All in all, though, “M*A*S*H” had a surprisingly high hit rate, and the show often weathered major cast and creative transitions without missing a beat. Series creator Larry Gelbart, though, admitted that there was one character who got the worst of the writers’ work later in his run: Larry Linville’s Frank Burns. Frank often served as the uncool, status-quo-keeping counterpart to Hawkeye and his more raucous, morally complex coworkers. Frank was at once pompous and pathetic, a brownnoser who could never actually curry favor with authority figures because he was always in the wrong. In the progressive world of “M*A*S*H,” Frank was the zealot, the homophobe, the bully, and the borderline-fascist patriot. Except, in the later seasons, he was just kind of stupid.
“I’d have made Frank a little less silly,” Gelbart once admitted in an interview with Ed Solomonson for Solomonson and Mark O’Neill’s book “TV’s ‘M*A*S*H’: The Ultimate Guide Book.” The author asked Gelbart if he would change “any specific feature of a character” if he could go back and do things differently, and Gelbart was clear that he saw relatively static character Frank as a series weak point. “There would be the occasional show where he would get drunk, try to be one of the guys,” Gelbart said. “That’s the one thing I would do [differently]. I’d make him a little less inane before the fifth season.” The writer called Frank’s characterization “just lazy writing” and “coasting with what you know works.”