What the hell happened to Radar O'Reilly?

Why did the powers that be turn a savvy, resourceful character into a sniveling, whiney, Iowa virgin?

If you watch the movie MAS*H, as well as the first TV season episodes (available on FX), Radar is portrayed as wise-cracking corporal, capable of mailing a jeep home. Toward the end of the series, he spends most of his time holding his teddy bear and regressing back to childhood, afraid of his own shadow.

Why did the producers/writers/directors do this, and why did Gary Burghoff go along with it?

I once saw a lecture by Larry Linville, and one of the people in the audience asked him this very question - his response was that it was mostly Gary’s doing, and know one really understood WHY he did it.

I agree. The Radar of the early series/movie was a MUCH better character than the aw-shucks Radar that appeared as the series went one. Just one more little thing that made the early MASH episodes far better than the later ones.

After having watched the series through from start to finish several times in the last year (it’s on twice a night late-night, so I watch two episodes a day), some other changes really jump out at you: For example, Hawkeye turns into a complete JERK. Not just a little bit, either. But a total, anyone-would-hate-this-guy-with-a-passion-if-they-had-to-be-around-him kind of guy. Smug, sexist, nasty, paranoid, drunk, just awful. They tried to soften that by having the odd explicit episode designed to redeem Hawkeye, but even in those he comes across as a jerk.

Then there are the continuity errors. Like the episode in which Hawkeye goes through severe remorse/criticism for showing up in OR with a hangover. I’ve counted at least a dozen other episodes where the characters head to OR either hung-over, lacking sleep, or completely blitzed, without anyone saying a thing. Just the other night there was an episode which showed BJ mixing a martini. The ‘incoming casualties’ message comes in, and BJ quickly downs his martini before heading out the door.

Finally, does anyone know what the hell is up with the MASH theme song? They must have recorded a dozen different versions of it. Most noticeable is the changes in the drum fills at the end of the song. Some times its very prominent, and later you can’t hear it. Then it becomes prominent again, but different, towards the end of the series. Plus, around season seven or so the whole ‘sound’ of the theme song changes. I can’t describe it other than to say it sounds less like a ‘movie’ soundtrack and more like a ‘TV’ soundtrack.

Why would a studio go to the trouble of re-recording or re-mixing a theme song over and over again, into a number of almost-identical versions?

I’ve noticed that, too. Quite often there will be a scene with all four doctors in the Officer’s Club or Rosie’s Bar, and all four will be drinking, or at night, and all four will be in their tents asleep. Wouldn’t one of them be on duty in the post-op at all times? And would they be drinking, know that their shift in post-op is coming up?

And yes, quite often you a see a scene with Hawkeye and either Trapper or BJ drinking in their tent, and they’ll get the “Incoming casualties” announcement and off they go…without a care that they’ve been drinking.

Back to the OP, yeah, I think the character of Radar was all over the map throughout the years. Sometimes he was the scammer who could get anything and everything, and sent home a Jeep in pieces in boxes, and other times he was so naive you wondered how he managed to make it through the day.
Other continuity errors…he wanted to set free the lamb (intended for dinner) from the Greeks in one episode, because he said his family was vegetarians, yet in other episodes, you saw him eating meat. In one early episode, he traded the longjohns (which made the rounds through all the main characters) for a leg of lamb.

Last night they had an episode where Winchester was out all night drinking, comes home completely blotto and hung over, and gets hauled into OR. He spends the entire session sweating and threatening to throw up and telling everyone to shut up because his head hurts so badly. And no one made a comment about it. Business as usual.

Well, the TV show became a vehicle for Alan Alda’s ideas, and they tended to be all over the board over time, so why expect continuity, or even internal consistancy. This was before RealityTV, after all.

Another thing…
(sorry for the hijacking, Max)
They’d walk out of the OR, talking about having spent 18 hours or more in there, but the post-op held what looked like 10 or 12 beds. If they spent 18 hours in surgery, where are all the patients?

And would real docs go start drinking right after surgery, like they always did on the show?
What if a patient had complications? Wouldn’t one of them have hung around to monitor their conditions?

What happened to Hot Lips? Especially her face? Plastic surgery?

Amazing how she was able to exemplify the “modern, liberated woman” in the early 50’s.

Well, surgery can take five or six hours if you’re putting someone back together, or they could be dead.

Well, what I really meant was when they got wounded, they’d get a couple of choppers with 2 each, a school bus or two, with what, 8 soldiers on each one? And the medic truck held how many? Four? Six?
There was always the implication that there were dozens of wounded, but the post-op never seemed very full.
Just a continuity error you pick up when watching re-runs constantly on F/X.

You’ll also notice that you never (IIRC) see more than two helicopters at a time. That’s because there were so few of those types of choppers (Bell?) left at the time.

The choppers are Bell 47’s. There are still quite a few of them around.

To address the OP, maybe innocent-naive Radar was Gary’s way of distinguishing his character from the others? The 4077 already had lots of slick con artists, jaded veterans, and unfunny prigs, but aside from Father Mulcathy, there weren’t any “innocent folks” out there.

I thought it was made clear in the series that the MASH units were just to get the worst cases stabilized so that they could be flown to Seoul or Tpkyo for more advanced surgery. Only those were lesser wounds who could be returned to their units when they recovered were kept as patients.

Just remember, this was patch-em-up, ship-em-out surgery, or “meatball surgery” as they once described it.

Besides a little license for the size of the recovery rooms, that’s all they were; recovery rooms. The patients were minimally stabilized, which might be only hours to a few days, then shipped out to somewhere farther back from the front lines for longer recuperation. The alternative would be a longer initial journey to a better operating environment, but they might not have made it that far. MASH was something in between the medic in the field and the hospital in Tokyo.

Because unions and technology don’t mix. Technology would say record the song once, use it forever. But at the non-tech end of the economic spectrum, the Musician’s Union (American Federation of Musicians) would like a live band of at least 64 musicians to be playing in your home at full wages every time you watch the show.

So a compromise was struck. TV Programs that run for second and subsequent seasons usually are required to record the theme(s) again each year. It gives the composer/arranger a little freedom to experiment with the recording, as well – if it costs the same to record it again, why not make it a little different?

Well, yes, I understand that, but would they ship them out right after surgery? I guess we (the viewers) just never really saw that part. We did, sometimes, see patients being sent on to Seoul or Tokyo, and sometimes a plotline involved a patient who was too injured to send, but it seems like they’d give them a day or two to recover from the first surgery before sending them on.

Or maybe I’m nitpicking too much. :wink:

I think it’s probably the economics of having to hire a zillion extras for every show, just to show full beds. They couldn’t do that, so they compromise - usually show just a couple of patients, but occasionally have a show that shows post-op packed to the rafters, and even more occasionally a show in which the wounded overflow post-op and they have to put them in the officer’s tents.

Musicat: I figured as much. That’s pretty crazy, though. Must be a tough union.

When you see the movie, you realize how much better the TV show should have been. It’s all in the details. Compare the sound of the PA system between the movie and the TV show; the TV version sounds like what it is: someone doing a voiceover in a studio with some reverb added in. In the movie it sounds like a real PA. Don’t even get me started on the laugh track and the indoor set.

My theory on the issue is that as Klinger got more airtime and became a larger character, he began to take on the scavenger/sneak type of roll that Radar had, because it fit him better. We already knew that he was someone willing to go the length, spending all that time wearing dresses to no avail. When Klinger finally replaced Radar, it was a welcome relief- His character had dwindled into pointlessness.

Furthermore, Radar’s character worked a lot in conjunction with Col. Blake. Remember the times he would constantly him? Even right from the beginning, in the first episode, he makes Blake believe the travel orders he’s signing is an order for ice cream. But Potter wasn’t as stupid as Blake, so it would make the conning impossible. Hence Radar lost his major quirk and dwindled into the naive corporal image.