Trapper John, M.D.

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.
Trapper John MD.jpg
GenreMedical drama
Created byRichard Hooker
Developed byDon Brinkley
Frank Glicksman
StarringPernell 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 setupSingle-camera
Running time45–48 minutes
Production companiesFrank Glicksman Productions (1979–84)
Don Brinkley Productions
20th Century-Fox Television
Distributor20th Century-Fox Television
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 23, 1979 (1979-09-23) –
September 4, 1986 (1986-09-04)
Preceded byM*A*S*H (1970 film)
Related showsM*A*S*H


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 1-6Edit

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)

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

  • Stanley Riverside II (Charles Siebert) is a pompous, status-seeking, but nonetheless capable doctor whose father is the head of the hospital board of directors. He later marries a dentist named E.J. (Marcia Rodd)
  • Justin "Jackpot" Jackson (Brian Stokes Mitchell) is a young doctor always interested in wagers.
  • Gloria "Ripples" Brancusi (Christopher Norris) is a young nurse who later adopts a sickly, homeless girl, Andrea. Her nickname Ripples was dropped after the first few episodes.
  • Clara "Starch" Willoughby (Mary McCarty) is an experienced nurse who had served in the Korean War with Trapper. McCarty died after the first season. In the show's continuity, at the beginning of season 2 her character is said to have gotten married, retired, and moved away.
  • Ernestine Shoop (Madge Sinclair) replaces Starch as the experienced older nurse from season 2 onwards. Sinclair picked up three Emmy nominations for her work as the dedicated and dignified Nurse Shoop.
  • Arnold Slocum (Simon Scott) is the hospital administrator who often clashes with Trapper and Gonzo, though there is strong mutual respect between all parties. Slocum—though charged with operating within regulations and keeping to a budget—clearly has sympathy and compassion for the patients. Scott suffered from Alzheimer's and made his final appearance in season six before retiring from acting.
  • In season six, Trapper's son, J.T. McIntyre (Timothy Busfield), graduates from medical school and arrives at the hospital to work on his internship. He stays for the remainder of the run of the show.

Season 7Edit

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

  • Christopher Norris left the series at the end of season six. Her character Gloria is replaced by new nurse Libby Kegler (Lorna Luft) at the start of season seven.
  • Simon Scott, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, had made his final appearance partway through season six. At the beginning of season seven, his character of hospital administrator Arnold Slocum is said to have retired. Slocum is replaced by administrator Catherine Hackett (Janis Paige).
  • Added as a recurring player beginning with the season's third episode is ER service helicopter pilot and surgeon, Dr. Andy Pagano (Beau Gravitte).
  • Mid-way through the season, Gregory Harrison elected to leave the show. The character of Gonzo is written out, as he retires from medicine after having suffered a stroke. Gonzo is replaced by Dr. Jacob Christmas (Kip Gilman), a doctor who loses his wife in an accident, and is forced to become a single parent to his young son while adjusting to his new work environment.

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 castEdit

Recurring castEdit

  • Jessica Walter as Melanie McIntyre, Trapper's ex-wife. (10 episodes, seasons 1-2, 4-7)
  • Richard Schaal as Dr. David Sandler, who becomes Melanie's fiancé. (8 episodes, seasons 2-4, 6-7)
  • Beau Gravitte as Dr. Andy Pagano, ER service helicopter pilot and surgeon. (10 episodes, season 7).

Cast notesEdit

  • Character actress Lurene Tuttle guest-starred six times in different roles.


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


Spin-off statusEdit

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.


  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

External linksEdit