BDOR says:

      Spaulding was created because Larry Gelbart wanted to experiment with something different, in this case, a camp minstrel.

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    Another GREAT topic for our discussion fodder!

    This one is tough for me. I like a number of them for different reasons. As far as Team Rizzo vs Team Zale, I am definitely Team Zale. Rizzo has his moments, but I enjoyed Zale’s character much more. His bickering with Klinger always brings me a smile (particularly Klinger’s zinger “if my dog had your face, I’d shave his butt and teach him to walk backwards”). I can’t imagine “Soldier of the Month” without Zale’s contribution.

    However, I can’t seem to pick just one from all the characters you listed. I REALLY like the Captain Spalding episodes and wish his character had appeared at least a couple more times. My daughter and I always sing along with the tune “now when I die (when I die), and it won’t be long (it won’t be long), well your gonna be sorry (gonna be sorry), that you treated me wrong (that you treated me wrong)”,…etc…

    I also wish that Ugly John’s character would have been maintained. Am I the only one who finds it odd that a medical show which ran 11 seasons only had a semi-regular anesthesiologist for 1/2 half of Season 1?

    • Jon says:

      Actor John Orchard, who played Ugly John, did make 1 more appearance as an Australian officer in “Captains Outrageous” from Season 8.

  • Chauncey Uppercrust says:

    This is an easy one for me, Roy Goldman! I can’t really say what it is about him, but I always enjoy seeing him. I think I must be his biggest fan. I have been looking for other things that he has been in, but I can’t seem to find very much. If anyone can help with that I would appreciate it.

    • Crabapple Cove says:

      Two words: Hogan’s Heroes.

      If you are Goldman fan, he shows up repeatedly. As in M*A*S*H he has very little dialog but is in the background of many scenes.

      • BDOR says:

        In addition to Goldman, remember how in really early episodes of M*A*S*H, you’d see a black corpsman wandering around the Compound, also wearing one of those jeep caps like Radar wears? He was in the background on HOGAN’S HEROES all the time too, usually alongside Goldman.

        But interestingly, a lot of the people from HOGAN’S HEROES migrated to M*A*S*H in the beginning: both shows had William “B.J.” Jergenson as the cinematographer, Gene Reynolds directed both shows, Laurence Marks wrote for both shows (eventually becoming story editor on M*A*S*H), and yes, both shows had a lot of the same background extras.

      • Chauncey Uppercrust says:

        Thanks Crabapple Cove! My husband and I fall asleep watching it most weeknights.

  • BDOR says:

    I think I’d have to say Igor, if only because it’s out of sympathy . . . I mean, how can you not feel sorry for the guy? It’s not his fault the food was terrible, but he often got flack for it – it’s like the old saying goes, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Well, in this case, the camp did just that. 😛 Plus, Jeff Maxwell is a super terrific guy – always willing to share such wonderful insight and anecdotes about the time he spent on M*A*S*H, even if he didn’t get as much glory as his colleagues.

    I’m also going to touch on what Crabapple Cove said, it probably would have been beneficial to keep Ugly John, because as has been pointed out other times during the show, sometimes because of the shortage of surgical staff the doctors themselves had to double as the anesthesiologists – I seem to recall an occasion where B.J. was writing to Peggy about that, and another such occasion where Frank is actually gloating because he’s the operating surgeon while Hawkeye is the anesthetist.

    Zale was an interesting character, though I don’t think it was ever explained why he and Klinger had such a strong disdain for each other, was it? I know one episode Zale was sore at Klinger because he wouldn’t fight in Rosie’s Bar because he didn’t want to ruin his dress, but other than that, they seemed to have an ongoing feud for seemingly no reason.

    • BDOR says:

      Ooh! I forgot about one whom I really enjoy: Cho Man Chin! The Korean peddler who was always trying to swindle the gang at the 4077th with crummy goods, like wristwatches that run backward, boar tusks that are actually plastic, not to mention he carved that bust of Potter but gave him Asian eyes because, “It give the Colonel some class.” Not to mention Richard Lee Sung (who is still alive and well) was such a delight on camera, with that big cheesy smile, and his enthusiastic performances.

      • 007 says:

        oh YES! Totally forgot about him but he’s awesome as well. Another character I would have loved to see more of.

        Also, while he never plays the same character, any time Soon-Tek Oh was on the show, he was great.

      • Andrea says:

        Oh I like him too “This is me!” is one of my favourite moments.

    • Jon says:

      Igor had a good line in “Morale Victory”, one of my favorites from Season 8, where he states that he has to “stand over this slop EVERY DAY and listen to people’s DUMB JOKES about it”. I was under the impression, though, that he actually was the cook in some other episodes.

  • 007 says:

    Hmm, without Flagg, Sidney, or the nurses, I’d probably have to go with Igor as my favorite. Mainly because of his longevity. He was there almost as long as Hawkeye, Margaret, Klinger, Mulcahy, and Kellye. He had some pretty funny scenes in the early show as well, such as his interactions with Frank, and for the most part he seems to be a good guy. It helps too that the actor who played him has been so interactive with fans throughout the years.

    Being a fan of the book, I was also always fond of Spearchucker and Ugly Jon, both of which are relatively prominent characters in the book. Ho Jon is also in the book but he’s not really likable. It’s really too bad they wrote them all out of the show.

    As for the team Zale vs. team Rizzo question, eh, I don’t really like either of them, but if I had to pick one, I’d go with Rizzo. Zale’s a bit too much of a jerk most of the time, especially any time he’s around Klinger. Rizzo’s just a big bum, but I still find him to be a bit more likable.

  • Andrea says:

    I like Ugly John and I think it would have been beneficial to keep him on, not just because the camp needed an anaesthetist but him being neither American nor Korean would have brought a different dynamic I think to some episode.
    I like Igor too, he’s memorable. I’m not really a fan of Zale or Rizzo, Zale is probably funnier but Rizzo is a bit more amiable.

  • Vernon Lee says:

    Sidney without doubt. I think he was to mental health in war as Hawkeye was to meatball surgery, and I believe that created a very strong bond between them. I also loved the way he stood up to Flagg. I would have liked to see Sidney as a regular.

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    Zale came across as a jerk especially when antagonizing Klinger. Rizzo was OK even though in “That Darn Kid” he was a leech toward Charles. If I had to choose, I’d pick Rizzo because at least he was funny more often. I liked his monologue in “Wheelers and Dealers” about chickens having the right-of-way on Korean thoroughfares and the reason why that’s the case.

  • Abyssinia says:

    I think you guys forgot Anthony Borelli, better known as Alan Alda’s father. I like how every time he’s in an episode, he seems quite the counterpart to Hawkeye. His appearance in “The Consultant” depicted him as a near equal to Hawkeye, and one that forces Hawkeye to contemplate his own morals. Curiously, the M*A*S*H team chose to put him at odds with Hawkeye every time he appears, which is ironic considering his relationship with Alda. Borelli also had an appearance in “Lend a Hand”, in which his conflicting persona can be clearly seen when working by Hawkeye’s side. Curious what would have happened had Borelli actually made it to the OR in “The Consultant”.

  • LF says:

    Always like Pat Morita as Captain Pak. Felt like an authentic character, full of local knowledge, a little world weary, but humourous and laidback. Just seemed to fit in well.

    • BDOR says:

      Pak felt like the kind of character they were going to use on a recurring basis, but he only showed up in two episodes.

      Then again, Pat Morita really made rounds on shows in the 70s: M*A*S*H, HAPPY DAYS, SANFORD AND SON, THE ODD COUPLE. . . .

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