Trapper John, M.D.

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Trapper John, M.D.
Trapper John MD.jpg
Genre Medical drama
Created by Richard Hooker
Developed by Don Brinkley
Frank Glicksman
Starring Pernell Roberts
Gregory Harrison
Charles Siebert
Madge Sinclair
Brian Mitchell
Christopher Norris
Timothy Busfield
Lorna Luft
Theme music composerJohn Parker
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes151 (list of episodes)
Executive producersFrank Glicksman (1979–84)
Don Brinkley (1984–86)
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time4548 minutes
Production companiesFrank Glicksman Productions (1979–84)
Don Brinkley Productions
20th Century-Fox Television
Distributor 20th Century-Fox Television
Original network CBS
Original releaseSeptember 23, 1979 (1979-09-23) 
September 4, 1986 (1986-09-04)
Preceded by M*A*S*H (1970 film)
Related shows M*A*S*H

Trapper John, M.D. is an American medical drama television series and spin-off of the film M*A*S*H (1970). Pernell Roberts portrayed the title character, a lovable surgeon who became a mentor and father figure in San Francisco, California. The show ran on CBS for seven seasons, from September 23, 1979, to September 4, 1986. Roberts played the character more than twice as long as had Wayne Rogers (1972–75) on the TV series M*A*S*H . The role of Trapper John was played by Elliott Gould in the film.



Trapper John, M.D. focuses on Dr. "Trapper" John McIntyre (Pernell Roberts) 28 years after his discharge from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War. During that time after the war, the character had mellowed considerably. He did not merely learn how to stop fighting the system but became a part of it, in a sense, as the Chief of Surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. Trapper shows tremendous compassion toward his patients, often violating "established hospital procedures."

Seasons 1-6

Working with Trapper is an aspiring young professional named Dr. George Alonzo Gates (Gregory Harrison), usually referred to as Gonzo, who has a lot in common with Trapper, having also served in a MASH unit (albeit during the later Vietnam War). His sense of humor and love of life also reflect elements of Trapper's younger days. Gonzo resides in his motor home (dubbed "The Titanic") in the hospital parking lot.

The cast of Trapper John, M.D. season 6 (1984-1985) Trapper John MD Cast.jpg
The cast of Trapper John, M.D. season 6 (1984-1985)

The show also involves several other characters that serve as hospital staff.

Season 7

The show underwent a number of changes during Trapper John's seventh and final season.

Only nine further irregularly-scheduled episodes of Trapper John were produced after Harrison's departure.

After Harrison's last episode, the show was off the air for three weeks, then brought back on a different night before being pre-empted three times in the next four weeks. A top 30 hit for most of its run, Trapper John, M.D. fell out of the top 30 during season seven, and was canceled by season's end.

The final four episodes were aired late in the summer of 1986, well after the show's cancellation had already been announced.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Cast notes


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1 22September 23, 1979 (1979-09-23)March 30, 1980 (1980-03-30)
2 18November 23, 1980 (1980-11-23)May 17, 1981 (1981-05-17)
3 25October 4, 1981 (1981-10-04)May 16, 1982 (1982-05-16)
4 22September 26, 1982 (1982-09-26)April 3, 1983 (1983-04-03)
5 22October 2, 1983 (1983-10-02)May 6, 1984 (1984-05-06)
6 23September 30, 1984 (1984-09-30)May 5, 1985 (1985-05-05)
7 19October 6, 1985 (1985-10-06)September 4, 1986 (1986-09-04)


Spin-off status

In a suit filed in New York state court, Ingo Preminger, the original producer of the 1970 motion picture M*A*S*H , claimed that under his deal with 20th Century Fox, his production company had both the right of first refusal to produce any spin-off of the movie and the right to fees from the use of the book and film's material. New York State Supreme Court Justice Martin Stecher found in part for Preminger, saying that his agreement with Fox did not give him the right of first refusal to produce Trapper John M.D., but he did have a right to participate in profits from the show. Stecher awarded Preminger a 25% share in the show's profits. [1] This decision was later cited by the same court in its 2008 decision in Kellman v. Mosley, involving a claim for royalties involving the Easy Rawlins detective series. [2]

It has sometimes been reported that after Trapper John, M.D. premiered, the producers of the television series M*A*S*H filed suit claiming they were entitled to royalties from the new show because their series had also featured Trapper John McIntyre as a character, portrayed by actor Wayne Rogers. [3] According to these reports, although Rogers left M*A*S*H in 1975 and the character had been written out of the series, the M*A*S*H producers argued Trapper John, M.D. was a spin-off of the TV series M*A*S*H. These reports further contend that producers of Trapper John, M.D responded that their series was a spin-off of the 1970 M*A*S*H film, which itself was an adaptation of Richard Hooker's MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors , but was not a spin-off of the M*A*S*H television series and that series' producers were not entitled to royalties from Trapper John, M.D. Both TV series came from the same studio, 20th Century Fox Television, and the movie M*A*S*H was produced by parent company 20th Century Fox. In fact, these reports appear to be a confused description of Preminger v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, [4] .

In the pilot the camera focuses on various photographs on the wall of Trapper's office, while Trapper dreams about the Korean War. Many of these photos and video snippets in his dream are taken from the film and the tv series. One of them is a publicity photo of Trapper (Wayne Rogers) along side Hawkeye (Alan Alda) outside the Swamp, near the iconic direction sign. When he wakes up he makes a reference to Radar and Hawkeye. None of the characters from the M*A*S*H* movie or television series ever appeared as characters on Trapper John, M.D., and as the show went on references to Trapper's time in Korea were exceedingly rare.

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  1. Entertainment Law Reporter Vol. 8 No. 12(PDF). May 1987 . Retrieved October 15, 2018.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 7925 p. 17
  3. "7 weird spin-offs that were nothing like the originals". Digital Spy. November 28, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  4. New York Law Journal, New York County, April 24, 1982, p. 12, col 2-3