The Troops of M*A*S*H Sew on a 200th Episode Hashmark and Celebrate with Bedpans of Champagne

updated 11/17/1980 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/17/1980 01:00AM

Eight years ago, when M*A*S*H, the TV series, took up where M*A*S*H, the movie, left off, Americans were fighting in Vietnam, Watergate was nothing but a third-rate burglary and Dr. Spock was running for President. The times were right for a comedy set in a Korean war field hospital and directed at patriotic humbug and brass-hat mentality. Since then times have changed, and M*A*S*H has too, but the show's popularity has survived the transitions. Cast, crew and producers got together on the 20th Century-Fox lot recently to celebrate the filming of the show's 200th episode—a milestone passed by only eight other sitcoms in TV history. There were no mortar barrages or spiked bottles of plasma, just a massive mocha cake and bottles of champagne chilled in bedpans. Since the show's production schedule calls for an episode to be completed every three days, the cameras kept right on rolling while the stars reminisced on the sidelines. Why has the series endured? Loretta (Hot Lips) Swit speculates, "Because these raunchy guys I work with have substance. We like and respect each other."

Along the way, of course, M*A*S*H has suffered some casualties. Gary (Radar) Burghoff didn't show for the festivities; neither did Wayne (Trapper John) Rogers nor McLean (Col. Henry Blake) Stevenson. They left the show for less regimented—and supposedly more rewarding—careers and were not invited back for the party. "Everything is amicable between those who left and those who stayed," insists executive producer Burt Metcalfe, "but there's no way to keep up that close relationship after you depart." How much longer can M*A*S*H continue? "We've been blessed with a chemistry that works," says Metcalfe, "but finally, I suppose, we will reach the point where there's nothing more to be done." A final question: Could the cast handle another 200 episodes? "Sure," says Jamie (Klinger) Farr. "I wouldn't rule it out," says David Ogden (Winchester) Stiers. "You've got to be kidding," says Swit. "That would be another eight years out of my life."

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