Where Are They Now? The Cast Of The TV Show “Night Court”

From 1984 to 1992, the sitcom Night Court was one of the biggest hits in NBC’s history, with its witty cast and the funky theme song composed by Jack Elliott. The show, which was produced by Barney Miller writer Reinhold Weege, was nominated for 31 Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards during its run. How much do you remember about the show and the actors who made it so great?

When Comedy Meets the Courtroom

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The show surrounds the nightly activities inside Manhattan’s Criminal Court, which is led by the newly appointed judge Harold T. “Harry” Stone. Even with the show moving from network to network throughout the years, it still had a strong fan base that helped the show last for an incredible 193 episodes.

Night Court received recognition for its technical direction and editing, lighting, sound, and mixing. But the main thing that made the show great was its cast. Read on to find out where they are now.

All Rise for Harry Anderson

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After appearances on Saturday Night Live and Cheers, actor/magician Harry Anderson got his big break portraying Judge Harold “Harry” T. Stone, which earned him three Emmy nominations in the category of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

After Night Court ended, he landed the title role in the CBS sitcom Dave’s Place which lasted four seasons. He performed magic shows across the country. Sadly, Anderson died on April 16, 2018. We’ll learn his cause of death in just a few pages.

Public Defender Paula Kelly

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During the first season, Paula Kelly played the role of public defender Liz Williams, which earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. After leaving the show, she earned her second Emmy nomination for her work in the TV mini-series The Women of Brewster Place.

Her last on-screen performance was in the 1999 series Any Day Now. In 2011, she was the narrator for the documentary Homeless in Hollywood.

Markie Post’s Recurring Roles

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From 1985 to 1992, Markie Post portrayed the role of public defender Christine Sullivan on Night Court. The character was beautiful and fiercely independent but had a prudish attitude.

After the show ended, she landed a co-starring role on the CBS sitcom Hearts Afire, which lasted from 1992 to 1995. Recently, she lent her voice to the Transformers Prime cartoon, and she held recurring roles on Rack and Ruin and Chicago P.D.

Angela Aames

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Angela Aames was best known for playing the busty blonde in multiple TV roles and films throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. She appeared in four episodes of Night Court as several different characters including Angela (a nudist), one of Dan’s previous dates, a character named Debbie and lastly a character named Ursula.

Although she was best known for her work in sexploitation films like H.O.T.S. she also appeared in more mainstream hits like Scarface. Sadly, she died at only age thirty-two in 1988. Her death was said to be from the deterioration of the heart muscle, likely caused by a virus.

Falling for Ellen Foley

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In the second season, actress/singer Ellen Foley was cast as Harry Stone’s love interest Billie Young. She was removed from the show because the producers felt that her on-screen relationship with Harry Anderson was more of a brother and sister type.

In 2015, she appeared in the film No Pay, Nudity and the documentary Meat Loaf: In and Out of Hell. She’s also appeared on Broadway and has four solo musical albums and some collaborations with the rock singer Meat Loaf.

John Larroquette’s Humble Request

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John Larroquette’s role of prosecutor Daniel R. “Dan” Fielding earned him four straight Emmy wins (1985-1988) in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In 1989, he asked for his work to not be submitted for another Emmy nomination.

After the show, the Louisiana native would create The John Larroquette Show and make critically acclaimed appearances on The Practice and Boston Legal. Recently, he had a recurring role on the TNT series The Librarians.

Richard Moll Becomes a Villain

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Voice actor Richard Moll’s portrayal of Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon was beloved by Night Court fans around the world. His deep voice really resonated with audiences and he continues to use this talent in his acting career.

Since leaving the show, the California native became the voice behind comic book characters on Batman: The Animated Series (Two-Face), Spider-Man (Scorpion), and Justice League (Java). Recently, he has made appearances on Anger Management, Cold Case, and Kirby Buckets.

Marsha Warfield Is a Twitter Jokester

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Actress and comedian Marsha Warfield’s best-known role was the tough as nails bailiff Roz Russell from seasons 4 through 9 on Night Court. After the show ended, she landed the role of Dr. Maxine Douglas on the sitcom Empty Nest.

She has also appeared on Family Ties, Clueless, Riptide, Cheers, Living Single, Moesha, and more. Warfield’s last on-screen role was on an episode of Veronica’s Closet back in 1999. She still performs stand-up comedy and delivers jokes over Twitter.

Karen the Court Clerk

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For the first season, Karen Austin played the role of court clerk Lana Wagner. She claims that she was let go from the show due to her being diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy

After leaving Night Court, the West Virginia native had a supporting role on the 1995 drama Live Shot, but that show was canceled after 13 episodes. She recently had recurring roles on CSI: Miami, Fresh Hell, and Whole Day Down.

Robinson Plays a Robinson

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Charles Robinson’s biggest role in his career was playing Vietnam War veteran Macintosh “Mac” Robinson on the hit show.

After Night Court ended, he landed the role of Abe Johnson on the CBS sitcom Love & War. Lately, the Texan has made appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, Mom, and Key and Peele. He is the recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series.

Terry Kiser Will Spend the Weekend with You

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Terry Kiser portrayed the role of tabloid reporter Al Craven in the first two seasons. After leaving the show, he gained his most memorable role of Bernie Lomax in the popular films Weekend at Bernie’s and its sequel, Weekend at Bernie’s II.

In 2013, he opened an acting school with his partner Joy Leigh in Austin, Texas called The Actors Arena. He was recently seen on The Accidental President, Bail Out, and Johnny Dynamo.

Harry Anderson’s Cause of Death Revealed

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In October 2018, authorities disclosed what had killed Harry Anderson back in April 2018. It turns out that the actor suffered a stroke in the middle of the night. This event, coupled with having heart disease and a bout of flu, was ultimately fatal.

Anderson’s wife said he was cold when she found him, and resuscitation efforts were futile. She also said that he had experienced multiple strokes in the months leading to his death.

Jason Bernard Can Tell If You’re a Liar Liar

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For the first two seasons, Jason Bernard portrayed Judge Willard. After his contract was up, the Illinois resident landed the roles of Deputy Inspector Marquette on Cagney & Lacey and Mr. Bracken on Herman’s Head. He was in the films Death Wish, Thomasine & Bushrod, WarGames, Car Wash, Blue Thunder, No Way Out, and While You Were Sleeping.

On October 16, 1996, Bernard died from a heart attack shortly after filming for the 1997 film Liar Liar. The movie was dedicated in his memory.

Rita Was a Woman of the Night

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In the first two seasons of Night Court, Rita Taggart portrayed the role of an escort named Carla Bouvier. She’s usually referred to as “Carla B.” by the other characters.

After leaving, Taggart received recurring roles on Almost Grown, Coach, and Northern Exposure. Recently, the actress portrayed the role of Doris Dorkoff on the hit comedy/mystery web series Where the Bears Are. She was also played Linney James in the creepy and critically-acclaimed film Mulholland Drive.

Denice Is Mrs. Robinson

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Starting from season two, Denice Kumagai had a recurring role on Night Court as Mac’s wife Quon Le Duc Robinson. Her character was Vietnamese, and Mac had served in Vietnam during the war.

Prior to the show, she appeared on M*A*S*H. After Night Court ended, she was seen on Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Veronica’s Closet, and Living Single. Her last onscreen role was Aunt June on Gilmore Girls.

John Astin Is an Addams

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Oscar-nominated actor/director John Astin, who is best known for the role of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family, portrayed the role of Harry’s biological father Buddy Ryan. After leaving the show, Astin revived his role of Gomez Addams for The Addams Family animated series.

In 2015, he landed the role of Professor Peabody in the film Starship II: Rendezvous with Ramses. Fun fact: Astin was married to the iconic actress Patty Duke from 1972–1985.

William Utay Was a Doctor for Days

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William Utay portrayed the roles of an oddball tycoon named Phil Sanders and his evil twin brother Will on the show.

After Night Court ended, Utay landed the role of Dr. Wilhelm Rolf on the popular NBC soap opera Days Of Our Lives. He held this role from 1997 through 2003 and returned from 2007 to 2008. He was in Species in 1995, and in 2012 he appeared in What Are Friends For?.

Brent Plays Hillbilly Bob

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Brent Spiner had the recurring role of hillbilly Bob Wheeler on the hit series. After leaving the show, he gained the biggest role of his career as Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the films Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Recently, he landed the role of Sidney on the Cinemax series Outcast. Spiner is also a musician and he recorded an album of 1940s pop songs in 1991.

Yakov Smirnoff Is Everyone’s Favorite Russian

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Comedian Yakov Smirnoff portrayed the role of Russian immigrant Yakov Korolenko. After his stint on the show, Smirnoff, who is credited for Russian reversal jokes, continued to perform stand-up all over the country. His catchphrase is “And I thought, ‘What a country!'”

He has been referenced on several shows, including Futurama, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. Recently, he released a PBS special titled Yakov Smirnoff’s Happily Ever Laughter: The Neuroscience of Romantic Relationships.

Remember Joleen Lutz as Lisette?

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In the final two seasons of Night Court, Joleen Lutz played ditzy court stenographer Lisette Hocheiser. She appeared in 45 episodes over the final two seasons of the series.

After the show ended, she made small appearances on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, City Guys, and Living Single. Recently, she was seen on Pushing Daisies, Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint, and Desperate Housewives. Fun fact: she was once a Chicago Bulls cheerleader.

Gilbert Gottfried’s Voice Was Heard

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Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is famous for his loud and shrill voice. In the final season of Night Court, he portrayed the role of attorney Oscar Brown.

After the show, Gottfried gained what would become his most well-known roles as Iago from the Aladdin franchise. He also had roles as Digit from Cyberchase, Kraang Subprime from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and voiced the Aflac duck. Currently, he hosts Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, which he’s done since 2014.

You Could Find Ms. Stanley on Stage

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Florence Stanley brought her My Two Dads character Judge Margaret W. Wilbur onto Night Court to help fill in for Harry. The Illinois native is also known for her roles as Grandma Ethyl Phillips on the hit ABC series Dinosaurs, Dr. Amanda Riskin on the NBC sitcom Nurses, and Wilhelmina Packard in the Disney films Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo’s Return.

On October 3, 2003, Stanley died from a stroke. She was 79.

What Happened To The Gruff County Clerk?

If you tuned into Night Court during Season 1, you likely remember the Gruff County Clerk. Played by Canadian-American actress Selma Diamond, you may have noticed her in a variety of other appearances such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, Bang the Drum Slowly, All of Me, and The Twilight Zone.

It’s also rumored that she inspired the Sally Rogers character on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Sadly, Diamond sadly wouldn’t appear in any additional seasons of Night Court…

Selma Diamon Died of Lung Cancer In 1985

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Selma Diamon was a longtime chain smoker, and while filming Season 1 of Night Court she was diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer. Her symptoms worsened rapidly and at age 64, Diamond died in Los Angeles. She is buried in Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.

Following her death, actress Florence Halop replaced Diamond as bailiff Florence Kleiner. Sadly, Halop also died of lung cancer, just one year after Halop.

Fran Drescher

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Fran Drescher is most famous for starring in the hit 1990s television series The Nanny, but before that she appeared in a guest role during Season 4 of Night Court. She played the character Miriam Brody in one episode. The character was a schizophrenic woman and randomly changes personalities between a “sexpot” to a “prude”.

Most recently, Fran is putting her famous voice to good use in the animated Hotel Transylvania series.

Mimi Kennedy

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“Mimi” Kennedy played the character Patty Douglas in Season 2 of Night Court. The character was an heiress and also mentioned to be the fiancé of the character Dan Fielding for a time. Mimi later became better known to audiences for her role on the 1990s show Dharma and Greg, where she played the character of Dharma’s mother Abby O’Neil.

Mimi is still acting today and has appeared in tons of TV shows including Criminal Minds, Veep and Scandal. She currently has a recurring role on the show Mom, playing the character Marjorie.

Mel Torme

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The famous jazz vocalist Mel Torme, whose voice was called “The Velvet Fog,” made eight guest appearances on Night Court. He appeared as himself on the show and also acted in other shows and films.

Mel wrote many songs over his life, some of which are now classics like “Jeepers Creepers” and “The Christmas Song.” His music is still constantly used throughout television shows and films despite the legend having passed away in 1999 at the age of seventy-three.

Bumper Robinson

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“Bumper” Robinson appeared throughout Seasons 2 and 3 of Night Court where he played the role of Leon, an orphaned shoeshine boy. Bumper started as a child actor and appeared as a baby on shows like The Jeffersons and Hill Street Blues. He has appeared in numerous television shows over the years as both an on-screen voice actor. One of his most famous voice acting roles was Dwight Conrad from Futurama.

Probably his most popular acting role, though, was Clarence on the sitcom Amen. Most recently, he has worked as the voice of Falcon in the animated version of Avengers Assemble.

Estelle Harris

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Estelle Harris is most famous today for her role as Estelle Costanza on Seinfeld. She appeared in Season 3 and 4 of Night Court as the character named “Easy Mary.” As the character name implies, Easy Mary was an escort.

Estelle is still acting and is now in her 90s. Her most recent voice acting role is as the character Mrs. Potato Head in Toy Story 4. She also played Muriel on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

Daniel Frishman

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Daniel Frishman broke boundaries for little people after he appeared as District Attorney Vincent Daniels on Night Court. His character first appeared in a Season 3 episode called “Dan’s Boss.” Daniel first got his start acting on the stage before transferring into film in the movie Under the Rainbow as the Mayor of Munchkinland.

He also appeared in multiple Shakespearean plays over the years. He has since retired from acting and now works as a real estate agent.

Michael J. Fox

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Marty McFly himself, or Michael J. Fox, also appeared on Night Court in Season 1 which aired in 1984. Michael played a teenage delinquent named Eddie Simms. At the time, Michael was best known for his role as Alex Keaton on Family Ties.

He later became a huge star thanks to playing Marty McFly in the Back to the Future films and also from his 1990s sitcom Spin City. Michael was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991. He now has dedicated much of his life to advocating and helping to find a cure for the disease.

Jeanne Mori

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Jeanne Mori played a princess in Season 4 of Night Court. Her character’s full title was Princess Tatiana of Kapua. Jeanne is actually best recognized by audiences for her role in as the Helm Officer in the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

However, she has also appeared in numerous well-known films throughout the 1980s and ’90s including Night Shift, Protocol, Mars Attacks!, and Real Genius. Jeanne continued acting throughout the 2000s although her last noted role was in a short film in 2009 entitled Shear Delight.

Cathy McAuley

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Cathy McAuley appeared as two different characters in four episodes of Night Court. She played a character named Daphe and then a character named Wanda Flinn, who was a dating agency clerk who later married Bull.

Cathy appeared in numerous TV shows over the years including Murder She Wrote, TJ Hooker, and Dharma and Greg. Cathy has since transitioned to a playwright and also founded The Sparc Foundation, which aims to mentor high-risk youth through acting and performing.

Joey Aresco

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Joey Aresco appeared in Season 1 of Night Court as the character Ronald McKenzie. Joey appeared in many roles on TV over the years including with his Night Court co-star John Larroquette. The two starred together in the TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep in the 1970s.

Joey has continued acting over the years and his most recent role was in the 2015 series The Flash. He was also in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stargate SG-1.

Stanley Brock

Even Freddie Kreuger once appeared on Night Court! Well actually, his acting counterpart Robert Englund appeared on the show as the character Arnold Preminger. This character was in court because he started a fire after he thought aliens were coming to his job.

Although Robert is best known for his iconic role as Freddie Kreger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, he has appeared in numerous horror films over the years and is also a classically trained actor. He continues acting today with his most recent role in Arputio which is, of course, a horror film.

Robert Englund

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Freddie Kreuger even once appeared on Night Court! Well actually, his acting counterpart Robert Englund appeared on the show as the character Arnold Preminger. This character was in court because he started a fire after he thought aliens were coming to his job.

Although Robert is definitely known for his iconic role as Freddie Kreger, he has appeared in numerous horror films over the years and is also a classically trained actor. He continues acting today with his most recent role in Arputio which is, of course, a horror film.

Jack Gilford

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Jack Gilford was a veteran stage and film actor. He made it through the upsurge of McCarthyism which hit Hollywood in the 1950s, in which many entertainers were suspected of Communism. Jack continued acting despite facing adversity and appeared as the character Marty Ratner in Season 3.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1973 film Save the Tiger. Jack passed away in 1990 at the age of eighty-one.

Teri Hatcher

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Teri Hatcher is another familiar face who appeared on Night Court. She appeared as the character Kitty Daniels who was the niece of District Attorney Vincent Daniels in Season 5. Teri is probably best known for her roles as Lois Lane in the hit series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and later as the character Susan Mayer Delfino in the equally successful hit show Desperate Housewives.

Since leaving Desperate Housewives, Teri several years raising her daughter and taking only primarily voice acting roles including in the film Coraline. More recently she has appeared on the shows The Odd Couple and Super Girl.

Leslie Bevis

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Leslie Bevis got her start working as a model in Europe. She later made her way into the film industry. Leslie Bevis appeared as Sheila, a clerk who works in the Records Department on Night Court. In season 3 the character begins dating Dan Fielding.

Leslie is also well known for her role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and for the character Ruth Perkins on the Young and The Restless, which was her last television role before devoting herself to her children.

Judy Landers

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Educated at Warren Robertson Dramatic Training School and the Juilliard School of Music, Judy Landers appeared multiple times as different characters on Night Court. She played the characters Vickie Guyer-McKenzie, Dan’s date, and U.S. Army Reserve Major Roberta Savage.

Judy appeared in many other shows over the years including hits like The Love Boat, Happy Days and ALF. In 2006, Judy, her mother, and sister starred and produced a family film called Circus Island.

M*A*S*H: Amazing Facts From The Hugely Popular TV Show

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Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

MASH was a beloved series that ran for 11 seasons on CBS. Based on Roger Altman’s film about the Korean War – and thinly veiled critique of the Vietnam War – the television show would go on to break viewership records and win numerous awards during its historic run. It still has quite a large fan base today.

But you probably know all about that. What you might not realize is the fascinating history of the show during and after its broadcast run. From behind-the-scenes creative frustrations to life after MASH, here are some really interesting facts about the show that generations of Americans have come to love.

Radar Is Now A Wildlife Painter

Radar Is Now A Wildlife Painter
Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Gary Burghoff, the actor behind the Radar O’Reilly character in both the MASH film and TV show, is now a self-taught wildlife painter.

Burghoff took his childhood love of animals and lifelong commitment to wildlife as a basis for his art. “I’m hoping to make the viewer see the beauty and soul of the animal,” he told The New York Times in 2004.

Star Alan Alda Is A Veteran Who Served In Korea

MASH Star Alan Alda Is A Veteran Who Served In Korea
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Alan Alda played Captain Hawkeye Pierce in a fictionalized account of the Korean War, but he also served in Korea post-war as part of the Army Reserve. Alda joined up after his graduation from Fordham University in New York and served as a gunnery officer.

Jamie Farr, who portrayed Corporal Klinger, also served in the U.S. Army and acted in training films.

Corporal Klinger Was Originally A One-Off Character

Corporal Klinger Was Originally A One-Off Character on MASH
Bill Rowntree/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Bill Rowntree/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Speaking of Farr’s Corporal Klinger, the character was originally supposed to be “an effeminate gay” appearing in an early episode (“Chief Surgeon Who?”) as a cross-dresser. Instead, the writers decided to change Klinger to a heterosexual soldier who wore dresses in a bid to be kicked out of Korea on a psychological discharge.

He proved to be a hit and stuck around. His plots would persist throughout the series, including frequent get-rich-quick schemes as well as his cross-dressing.

Real Baseball Players’ Names Were Used For Characters

Real Baseball Players' Names Were Used For Characters
MovieStillsDB/CBS
MovieStillsDB/CBS

Writer Ken Levine said that in Seasons 6 and 7, the 4077th included several patients named after California-based ballplayers. Those included the Angels infield in Season 6 and the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers team (the entire roster and even the owner Walter O’Malley, and legendary announcer Vin Scully).

Levine also used names of his former girlfriends (“Patty Haven” and “Linda Nugent”) for the objects of Radar’s affection.

The Finale’s ‘Most-Watched’ Record Hasn’t Been Beaten By Another Series

The Finale’s ‘Most-Watched’ Record Hasn’t Been Beaten By Another Series
MovieStillsDB/CBS
MovieStillsDB/CBS

The series finale on Monday, February 28, 1983, was watched by about 106 million people, over three-quarters of the United States’ television watching population, that night. It’s a record that still has not been beaten by a non-Super Bowl telecast.

The show ran for eleven seasons on CBS, and was followed by a short-lived spin-off series called AfterMASH. The original was consistently in TV’s top 20 most-watched programs for the majority of its run after a shaky first season. “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the finale, ran for two-and-a-half hours.

MASH Was Almost Canceled In 1973

MASH Was Almost Canceled In 1973
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

While it set a viewership record in 1983, things were a bit different a decade earlier. MASH’s first season was such a ratings bomb (it finished in 46th place in the Nielsen ratings) the network considered canceling the series.

But the next season CBS moved the show to a different time slot – between All In The Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Saturday nights. It would finish the season 4th in the ratings and spend the next decade as a reliable hit.

…And Again In 1980

1980
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

MASH star Alan Alda told the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel in 1979 that the show might not make it past the conclusion of its eighth season in 1980. “It depends on whether we think we can think up more stories,” he said.

“By the end of next year, we will have done 200 stories. If we develop a staff that feels like it has the energy to go on, then maybe we’ll decide to go on. We don’t want to run it into the ground. A couple of times lately, we’ve felt as though we were repeating ourselves, and we don’t want to do that.”

The Cast May Not Have Liked Gary Burghoff

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CBS
CBS

There was apparently no love lost when Radar actor Gary Burghoff left the series in 1979. TV columnist Mike Drew wrote in 1983 that, “No castmates cried much over the departure of Burghoff.” The actor personally wrote to Drew, saying “While there may not have been tears shed by my cast members over my leaving the show, they did know – and still do – of my contribution.”

The other cast members rebutted the accusation, which also appeared in TV Guide, in a telegram that closed by saying “When Gary left the show, he left in friendship and with our warm wishes for a happy and successful life.”

Col. Potter Was Charged With Battery In 1997

Col. Potter Was Charged With Battery In 1997
CBS
CBS

Not the character who commended the 4077th for the last eight seasons, but the actor who played him. Harry Morgan, who found a second career in television movies after MASHended, was charged with misdemeanor spousal battery in July 1997.

He went into counseling for six months and the charges were dropped. Morgan passed away in 2011 at the age of 96.

William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) Is An Autism Advocate

William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) Is An Autism Advocate
Getty Images
Getty Images

The actor who portrayed the 4077th’s chaplain, Father Mulcahy, is an advocate for those with autism.

William Christopher’s son, Ned, is autistic and the elder Christopher works with the National Autistic Society to bring greater awareness through public service announcements. Along with his wife Barbara, Christopher wrote a book in the 1980s about their son Ned, titled Mixed Blessings.

Alan Alda Directed The Series Finale

Alan Alda Directed The Series Finale
CBS
CBS

Alan Alda directed the series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” and also had a writing credit on the episode. He had a hand in writing 13 episodes altogether and directed 30 before the record-breaking finale.

Thanks to his multitasking, Alda won Emmy Awards for acting, directing and writing during his time on MASH. That was the first time someone had done so much on the same series.

CBS Rejected One Episode As ‘Unpatriotic’

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CBS
CBS

The network rejected one episode during MASH’s long run: a story about the soldiers standing outside in a bid to get sick and sent home to the States.

“Such an anti-military event was deemed too unpatriotic for mass audiences,” wrote author James Wittebols in Watching MASH, Watching America, in a perfect example of the tensions creators faced between telling a story about the realities of war but needing to cater to commercial realities of television at the same time.

Wayne Rogers Never Signed A Contract

Wayne Rogers Never Signed A Contract
CBS
CBS

The star who played Trapper John for the first three seasons made a notorious break with the show after becoming “Alan Alda’s second banana.” He had originally expected a fairly equal role to Alda’s Hawkeye, as in the film version, but over time that changed.

When he decided to leave the show, the producers sued him for breach-of-contract. But it turned out that he had never signed his contract in the first place and there was actually nothing to breach.

The Pilot Took Only Two Days To Write

The Pilot Took Only Two Days To Write
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Show creator and producer Larry Gelbart penned the pilot episode in just two days in November 1971, for $25,000. At the time, he was living in London, disillusioned with the Hollywood scene.

But he jumped at the chance to adapt Robert Altman’s MASH film into a television sitcom and actually found it quite easy. A decade later, the show would probably be even more influential and beloved than the movie.

CBS Forced The Producers To Use A Laugh Track

CBS Forced The Producers To Use A Laugh Track
CBS
CBS

According to series creator Larry Gelbart, “the laugh track was always a thorn in my side.” CBS forced the use of the laugh track since it was a de facto part of sitcoms back then. But in some cases – operating room scenes and the black-and-white documentary style episode “The Interview,” for example – the producers were able to omit it.

“By and large, the network got their way,” Gelbart said. “They were paying for the dinner.” When the show aired in England, however, the laugh track was cut.

Wayne Rogers Was Not The First Choice For Trapper John

Wayne Rogers Was Not The First Choice For Trapper John
Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images
Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images

Actor Wayne Rogers is known for his three seasons on the show as Trapper John, but he actually was not the producers’ first choice for the character. Comedian Robert Klein was offered the role but turned it down, something he allegedly regretted afterward.

His manager, Larry Brezner, said that Klein told him later “You should have made me take it.” But Klein denies he ever felt that way.

McLean Stevenson Originally Auditioned For Hawkeye

McLean Stevenson Originally Auditioned For Hawkeye
by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

McLean Stevenson auditioned for the role of Hawkeye Pierce, the lead character who would be memorably portrayed by Alan Alda. But the producers liked Stevenson for a different role altogether: the bucket hat-adorned Lt. Colonel Henry Blake.

Blake became a much-loved character in his own right. When he finally left the 4077th in “Abyssinia, Henry,” viewers were shocked by the news, delivered at the end of the episode by Radar, that Blake’s plane home had been shot down over the Sea of Japan.

Wayne Rogers And McLean Stevenson Left Out Of Frustration

Wayne Rogers And McLean Stevenson Left Out Of Frustration
CBS Television
CBS Television

Both Wayne Rogers (Trapper John) and McLean Stevenson (Henry Blake) left the series out of frustration at their supporting roles. Rogers joined MASH assuming that Trapper John would be equal in status to Hawkeye Pierce, as in the film, but Alan Alda soon became an audience favorite. Stevenson, meanwhile, wanted a starring role and left when his contract ended after the third season.

Writer Ken Levine disputes that Stevenson or Rogers were really unhappy with the show or crew. They were just seeking more prominent roles. Levine quotes Rogers as saying he “probably would have kept [his] mouth shut and stayed put” if he knew the show would have the success it did.

Like His Character, McLean Stevenson Was From Bloomington, Illinois

Like His Character, McLean Stevenson Was From Bloomington, Illinois
Getty Images
Getty Images

Actor McLean Stevenson didn’t just portray a character who was from the central Illinois city of Bloomington, he actually was from the city. In fact, Stevenson was a cousin of another famous Bloomingtonian: Adlai Stevenson. Yes, that one, who was the one-term governor of Illinois, two-time Democratic presidential nominee, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

McLean brought more than just the hometown to his character. He said about Henry Blake: “I played my dad. My father was a country doctor, and he was 80 years old when he passed away.” Sadly, Blake would not make it back to Bloomington after the war.

Many Of The Plotlines Were Based On Real Events

Many Of The Plotlines Were Based On Real Events
CBS
CBS

Many of the storylines featured in the first few seasons were based on real events that were relayed to the production team by real MASH surgeons, nurses, and patients who lived through the Korean War.

Screenwriter Ken Levine even claims that some of the true stories they heard were so shocking that they had to be toned down by the writers for the series.

Catching Up With Hot Lips

Catching Up With Hot Lips
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

In 2014, Loretta Swit sat down for an interview in which she admitted that she rarely watches reruns of MASH — only because she doesn’t watch much TV at all. But she said, “I saw one this morning, a gem. I nearly know it by heart. It’s called ‘Fracture’ starring Anthony Hopkins. A great psychological mind game about a murderer who is determined to get away with murdering his wife.”

Swit never wrote a book about her time on the series, unlike some of her cast mates.