Discuss: Favorite Recurring General


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.

Today’s topic is: Who is your favorite recurring general?

Generals, Generals, Everywhere

Back in January, we discussed our favorite non-nurse, non-general minor characters. In April, we talked about our favorite recurring nurse. Today, it’s time to consider which recurring M*A*S*H general is our favorite. The show featured four different recurring generals during its first two seasons.

First there’s General Hammond, played by G. Wood. He first appears in “M*A*S*H–The Pilot,” making him the original general on the show. Then there’s General Barker (played by Sorrell Booke) who is featured in two episodes. Next, there’s General Clayton (Herb Voland), who appears in a total of seven episodes. Confusingly, after one episode with Clayton, General Hammond returns for an additional episode. After six more episodes with General Clayton (the last four in Season 2), General Mitchell (Robert F. Simon) takes over, appearing in three episodes.

(If you watch the episodes in production order, the first three episodes feature Hammond. Then come the two Barker episodes followed by seven episodes with Clayton and finally the three with Mitchell.)

Why were the generals changed so often during these first two seasons? I don’t know. Actor availability? The writers trying something new? Nor do I know why the recurring general character was dropped entirely halfway through Season 2.

Recurring Generals

General Hammond (3 episodes)
-“M*A*S*H–The Pilot”
-“To Market, to Market”
-“Henry, Please Come Home”

General Barker (2 episodes)
-“Requiem for a Lightweight”

-“Chief Surgeon Who?”

General Clayton (7 episodes)
-“Yankee Doodle Doctor”
-“Divided We Stand”
-“5 O’Clock Charlie”
-“For the Good of the Outfit”
-“Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde”

General Mitchell (3 episodes)
-“The Trial of Henry Blake”
-“The Incubator”
-“Officers Only”

General Mitchell is referenced in several other Season 2 episodes. After that, the recurring general disappeared from M*A*S*H. Individual episodes occasionally featured or mentioned a general, but never the same general twice.

Let’s Discuss

If I had to chose, I’d probably call General Clayton my favorite recurring general. That may be because he’s in the most episodes and thus we get the most time to know and appreciate him. He’s friendly and levelheaded and can take a joke. I’m not a big fan of General Barker, who is a little over-the-top for my tastes. General Hammond didn’t leave much of an impression on me, to be honest. And General Mitchell feels a lot like General Clayton, only played by a different actor.

Do you have a favorite recurring general? Do you wish one of the generals had stayed with the show?

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

14 Replies to “Discuss: Favorite Recurring General”

  1. My ratings are similar to yours:
    1– Clayton
    2– Mitchell
    3– Hammond
    4– Barker

    Clayton was easily the most likeable. He won me over in Yankee Doodle Doctor when he asked to keep a copy of the farce film for himself. I would have liked to see Mitchell at least a couple of more times. His “Press Conference” in the Incubator is one of my favorite all time scenes. “This is a press conference, the last thing I want to do is answer a lot of questions”. I laugh about that line every time I watch a politician being grilled on one of the Sunday talk shows (if you ever watch those, the politicians just ignore the questions and stick to their talking points). The writers really nailed that aspect of politics with the Incubator press conference scene.

    Hammond I could take or leave, and Barker I just never cared for — honestly I have never liked Sorrell “Boss Hogg” Booke as an actor.

  2. Barker was mentioned in “The Price of Tomato Juice” when he asked Potter to arrange for Margaret to be his guest of honor at a social engagement for the weekend. Hammond was also mentioned in “Commander Pierce” when it’s said he was being replaced by General Imbrie, who was wanting a big meeting with all of the ranking Officers in his command.

    Sometimes I feel as though M*A*S*H really needed a permanent recurring General. HOGAN’S HEROES had General Burkhalter, I don’t see why M*A*S*H didn’t have one. Personally, I think I enjoyed Barker the most – there was something about the way Sorrell Booke delivered his lines that were so amusing. And interestingly, Robert F. Simon was a semi-regular on BEWITCHED, playing Darrin’s eccentric, alcoholic (played for laughs, of course) father who always had ideas for some wild inventions.

    One thing you could say about each of the Generals though is that they were all willing to sleep with Margaret, as she was with them. 😛

    1. Oh, and I forgot: Herb Voland was also a semi-regular on BEWITCHED, usually playing curmudgeonly, old, fuddy-duddy McMann & Tate clients.

  3. I’m in the minority because I always loved Gen Barker. This is, in no small part, because I was lucky enough to see Sorell Booke do some fantastic stage work (in particular, his playing the titular character in King Lear and his turn as Banquo in Macbeth.) He was, sadly, typecast as the bombastic Boss Hogg, but those who had the great fortune of seeing his other work got to know an actor of supreme talent. In fact, there are stories of other actors who would attend his stage work just to get pointers on how to engage the audience better.

    1. I didn’t even realize it as a kid, but Sorrell Booke also supplied the voice of the secondary villain in the Don Bluth movie ROCK-A-DOODLE, Pinky, who was something of a caricature of Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker. It also happened to be his last film role.

  4. Because Sorrel Booke was a great comedic actor, I like the way his General Barker fit in those early episodes. The others…meh. Just disposable sitcom characters. Generals Iron Guts Kelly and Steele were more fleshed out than Hammond, Clayton, or Mitchell.

  5. Based on his two episodes, General Barker is my least favorite. Overly loud and brash, which of course fits the image of a General, but that doesn’t necessarily make him fun to watch.

    General Mitchell was okay, but to me the most forgettable.

    G. Wood’s General Hammond is interesting as a link between the movie and TV series, and I generally like him.

    BUT, General Clayton is easily my favorite of the bunch; he’s the most likable of the group, with hilarious, spot-on deliveries by Herb Voland (his confused response of “What the hell was THAT?” during the movie in “Yankee Doodle Doctor” is a riot!).

  6. All of the generals are likeable IMO and like others I miss the loss of the recurring characters after season 2. It’s really too bad they couldn’t continue with the recurring generals/nurses/misc characters throghout the show, other than the few we got like Kellye and Igor.

    General Clayton was always my favorite though. I’m not quite sure why, but he always just seemed like THE mash general to me. Whenever I see him, it just makes me think of the Henry/Trapper era, and reminds me of how good those years were. The other 3 generals of course were all in that era too, but Clayton, despite not even being the original general in the Pilot, just always seemed like the OG. If I had to pick one of the 4 to continue throughout the years, it would have been him. He also seems like the one who would have been best on screen with Potter.

    1. There actually were plenty of recurring nurses in other seasons: Able, Baker, Bigelow, Gwen, Jennifer, Shari, just to name a few.

      1. Sure, but those are more like recurring background characters. How many words total did all of those recurring nurses (not counting the main ones I mentioned like Kellye) have throughout the entire run of the show? 100 words total combined, if that? With each of these generals, they had basically a dedicated role/purpose in each episode they were in. We had virtually none of that with recurring nurses and other characters later on. Only one offs for the most part.

  7. Barker and Clayton are my favorite generals. They had a sense of humor about their work and let Henry run 4077th without a lot of interference. I do wish there had been a recurring general when Potter took command. General Clayton and Potter was a combination i’d like to have seen as each understood how things ran in the army and they both had a good sense of humor.

  8. IMO, Clayton is my favorite. The way he told Hawkeye and Trapper what their actions against the Army could lead to in “For The Good of The Outfit” made his presence worth the effort.

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