Walter Dishell

Medical Consultant / Writer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Dr. Walter Dishell describes how he first got involved in television when he was approached (while a resident at UCLA medical center) to become the medical adviser for a television movie called U.M.C., which served as the pilot for the long-running drama series Medical Center. Dishell talks about his work as the medical adviser to this series and the various medical subjects it explored, including an episode that led to a change in real-life laws regarding employment discrimination of recovered cancer patients. He details his work on M*A*S*H, giving advice on medical procedures as they were in the 1950s during the Korean War. He describes the episode he co-wrote with star Alan Alda ("Life Time") that unfolds in real time and centers on an arterial graft operation. Dishell also recalls consulting for several other television series, including: Trapper John, M.D., House Calls, and Family Medical Center. B-roll consists of photos from U.M.C. (with Edward G. Robinson), Medical Center (including stills from the bill signing resulting from the cancer patient episode), M*A*S*H (including the script cover page of the "Life Time" episode), and a card from the game "Trivial Pursuit" which featured a question about the medical adviser on M*A*S*H. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview on November 18, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA.

"In the industry, my proudest achievement was being a straight-up medical advisor who stuck to his guns and who gave proper medical advice and didn't let the drama influence the medicine."

Highlights
Walter Dishell on the challenge of making the doctors on M*A*S*H funny but credible
01:39
Walter Dishell on consulting for Chicago Story and Venice Medical
03:49
Walter Dishell on how the biggest medical advances happen during wartime
01:24
Walter Dishell on his proudest achievement and one regret
02:22
Walter Dishell on medical issues used in Medical Cente r
03:50
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on relocating to Los Angeles; on getting his break in television; on acting as a medical consultant on Medical Center;  on the cast and crew of Medical Center
16:25
On getting letters from the public about Medical Center;  on doctors' reaction to Medical Center; on appearing on camera
12:42

Chapter 2

On his stint in the Air Force; on additional members of the Medical Center crew; on various issues addressed on the show; on the influential cancer discrimination episode of Medical Center
16:25
On how Medical Center compared to earlier medical shows; on becoming involved with M*A*S*H;  on research for M*A*S*H
11:41

Chapter 3

On advising on how to perform surgery on M*A*S*H; on making the doctors on M*A*S*H believable; on doing research for medical scenes on the show
14:10
On working with Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart on M*A*S*H; on working with the M*A*S*H writers to get the medical situations right; on working with Alan Alda on the show
14:10

Chapter 4

On co-writing an episode of M*A*S*H  with Alan Alda; on working with the cast of M*A*S*H
20:03
On working with directors on M*A*S*H; on the use of a laugh track on M*A*S*H; on the finale "Goodbye, Farewell,and Amen" 
08:12

Chapter 5

On showing blood on M*A*S*H; on M*A*S*H's legacy; on his fame and how it affected his practice; on consulting for Maude, Dr. Max, Westside Medical, Charlie's Angels, Rafferty and the Lazarus Syndrome
08:22
On consulting for Trapper John, M.D.; on various illnesses used in the scripts of Trapper John, M.D.; on consulting on and writing for House Calls
11:38
On working as a medical reporter for local news; on serving as a medical consultant on Chicago Story and Venice Medical
07:55

Chapter 6

On consulting for After MASH; on co-creating the syndicated strip series Family Medical Center; on consulting for the feature film "For The Boys"
08:20
On then-current projects; on career achievements and regrets; on how he wants to be remembered 
05:29
On B-Roll photos from his career: photo for the cast of University Medical Center with Edward G. Robinson; photo of Dishell, Chad Everett, and James Daily; photo of the bill signing of the bill outlawing cancer discrimination with Dishell and Jerry Brown; photo of Dishell with representative Alfred Siegler; newspaper article about the cancer discrimination bill; photo of Medical Cente r wrap party with Chad Everett; photo of Dishell with Alan Alda on the set of M*A*S*H; photo of Dishell's credit as co-writer of an episode of M*A*S*H; script of the M*A*S*H episode Dishell wrote, "Life Time", signed by Alan Alda; print advertisement featuring Dishell for KNBC's local news; Trivial Pursuit card with Dishell question on it
05:37
Shows

AfterMASH

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on consulting for After MASH
02:07

Family Medical Center

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on co-creating Family Medical Center
04:58

House Calls

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on working on House Calls
03:05

M*A*S*H

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on how he came to be involved with M*A*S*H
03:20
Walter Dishell on the film version of M*A*S*H
01:39
Walter Dishell on doing research for M*A*S*H
03:21
Walter Dishell on advising on how to perform surgery in M*A*S*H
02:34
Walter Dishell on the opening triage scene in M*A*S*H
00:49
Walter Dishell on the challenge of making the doctors on M*A*S*H funny but credible
01:50
Walter Dishell on the research necessary for the medical scenes in M*A*S*H
04:11
Walter Dishell on how the M*A*S*H writers "got it"
04:20
Walter Dishell on different medical techniques used on M*A*S*H
04:00
Walter Dishell on co-writing the M*A*S*H episode "Life Time" with Alan Alda
07:37
Walter Dishell on Wayne Rogers and "Dr. 'Trapper' John McIntyre" on M*A*S*H
01:39
Walter Dishell on Loretta Swit as "Major Margaret Houlihan" on M*A*S*H
01:07
Walter Dishell on McLean Stevenson as "Col Henry Blake" on M*A*S*H
01:25
Walter Dishell on Jamie Farr as "Corporal Max Klinger" on M*A*S*H
01:47
Walter Dishell on Mike Farrell as "Captain BJ Hunnicut" on M*A*S*H
02:02
Walter Dishell on David Ogden Stires as "Major Charles Emerson Winchester" on M*A*S*H
01:01
Walter Dishell on a typical work week on M*A*S*H
02:12
Walter Dishell on M*A*S*H's use of laugh track
00:55
Walter Dishell on his memories of M*A*S*H  episodes
01:51
Walter Dishell on M*A*S*H: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"
01:19
Walter Dishell on the use of blood on M*A*S*H
01:02

M*A*S*H: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on M*A*S*H: "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen"
01:19

Maude

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on being a medical advisor on an episode of Maude
01:19

Medical Center

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on acting as medical consultant for the series Medical Center
15:30
Walter Dishell on getting letters from the public about Medical Center
02:18
Walter Dishell on his dealings with other doctors regarding Medical Center
01:41
Walter Dishell on his day-to-day duties on Medical Center
03:30
Walter Dishell on working with the cast and crew of Medical Center
03:49
Walter Dishell on additional members of the Medical Center crew
02:18
Walter Dishell on the breast cancer episode of Medical Center
06:25
Walter Dishell on how Medical Center compared to other medical shows
02:28

Trapper John, M. D.

View Show Page
Walter Dishell on being hired as a medical consultant for Trapper John, M.D., and how it compared to his previous series Medical Center
01:34
Walter Dishell on Trapper John M.D. stars Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison
01:16
Walter Dishell on medical issues addressed on Trapper John M.D., including a "steroids rage" case that was based on one of his own real-life patients
03:49
Walter Dishell on giving lead character "Trapper John" Guillain-Barre syndrome on Trapper John, M.D.
01:48
Topics

People with Disabilities

View Topic
Walter Dishell on the impact of the breast cancer episode of Medical Center
06:25
Professions

Medical Consultant

View Profession
Walter Dishell on the challenge of making the doctors on M*A*S*H funny but credible
01:19
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Walter Dishell on consulting for M*A*S*H
08:19
Walter Dishell on the surgery, triage, medical techniques and medical research on M*A*S*H
14:10
Walter Dishell on working with the creative forces behind M*A*S*H
13:38
Walter Dishell on the cast of M*A*S*H
12:26

Medical Dramas

View Genre
Walter Dishell on acting as a medical consultant for the series Medical Center
15:30
Walter Dishell on consulting for Medical Center
15:54
Walter Dishell on consulting for Trapper John, M.D.
08:33
Walter Dishell on working on House Calls
03:05
People

Alan Alda

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on working with Alan Alda on M*A*S*H
04:23
Walter Dishell on co-writing the M*A*S*H episode "Life Time" with Alan Alda
07:37

Jamie Farr

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on Jamie Farr as "Corporal Max Klinger" on M*A*S*H
01:47

Mike Farrell

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on Mike Farrell as "Captain BJ Hunnicut" on M*A*S*H
02:02

Larry Gelbart

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on the "genius" of Larry Gelbart, the writer of M*A*S*H
01:51

Gregory Harrison

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on Trapper John, M.D. stars Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison
01:16

David Isaacs

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on working with Ken Levine and David Isaacs and the writers on M*A*S*H
02:20

Ken Levine

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on working with Ken Levine and David Isaacs and the writers on M*A*S*H
02:20

Gene Reynolds

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on working with Gene Reynolds on M*A*S*H
02:39

Pernell Roberts

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on Trapper John, M.D. stars Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison
01:16

Edward G. Robinson

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on working with Edward G. Robinson on the Medical Center pilot University Medical Center
01:13

Wayne Rogers

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on Wayne Rogers as "Dr. 'Trapper' John McIntyre" on M*A*S*H
01:39

McLean Stevenson

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on McLean Stevenson as "Col Henry Blake" on M*A*S*H
01:25

David Ogden Stiers

View Person Page
Walter Dishell on David Ogden Stires as "Major Charles Emerson Winchester" on M*A*S*H
01:01

Loretta Swit

View Interview Page
Walter Dishell on Loretta Swit as "Major Margaret Houlihan" on M*A*S*H
01:07

All Interviews

Q
S