Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trapper John, M.D.

I guess no listing of M*A*S*H's spin-offs would exactly be complete without mentioning Trapper John, M.D.

The funny thing is, the makers of the show themselves insisted at the time that the show was not a spin-off of M*A*S*H the TV show; rather, it was a spin-off of the movie, thereby sidestepping certain legal issues.

As absurd as that argument seems, apparently they got away with it. What's even more amazing is that, in the opening minutes of the very first episode (which you can see on YouTube), there is a long tracking shot of Trapper (now played by Pernell Roberts).

The camera pans by some framed photos hanging on Trapper's wall:
...its hard to tell, but these look like stills from the TV show, not the movie! And that's pretty clearly Wayne Rogers and Alan Alda up top, there. How the heck did the producers get away with that?

Trapper John, M.D., had a solid run on CBS from 1979 to 1986. I remember watching the show pretty regularly, and I would be delighted when the show made the occasional reference to Trapper's experiences at the 4077th.

Sadly(?), we never did get to see any of his 4077th colleagues show up to visit ol' Trap.


Unknown said...

"Sadly(?), we never did get to see any of his 4077th colleagues show up to visit ol' Trap."

Very sadly. Given the time differnce between MASH & TJMD, you could have very easily recast the rolls (in fact, I personally think you would HAVE to) and have them show up. I'm sure Col. Potter would have died but any of the other characters should have been fair game. Heck, don't even call them "Benjamin Franklin Pierce", just say he's a doctor from Maine. I watched TJMD for a while hoping for MASH references but they were far & few between. I guess that's the way the show creators wanted it but I thought it was a major loss and still do.

BTW Rob!, I can't remember if you mentioned this before but did you reference MacLean Stevenson's appearance the night following Henry Blake's death? Off the top of my head, seems like it might have been the Carol Burnett Show but I could be wrong. From what I've read over the years, it was MacLean in liferaft in the Henry Blake garb going "I'm all right, I'M ALL RIGHT!". Just thought I would mention that even if you didn't want to include it.

Russell said...

What was the point of calling the show Trapper John, MD if they weren't going to try to please the original MASH fans? I watched it once or twice, but never got into it because it was just Medical Center with a new name.

However, House Calls which starred Wayne Rogers I always kind of considered the "real" Trapper John, MD comedy show, haha!!

rob! said...


Re: The Carol Burnett Show: yuo read my mind! Be here tomorrow!


I admit, I do remember watching House Calls once in a while because it had Wayne Rogers playing a doctor. :)

What the Parrot Saw said...

Felt the same way about House Calls although I've only ever caught a few episodes- forgot all about it until this mention!

Seeing Wayne as a financial analyst on Fox still seems strange- unlike Stiers, Rogers sounds just like Trapper!

Mikael said...

Speaking of Trapper John M.D. and House Calls, I think it's appropriate to mention that the third guy who played Trapper (or actually the first, i.e. Elliot Gould) also appeared as a stateside doctor in a sitcom.

In 1984-85, he played doctor Howard Sheinfeld in E/R. Interestingly enough, Jason Alexander also appeared in E/R (making him go from Sheinfeld to Seinfeld!), as did George Clooney (who later re-appeared in the similarly titled ER).

/Mikael Uhlin

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob!

Wikipedia (I know; that probably settles it right there)'s entry for Charles says the following:

"Although Trapper John, M.D. was determined in a court case to be a spin-off of the original M*A*S*H movie, and not the M*A*S*H (TV series), Winchester appeared in an episode of Trapper John, M.D. where he apologized for past wrongs and admitted to Trapper he was dying. Winchester was not a character of the original movie, and was introduced in the TV series in season 6, long after the Trapper John character was rotated home in season 4."

Any chance this is true? Any details?

Thanks in advance!

Your pal, Jim

rob! said...


Whoever wrote that Wikipedia entry must have been high. DOS never appeared on Trapper John MD, and he certainly never appeared as Winchester.

The character of Winchester never appeared on the show, either, so I don't know what that's about.

It doesn't even make any sense dramatically--Winchester never met Trapper, never had any connection to him, so why would be bother to visit Trapper's hospital?

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I also watched this show-it worked fine as a series in its own right, showing the now older and more responsible "Dr. McIntyre" in charge of a new generation of younger doctors and nurses such as "Gonzo" Gates (Gregory Harrison), Justin "Jackpot" Jackson (Brian Stokes Mitchell) Madge Sinclair as Ernestine "Ernie" Shoop, and Trapper's own son, J.T. (Timothy Busfield.) Although there were a few references to the Korean War, they involved other friends of Trapper who had served in the war. Trapper John clearly tried to be a different, contemporary show, set as it was in then-present day San Francisco.

Anonymous said...

I thought Alan Alda reprised his role of Hawkeye in one episode?

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