One thing I left out of the last post was a little game I play with myself — how quickly can I figure out “Which season an episode is from?” Although a lot of the footage from M*A*S*H’s main title was shot for the pilot, changes in cast required periodic alterations.
Unlike the rest of the series, the pilot does not begin with the main title; instead, it begins with a montage of off-duty scenes of hijinks, which ends when Radar hears some incoming choppers. The main title then begins, a more extended version of what was used for the rest of the series. There are “funny” scenes of people leaving their tents, and the process of getting wounded off the helicopters is shown in more detail.
Seasons 1 – 3
The series uses the same main title for the first three years. Jamie Farr and William Christopher are not listed. You can spot this version as soon as Alan Alda’s credit appears — cast member names are in a much smaller font than the title “M*A*S*H”.
The cast changes in Season 4 required revisions to the main title. Mike Farrell replaces Wayne Rogers in second spot, and Harry Morgan replaces McLean Stevenson. Jamie Farr was added to the main title in this season.
You can tell this is a post-original cast episode as soon as Alan Alda’s credit appears; cast member names are now only slightly smaller than “M*A*S*H”.
The two things that make this season unique are the shot of BJ, and the absence of William Christopher’s credit. In this season, they use a straight on shot of Mike Farrell running straight toward the camera.
In this season, they replace the running shot of BJ with one of him by the side of the helicopter, saying “He’s OK”. This shot would be used for both seasons 5 and 6.
In this season, William Christopher gains his name in the title; in addition, Executive Producer Gene Reynolds gets a credit — the only year a non-cast member’s name would be shown.
This season replaces Larry Linville’s credit with David Ogden Stiers.
Season 7 is the year BJ grew his mustache, so they replaced his season 5 shot with a new one of him with the mustache, kind of popping up into the frame.
This season is the last one with Radar, so this the last year the main title begins with a shot over his shoulders looking out toward the mountains toward the incoming choppers; this version is the only one with this shot and BJ’s mustache.
Season 8 and Beyond
With Gary Burghoff gone, the main title now starts with a newer, aerial shot of helicopters flying over the mountains. There are a few season 8 episodes with inserted shots of Radar on R & R, plus his farewell episodes; these have an additional credit added, “with Gary Burghoff as Radar”.
I’m not sure if visually, the main title changed beyond that for seasons 9, 10 and 11; I have noticed that different seasons do seem to have slightly different arrangements of the theme. It would not surprise me if there were minor differences in some of the shots as well.