President Obama revealed he ‘learned his values’ by watching hit TV series M*A*S*H, according to one of the show’s long time writers.
Obama confided his love for the laughs and the ethical codes of the iconic comedy drama to one of the show’s main stars, Mike Farrell, who played Captain B.J. Hunnicutt.
M*A*S*H, which first aired 45 years ago, was about a team of American army surgical medics during the Korean War in the early 1950’s.
One of the show’s lead writers, Dan Wilcox, told DailyMail.com: ‘One thing that does always stay with me, was when Mike Farrell met President Obama and went to introduce himself when Obama said, “No, no, no. I know who you are. I learned many of my values from watching your show.”
‘He genuinely meant it and I felt so proud when Mike told us about it.’
One of the show’s lead writers, Dan Wilcox, exclusively told DailyMail.com about his time writing for M*A*S*H, which first aired 45 years ago and centered around a team of American army surgical medics during the Korean War in the early 1950’s
President Obama confided his love for the laughs and the moral codes of the popular comedy drama to one of the show’s main stars, Mike Farrell (left), who played Captain B.J. Hunnicutt
‘He genuinely meant it and I felt so proud when Mike told us about it,’ Wilcox said about Obama’s compliment. Pictured, the cast pose for a photo during filming; Farrell is seen on the far left
‘To have an endorsement like that about a piece of my work was staggering and it made me feel very pleased and proud.’
Speaking to DailyMail.com from his Los Angeles home, Wilcox recounts his love of the show and creating ‘something special’.
M*A*S*H provided the moral compass for millions of Americans. In fact, by Season 3, Peggy Herz, who wrote the book All About M*A*S*H had observed that on the show, ‘There is no moralizing or sermonizing – yet it is probably the most moral show on TV.’
The show often tackled delicate issues such as mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and racism. Reflecting on the show’s moral side and its impact on Obama and many Americans like him, Wilcox said: ‘As a young man he saw a show whose characters were depicted as good people and he could see what their values were and obviously he adopted many for himself. ‘
Another thing was that from the start we came out boldly against racism – and he must have seen that.
Wilcox added: ‘M*A*S*H aimed high. We kept the show truthful, real and honest. It was about people in life and death situations and decisions they made effected the life of a patient. ‘For anyone watching, the moral was do your job to the best of your abilities no matter what the trying circumstanc
When Wilcox went to Hollywood, he ‘wanted to make money and I got onto a show where I was lucky enough to be paid to do something I absolutely adored.
‘We knew that we were creating something special, and even though it was technically a comedy, the show dealt with people’s real moral issues every week. So Obama reacting like that will always stay with me.’
The veteran Emmy-winning television writer reflected on the show ahead of receiving one of the highest honors in US television.
On Sunday the Writers Guild of America will present Wilcox with the prestigious 2017 Morgan Cox Award for his services to the screen and the guild itself.
The writer gave an insight into the incredible success of the series and has detailed how, while a favorite of the former President, M*A*S*H could never be made again today.
He believes modern day TV networks would never allow such a show to thrive, nor would they hand over control to the producers in the way the M*A*S*H executives did back then.
Wilcox and his team made television history when they penned the finale episode, which remains America’s highest-ever watched scripted TV show after wowing an astonishing 121 million viewers.
The veteran Emmy-winning television writer reflected on the show ahead of receiving one of the highest honors in US television. On Sunday the Writers Guild of America will present Wilcox with the prestigious 2017 Morgan Cox Award for his services to the screen and the guild itself
Loretta and Harry (center) hold up their Emmys about a month after the awards show on the day their statuettes were delivered. Loretta’s win was from a script Dan and partner Thad wrote called ‘Are You Now, Margaret?’ Top to bottom, left to right: Mike Farrell, Dan Wilcox, Dennis Koenig, Alan Alda, John Rappaport, Thad Mumford, Jamie Farr, Loretta Swit, Harry Morgan, William Christopher, Burt Metcalfe and David Ogden Stiers
He also recalls how M*A*S*H changed the face of American television by mixing comedy with drama, comparing the television triumph to ‘lightening in a bottle.’
In the 1970’s M*A*S*H was unmissable viewing for 30 million people each week, who would tune in to watch the adventures of medical draftees Hawkeye, Trapper John, and B.J. Hunnicutt, and their army chiefs Margaret Houlihan and Colonel Potter.
The show made big stars of actors Alan Alda (Hawkeye), Loretta Swift (Hot Lips Houlihan), Farrell, Jamie Farr (Klinger) and Harry Morgan (the Colonel).
But Wilcox believes that modern day ‘binge-watching’ audiences would have little patience for the format today.
‘I think that because television has gotten so much more realistic and the graphics have gotten so good, it would be really hard to do something like M*A*S*H again as a comedy.
‘If you were looking at something really serious, could you make it funny today? I don’t think I could.
‘Networks today want their shows to get good ratings as soon as possible.’
He added: ‘M*A*S*H was lightening in a bottle.
‘I think it was able to make war funny because what the cast were doing was actually trying to save lives.
‘So the comedy helped keep their spirits up while they dealt with the impossible. The comedy also made what they were doing more acceptable to watch.’
In the 1970’s M*A*S*H was unmissable viewing for 30 million people each week, who would tune in to watch the adventures of medical draftees Hawkeye, Trapper John, and B.J. Hunnicutt, and their army chiefs Margaret Houlihan and Colonel Potter
‘The show never stressed me out. I was only afraid that we’d do something to hurt it. It was as if we’d been given a Faberge egg and told not to break it,’ Wilcox said
Wilcox also revealed how Fox executives tried to revive the series after its 1983 farewell, but the show’s leading man Alan Alda was uninterested because he had already banked so much money from it.
Wilcox also worked on hit shows like Murder She Wrote, Cosby, Growing Pains, Diagnosis Murder and The New Adventures of Superman and won an Emmy Award in 1970 for his work on the hugely successful children’s TV show, Sesame Street.,
He joined M*A*S*H’s writing team in 1979, by which time the show was already a big success, but says the pressure never got to him.
‘The show never stressed me out. I was only afraid that we’d do something to hurt it. It was as if we’d been given a Faberge egg and told not to break it.’
M*A*S*H began in 1972 and ran for 11 years, but in 1983 Twentieth Century Fox was forced to call time on the series after its leading star Alan Alda felt ‘it had run its course.’
After the cast and crew filmed their last scenes for the finale episode Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, which Wilcox wrote, TV bosses immediately began tearing down the M*A*S*H set at Twentieth Century Fox studios in Los Angeles.
By the time the last episode aired the cast and crew had nowhere to mark the occasion because the sound stage was now long gone.
‘I remember we chose a Moroccan restaurant on the Westside near Fox as it was a favorite of Alan Alda,’ Wilcox recalls.
‘As the restaurant had no TV connection, we played a video of the show instead.
‘We didn’t really pay full attention to it, but it was still being played at roughly the same time as the real thing was being aired to the nation, which was great.
‘We had no idea what the ratings were until later. To know that two thirds of the nation wanted to know what happens to something I had participated in made me think, “My God. I did that?”‘
M*A*S*H won a Golden Globe at long last in 1982. This picture shows the producers and Loretta Swit, each with a hand on the statuette. Left to right: Dan Wilcox, Thad Mumford, Loretta Swit, John Rappaport, Burt Metcalfe
On the last day of shooting Wilcox remembers episode director Burt Metcalfe yelling, ‘That’s a wrap’ and immediately a flood of news reporters came onto the set
On the last day of shooting Wilcox remembers episode director Burt Metcalfe yelling, ‘That’s a wrap’ and immediately a flood of news reporters came onto the set.
A press conference followed and after that everyone just went home.
‘I came back the next day to start cleaning out my office at Fox and I went over to take a look at the set and the sound stage and it was gone. In one night they had taken it all down,’ he says.
Within weeks of the show ending, network bosses tried to reunite the cast, but they couldn’t win the show’s star Alan Alda over.
Wilcox says Alda had ‘grown tired’ of the premise and had finally made up his mind that he was done with the show – and had made enough money that he couldn’t be bought back.
The studio held a vote, he says, and the only actors who wanted to bring it back were Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr and Bill Christopher.
Wilcox added: ‘Those three went on to make After-M*A*S*H, which was intended to try and keep M*A*S*H alive, but people questioned how it could be done without Alan, and would it really still be M*A*S*H if he’s not involved?
‘But the overall consensus was that we’d been doing it for so long that the time was right to leave it well alone while it was still good.’
And as for a comeback, the writer thinks not.
He said: ‘A “flash back” episode would be nice idea, but we’re not kids anymore and could end up being like attending your high school reunion. I’m not sure what the point would be.’
The hit series is still screened around the world on cable channels and Wilcox says the dollars are still rolling in.
‘I think everyone earns well in Hollywood, don’t they? We receive residuals every time the show airs,’ he said.
‘The Writer’s Guild keeps track of the episodes and how often they run, and for that I say thank goodness I have a union.’