Friday, January 1, 2016

Good Bye to the Ultimate Sidekick

Noting the passing of Wayne Rogers.

The TV show MASH always seemed intended to be a platform suited to Hawkeye Pierce's (Alan Alda) sensibilities about war, the Army and nurses. He was the voice of truth, albeit an often inebriated one, in an insane environment. His conscience was the starting point for most every moral offered up by a show, one commenter wrote, that protested one war by satirizing another.

But every lead actor chewing up the screen needs a sidekick. This is the mostly calm, mostly quiet supporting cast member who doesn't seem to mind serving as set-up man. The good ones subtly reinforce the best intentions of the star, have their back and, when the ultimate outcome proves them all right, to celebrate the success with a pat on the back, a smile, and a step back.

No one did this better than Wayne Rogers, playing Trapper John McIntyre. Inheriting the role from Elliot Gould, who played it differently on the big screen, Rogers made Pierce's counterpart a best friend, a first follower and a man whose steady hand in the OR, and in their spartan quarters known as The Swamp, was often Hawkeye's better angel.

I have watched every episode, sharing the moments with my late mom, and then with my wife. At my mom's passing Pat and I agreed that a MASH-themed celebration of Mom's life would not just be appropriate, but would allow us to remember her from the happy times when we shared a love of this wonderful TV show.

Rogers left MASH after three seasons. He had other acting jobs before becoming a successful investor and financial planner. He passed away yesterday at 82.

As he observed, somewhere MASH is playing. I know there is a corner of heaven where it is probably on right now.

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