Influence of the Actors
On a long-running series there is inevitably a push from serious actors to get meaty parts—to expand their characters' emotional range. On the M*A*S*H set, push did not come to shove. Script development was a matter of ongoing collaboration between writers and players. In addition, most of the principals wrote and directed some episodes.
A second way in which actors influenced the show was unwitting: the writers often wrote the actors' pastimes or behavioral tics into their parts. Hence, David Ogden Stiers's love of classical music is a defining characteristic of Major Winchester. After Loretta Swit took up yoga, Margaret can be found practicing it on-screen. Hunnicut uses his real daughter's real name in referring to B. J.'s baby. Alda wrote and directed an episode "Inga" (season seven) in which he admittedly explored his feelings of being threatened by smart women.
After battles with the military were played down as plot devices and human relationships were emphasized, the group dynamics of the cast was sometimes introduced into the scripts. Thus, when the writers noticed that Gary Burghoff and Loretta Swit were treating veteran actor Harry Morgan as a father figure, they wrote that relationship explicitly into the script for the same actors (Darrach, 103). Of course, there was not always a correspondence between life and art. Gary Burghoff, however cuddly as Radar on-screen, did not fit into the congenial atmosphere of the set (Prelutsky, 21).
Yet another parallel between life and the show was the use of elaborate practical jokes to relieve the arduousness of fourteen-hour days on cramped or cold sets (Kalter, 179). And episodes depicting the departure of characters like the original commander, Henry Blake, were evidently full of genuine tears as the actors played their farewell scenes.
But probably the most extreme case of personal dynamics influencing the direction of the series was the fact that the writers became personally much closer to Alan Alda than to Wayne Rogers. Originally Trapper John and Hawkeye were supposed to have had equally developed parts. But as the writers drew closer to Alda, they developed his role more fully. Wayne Rogers finally got so frustrated at playing second fiddle that he sued the company and left (Swerdlow, 6).