Burt Metcalfe, who because the showrunner of “M*A*S*H” for the final six of its 11 seasons made a essential casting determination as he started his tenure and helped write the two-and-a-half-hour remaining episode, contributing concepts he had picked up on a visit to South Korea, died on July 27 in Los Angeles. He was 87.
His dying, at a hospital, was attributable to sepsis, mentioned his spouse, Jan Jorden, who performed a nurse in a number of episodes of “M*A*S*H.”
Mr. Metcalfe had been an actor and casting director earlier than changing into a producer of “M*A*S*H,” the sitcom concerning the employees of the 4077th Cellular Military Surgical Hospital throughout the Korean Battle, a present broadly thought to be probably the greatest sequence in tv historical past. He joined for its first season, in 1972, on the request of Gene Reynolds, a good friend and an architect of the present together with the author Larry Gelbart. When Mr. Reynolds left after the fifth season, Mr. Metcalfe succeeded him as the chief producer operating the sequence.
“He was in a position to efficiently information the present due to his character, which was uncommon,” Alan Alda, who starred within the sequence because the surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, mentioned in an interview. “He was unselfish, he was light, and he was within the humanity of the characters.”
Mr. Metcalfe didn’t have to vary a lot of what had been constructed by Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Gelbart, who left after the fourth season. As an example, he continued Mr. Reynolds’s follow of interviewing medical doctors and nurses who had served within the Korean Battle and who offered a wealthy provide of potential medical story traces. Mr. Alda, who wrote and directed most of the episodes, mentioned he had pored over interview transcripts searching for a phrase that might encourage a narrative.
When, at a convention in Chicago, Mr. Metcalfe interviewed medical doctors who had served within the warfare, one advised him that the sequence had made him “a hero” to his household. “They watched the present and my son says to the neighbor youngsters, ‘My dad is Hawkeye,’” Mr. Metcalfe quoted the physician as saying in an interview with the Tv Academy in 2003.
He mentioned that underneath his path, with out what he known as Mr. Gelbart’s “comedic depth,” “M*A*S*H” had a extra critical bent.
“We delved extra deeply into the characters’ personalities in methods we hadn’t performed earlier than,” he advised the academy. “We acquired criticism in later years that it was changing into extra critical and fewer humorous.”
Earlier than the sixth season, Mr. Metcalfe’s first as showrunner, he confronted the duty of changing Larry Linville, who was leaving the present after his run because the officious, rules-obsessed ninny Main Frank Burns. Mr. Metcalfe, who had initially solid Mr. Linville, mentioned he needed an actor who might play a way more formidable surgeon with a superiority advanced. He discovered him one Saturday evening when he noticed David Ogden Stiers play a ruthless station supervisor on “The Mary Tyler Moore Present,” and he employed him to play the pompous surgeon Charles Emerson Winchester III.
“When David Stiers was dying, I wrote him an e mail,” Mr. Metcalfe mentioned in 2020 on “M*A*S*H” Issues,” a podcast hosted by Ryan Patrick and Jeff Maxwell, who performed the meals server Igor on the sequence. He advised Mr. Stiers, he mentioned, that hiring him to play Winchester “was the perfect determination I manufactured from all the choices I needed to make on ‘M*A*S*H.’” Mr. Stiers died in 2018.
Burton Denis Metcalfe was born on March 19, 1935, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His father, Louis, was a merchandising machine distributor who died when Burt was 3. Burt moved together with his mom, Esther (Goldman) Metcalfe, a secretary, to Montreal, the place he developed a love of appearing. He carried out comedian sketches and imitations in entrance of his aunts, uncles and cousins; whereas attending a youngsters’s theater faculty, he was requested to look in half-hour radio dramas.
Burt and his mom moved in 1949 to Los Angeles, the place he completed highschool. In 1955, he acquired a bachelor’s diploma in theater arts on the College of California, Los Angeles.
Over the following decade, Mr. Metcalfe was a working actor, showing as a visitor star on “Demise Valley Days,” “The Outer Limits,” “Have Gun — Will Journey,” “The Twilight Zone” and different sequence; as a daily on the sitcom “Father of the Bride” within the 1961-62 season; and as a surfer named Lord Byron within the 1959 movie “Gidget.”
Feeling bored, he moved into casting in 1965. This finally led Mr. Reynolds to ask him to search out actors for 2 pilots: “Anna and the King,” an adaptation of the musical “The King and I,” and “M*A*S*H.”
Each pilots had been picked up, however “Anna and the King,” through which Yul Brynner reprised his stage and display position, was canceled after 13 episodes. Mr. Metcalfe grew to become an affiliate producer of “M*A*S*H” along with overseeing the casting; he grew to become a producer within the fourth season, throughout which he directed his first three episodes (he would direct a complete of 31). He grew to become government producer when Mr. Reynolds left to run the manufacturing of “Lou Grant.”
A few years earlier than “M*A*S*H” ended, Mr. Metcalfe went to South Korea to speak to civilians about how they’d been affected by the warfare. One story — a few mom who had been with a gaggle of South Koreans making an attempt to flee from a North Korean patrol, and who smothered her child to keep away from jeopardizing their security — caught with him.
Mr. Metcalfe contributed that story to the script for the sequence finale. In that episode, Hawkeye has a nervous breakdown on a bus trip with members of the 4077th and refugees after telling one of many refugees to quiet her hen in order to not alert the enemy, solely to appreciate later, underneath psychotherapy, that she had really smothered her child.
Mr. Metcalfe was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, together with 4 for steering.
He’s survived by Emily O’Meara, a girl he thought to be his daughter. His marriage to Toby Richman led to divorce.
Quickly after “M*A*S*H” concluded, Mr. Metcalfe grew to become the chief producer of the sequence “AfterMASH,” a sequel through which three characters from the unique — Corporal Klinger (performed by Jamie Farr), Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) — labored at a veterans’ hospital in Missouri. It was canceled after 30 episodes.
Mr. Metcalfe joked on the podcast that his determination to rent Mr. Stiers “was solely a preface to creating numerous unhealthy selections on ‘AfterMASH.’”
He later grew to become an government at Warner Bros. and MTM Enterprises. He retired within the Nineties.
“TV had modified by then,” Ms. Jorden mentioned in a telephone interview. “He mentioned it had turn out to be meaner. And exhibits like ‘M*A*S*H’ solely come round as soon as in a lifetime.”