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Rule number one is: young men die. And rule number two is...
July 2, 2014 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Doctors can't change rule number one.

The televisions series, M*A*S*H, developed by Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, was broadcast on CBS for over a decade, from the pilot on September 17, 1972, to the highly-rated final episode on February 28, 1983. Yet reports of its demise are fictional, M*A*S*H is alive and well. [SPOILERS within if you haven't seen the series.]

Along with awards and such, in 1997, the episodes "Abyssinia, Henry" and "The Interview" were respectively ranked number 20 and number 80 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time (Wayback Machine version).

Think a 41-plus year-old TV show isn't relevant today? Perhaps how many times it's been referenced by other TV shows will change your mind as to its cultural influence; or maybe the number of times it's been used on the gameshow, Jeopardy!; or maybe simply this Facebook meme of a classic Hawkeye rant will convince you of M*A*S*H's continuing relevance and position in America as a cultural touchstone.

Or just click away below: Still want more? Perhaps some summertime reading, then.

If you want a sampler, here is the A.V. Club's recommendation for Ten Classic Episodes of M*A*S*H.

Previously: 1 2 3
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (130 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, you're hitting my sweet spot here, Joseph. One of my favorite quotes:

Frank enters Henry's tent absolutely caked in dirt.
Henry - "What happened to you?"
Frank - "I, uh... I fell down."
Henry - "How many times?"
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:56 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Last time I remember M*A*S*H coming up on MeFi, I seem to remember a prevailing opinion that it hadn't aged well. Whether it has or hasn't, whether it's too heavy-handed with being maudlin-with-a-smile, whether Futurama hit the nail on the head with its parody of Hawkeye, I still remember it fondly, and think we could well use another anti-war series of that flavor.
posted by JHarris at 8:00 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


1. I've seen the whole run 3 times growing up; it was on twice a day in syndication. Never again, not a single episode. Not for me.

2. You know it has an outrageously depressing theme song, right?

3. Though it's on the wikipedia page, it's worth noting that show's original token black character was named "Spearchucker". (Insert eyeroll here.)
posted by Catblack at 8:04 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


It was also a movie. The director, Robert Altman, was paid around $70,000 to make it. His 14-year-old son wrote an intentionally terrible song for it, and made "considerably more" than his father from royalties when it was used as the theme for the TV show.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:05 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


Ken Levine (who also wrote/produced for Cheers and other sitcoms as well as doing major league baseball announcing and top 40 disc jockeying using the alias "Beaver Cleaver" but NEVER designed games, it was a different guy) moved his blog to blogspot some time ago and has written much more about M*A*S*H since... One of my very few must-read "Hollywood Blogs".
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:05 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


whoa, great post. Thanks!
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Man.... MASH was one of those "children are to be seen and not heard" shows. If you had something to say to dad for chrissakes, wait for the commercial.

Man life without a Tivo sucked.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:08 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Though it's on the wikipedia page, it's worth noting that show's original token black character was named "Spearchucker". (Insert eyeroll here.)

You haven't seen the movie I guess?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 PM on July 2 [19 favorites]


Really good post. Thanks.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:13 PM on July 2


"It's been so long since I've had fruit that my colon will think it's a stick-up," spake Col. Potter.
posted by mr. digits at 8:13 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Also, having read the Richard Hooker novel that the film and series arose from, they certainly seem to qualify for the rare "better than then novel" status.
posted by mr. digits at 8:15 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


The MASH DVDs allow you to watch the show without a laugh track. It really improves the show. I think it holds up well, although there are a huge number of episodes and the worst can sound like self-righteous rants.

My favorite quote is from Frank Burns. After catching Koreans combing through the MASH dump, he decides to sell the garbage to the highest bidder. "This is American trash and we only throw away the very best."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:16 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I loved MASH when growing up. Yes, it was kind of maudlin, but the whole team sticking together through an awful experience spoke deeply to me. I agree with JHarris, we need more anti war shows.
posted by arcticseal at 8:19 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I served in an Army medical unit, and I thought the film captured the essence of it perfectly.

OTOH, I hated the TV series, which had as much to do with a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as "Happy Days" did with an actual high school experience.
posted by Repack Rider at 8:21 PM on July 2 [8 favorites]


>You haven't seen the movie I guess?

You've guessed wrong. Yes, I know the character is in the movie (though not a doctor, as in the early episodes of the show.) And I'm aware of other portails of black characters on TV in the 70s, and none of them, not even Huggy Bear, is as racistly named as MASH's was. I'd been watching the show growing up and didn't realize it was bad until high school.
posted by Catblack at 8:23 PM on July 2


Weird how, of the AV Club's ten best episodes, it's The Nurses I remember the best. That speech from Houlihan was fantastic. Wish I could find a clip online.
posted by chrominance at 8:23 PM on July 2


Though it's on the wikipedia page, it's worth noting that show's original token black character was named "Spearchucker". (Insert eyeroll here.)

There's a lot of problems with the movie, not the least of which is the main characters' relentless sexual humiliation of Houlihan. And giving the character Dr. Oliver Harmon (or Jones, depemding on the iteration) the nickname Spearchucker is in extremely poor taste, even if if is explained away as originating because he threw javelin.

That being said, they cast Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and had him steal roughly a third of the movie, he was a main character in the novel and its sequels, Richard Hooker claims he was based on a doctor he actually knew, and if they just had dropped that name he'd undeniably be one of the saving graces of the original story.
posted by maxsparber at 8:25 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Grew up on this show. I used to ask my mom if everyone knew if was really about the Vietnam war and they were just pretending it was about Korea. She assured me that they did.
posted by rtha at 8:30 PM on July 2 [14 favorites]


For the record, it was a book before it was a movie. The novel is short, but really quite good dark humor.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 8:32 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


For those of you who complain about the Simpsons or Community going on too long, M*A*S*H invented going on too long. Its latter six seasons would have been a pretty good four seasons.
posted by Etrigan at 8:36 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Growing up, M*A*S*H was on TV twice a night--once after the 6:00 news and again after the 10:00 news. Each showing was a couple years apart, so every once in a while they'd loop back around and swap places.

I think I've probably seen most episodes at least twice, though some stick out more than others: the pseudo-newsreel, the point-of-view episode from the perspective of the wounded soldier, Hawkeye and BJ in a contest with Winchester over who can stop bathing the longest, the one where they're trying to keep a guy from dying on Christmas, and anything with the insanity that was Colonel Flagg.

I wonder how many people wrote a gritty reboot for Iraq, only to have it shot down by the higher-ups.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:38 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


The character is a neurosurgeon in both the movie and the series, according to the wikipedia entry he is distinguished enough to merit. Which also says one of the reasons the character was dropped was that the producers couldn't find evidence of any black army surgeons having served in Korea. Reality: so racist! (eyerollz).

extremely poor taste
Because if there's one thing you can say about military humor... naw, I'm going to stop derailling now.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:39 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people wrote a gritty reboot for Iraq, only to have it shot down by the higher-ups.

I think you just described Generation Kill.
posted by maxsparber at 8:39 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


It's actually kind of freakish how well it's aged. I remember watching it about five years ago with fellow Army buddies, and it was the first time I really grokked that war is actually always the same.
posted by corb at 8:40 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I loved watching it as a kid, but it introduced me to the fact that the longer an American television series runs, the closer the probability that every character becomes loveable and everybody becomes friend approaches 1.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:40 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


Having grown up with the show, it remains comforting background noise whenever I stumble across it, despite the awful laugh track. The final episode, with Hawkeye finally cracking up, was great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:47 PM on July 2


Great show. Would no doubt be considered too "liberal" by many today. I think it holds up wonderfully and I love how it went into the totally absurd at times. The Tuttle episode is just one of many classics.

I remember reading that Swit tried to convince Stevenson not to leave but Stevenson felt the show should be focused around his character rather than Alda's.

Also read that Hooker hated the show because of it's liberal bent.
posted by juiceCake at 8:47 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


You might say I grew up with MASH. Turned thirteen in 1972 ... and so on to being well into my twenty-fourth year when it finally wrapped up.

At first, I loved it. It was a much needed weekly dose of "question authority and have fun while you're doing it". But something happened as the years went by. It started taking itself way too seriously such that by the time it was over, Klinger was no longer a crossdresser, Hot Lips was "one of the boys", the smartest guy in the outfit was the commanding officer ... and it just wasn't that funny anymore.

But this had taken a long time to come about. A friend of mine pins it all to Trapper. When he left, the anarchy left. His replacement, BJ, was okay and certainly no warmonger, but he utterly lacked Trapper's danger, the kind of guy who had a predictable liberal position on everything ... and would never cheat on his wife.

Blame the times if you must. 1972, in spite of Richard Nixon's re-election (or maybe because of it), was still very much a "hippie" year. Vietnam wasn't over, kids wanted their hair long and their jeans torn, all the old rules were still being very much questioned. Jump ahead eleven years and you had Reagan in the White House and a nation that was "waking up to a new morning".

Or as a film prof put it to me in around 1979, MASH was the most pro-war show on TV.

"How so?" I said.
"Because regardless of how hideously they depict war, the heroes are still there, honoring their draft notices, doing their bit for the great and evil machine."
posted by philip-random at 8:48 PM on July 2 [20 favorites]


Perhaps how many times it's been referenced by other TV shows will change your mind

This isn't a war, it's a murder.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:48 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Favorite quote - Major Houlihan is missing, and Major Burns is pushing to be part of the search party:

Maj. Burns: I know I'm a real asset.
Hawkeye: Not bad, Frank, you're only off by two letters.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:52 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


Or as a film prof put it to me in around 1979, MASH was the most pro-war show on TV.

"How so?" I said.
"Because regardless of how hideously they depict war, the heroes are still there, honoring their draft notices, doing their bit for the great and evil machine."


That seems like woefully dated perspective. If anything it's a forerunner of The Wire, where people are just ground down by the institutions they belong to, yet they never leave. The war was always depicted as a cross between stupidity and barbarisms as the individual attempted to keep their sanity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 PM on July 2 [17 favorites]


And a fun fact before I hit the sack: Diane Arbus' ex- played a recurring role on the series (Maj. Freeman, psychiatrist).
posted by mr. digits at 8:54 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Flagg: Up close your guy!
Klinger: Far away too.
posted by juiceCake at 8:55 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As an impressionable preteen/teen during the original run, my takeaway was that the coolest people all drank heavily. That show was like a master class in gin. When I went off to college in '80, sitting around drinking in a bathrobe and cowboy hat in the middle of the day was pretty normal.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:57 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


I saw M*A*S*H* weekly from when I was in utero until I was a teen. I liked the Potter/BJ seasons a lot better than the first three, because the show became a stronger drama. Winchester, in particular, was a far better foil than Frank, because he was a well rounded character. Houlihan was handled much better as well.

The episode I will remember to the end of time is the one about nightmares, when Houlihan's dream wedding dress was covered in blood and Hawkeye had his arms pulled off like a mannequin.
posted by jb at 8:58 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


I'm glad to see Ken Levine's blog linked in the FPP. It's a real gem for anyone interested in the history of the sitcom format. The joke AlonzoMoselyFBI mentions is so Ken Levine, too.
posted by Sara C. at 9:05 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I really liked this alternate universe M*A*S*H fan-fiction. I was thinking of making a FPP about it, partially in order to get all the parts in one place - the author seems to have abandoned it. You need to stick with it for a few chapters because it's not quite what it seems. Anyway, here it is:

Jane Carnall's MirrorM*A*S*H

Part two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine,ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen.

And its sequel,
Mirror M*A*S*H: Through the Mirror
Part two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:07 PM on July 2 [6 favorites]


Every time someone says "Meatball Surgery" you have to have a drink. Preferably a really bad Martini.
posted by freakazoid at 9:19 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As much as I love M*A*S*H, I figure that it's one of those "you have to have been there" shows -- by which I mean you have to have grown up with it as background noise or as a babysitter (it was both in my childhood) to get it (or even not to be annoyed by it). It is a classic show, yet at the same time it's very much of its time and place. I've never understood the assumption that all cultural artifacts have to "age well" to be considered hallmarks -- that they have to carry over just as relatably to people 25 and 50 years after they were created as they did the day they were created. For me, it the show still works. Sometimes when I see it it's a nostalgic palliative, sometimes it's a way to marvel anew at the really great writing that show had. Always it's an emotional touchstone.
posted by blucevalo at 9:24 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I dunno, the show went off the air when I was a toddler and I'm surprised my generation hasn't had a strong rewatch trend going yet (Fanfare? Anyone?). Then again my parents saved the TV Guide that advertised the last episode and were always basically like "this was the best show that ever happened, sorry you were born too late to have any idea, under no circumstances do you use the saved TV guide for a school diorama or some shit" so maybe that's why I have a sort of visceral reverence for it. I would like to see it without the laugh track though.
posted by sweetkid at 9:30 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


A man crying about a chicken and a baby? I thought this was a comedy show!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:33 PM on July 2 [9 favorites]


If it were on Netflix in its entirety, yeah, there would be a huge upswing in people rewatching it/discovering it for the first time.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I feel like it was in reruns for so long, that it's hard to get a critical mass of people who want to rewatch it. The series ended when I was three years old, but I've probably seen every episode at least twice, maybe three times? In fact, I just checked tvguide.com, and I can apparently watch two episodes every weekday night, even now.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:58 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


dances with sneetches: "The MASH DVDs allow you to watch the show without a laugh track."

THEY DO?!?!?

Wow. I know what I'm watching this weekend. Thanks!

(And thanks to you, joseph conrad is fully awesome - great post!)
posted by kristi at 10:02 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


My favorite will always be the Frank Burns "Air raid! Air raid!" scene. Which was the funniest scene ever broadcast on American television until the "Faxes from himself, from the future" scene on The Office.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:22 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Winchester, in particular, was a far better foil than Frank, because he was a well rounded character.

Which is amusing (?), considering Larry Linville left the show because he was sick of playing the show's butt monkey who was written an unsympathetic, one-note character. Less amusing... he ended up typecast and didn't do anything spectacular after the show, despite being a rather skilled RADA alumnus.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:27 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


My brother had an eerie ability to identify any episode by watching just the first 5 or 10 seconds of the show.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:31 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


M*A*S*H has aged amazingly well. You go back and watch that show, and even the rare sloggy episode is full of dialogue that's snappy as hell without sounding stagy or weird. Even when you're not laughing, you have to admire the words of the damn thing, and the way the characters grate on each other and prop each other up over years and years. It lives.

Years ago, I got into an argument with a Korean-American girlfriend who said that the show misrepresented the country of her ancestry as too rural for the time and that the Koreans were just background characters for the heroic white people. She really, really hated M*A*S*H. Normally I try not to get into squabbles like that over subjective pop culture stuff, but I could not let M*A*S*H go undefended! My argument was that M*A*S*H was only nominally about the Korean war, and was really more of a comment on war itself. (As many have pointed out, the show was full of anachronisms and ran far longer than the actual war did!) It was about Americans stranded far from home in a kind of eternal 20th Century war, a mix of WWII and Vietnam and everything else. It was the kind of argument where nobody's mind gets changed, and both parties emerge respecting each other less. If she wants to be upset she can be upset, but she will never budge my conviction that this is an awesome goddamned show.

The other day on Metafilter I wrote that anybody who hated Monty Python and/or The Beatles wasn't anybody I wanted to know. I think I'd expand that to include anybody who hates M*A*S*H, too. You don't have to love it. But if you hate it? I'm afraid we just can't play nice together.


This guy built the M*A*S*H compound in his backyard
, and I want to have lots and lots of his babies.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:45 PM on July 2 [15 favorites]


Larry Linville left the show because he was sick of playing the show's butt monkey who was written an unsympathetic, one-note character.

One of the amazing things about Burns is how the character so perfectly captures (and skewers) the nitwit conservative. He even does the George W./Dan Quayle word-salad thing, where he starts talking about American values and it turns into this nonsense poetry about putting food on your family and all that. And the show even finds sympathy for him. ("STOP LAUGHING WITHOUT ME!!") I can't blame Linville for wanting to move on, but it was great character, very well played. Winchester grew into a fascinating character, but Burns was genius.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:03 PM on July 2 [12 favorites]


Man.... MASH was one of those "children are to be seen and not heard" shows. If you had something to say to dad for chrissakes, wait for the commercial.

Oh yeah. 1972. That was one of the few shows we watched as a family when I was growing up. Popcorn sprinkled with garlic and Parmesan. Definitely no talking except during commercials.

Oh man, the night we learned Henry was lost.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:30 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Riffing on (posted in other thread) the blog lament I Miss Republicans, Ursula, the thing about Frank and his even more satirical partner in patriotism, Major Flagg, is that there were always "nitwit conservatives" of their ilk. It's just that back then, they weren't running the party or major organs of our polity. *sigh*

it's worth noting that show's original token black character was named "Spearchucker". (Insert eyeroll here.)

Yeah, and that was dicey even for the 1970s, but was probably pretty par for the course in the very male, very hazing-tinged environment of mutual abuse that was part of Hooker's original milieu (e.g. Father Mulcahy's nickname was "Dago Red") -- even if somehow he was created for the novel. It's notionally representative of some level of truth about the times, however difficult to handle or frame in a modern context.

There's a lot of problems with the movie, not the least of which is the main characters' relentless sexual humiliation of Houlihan.

Well, again, I think the book and movie are not designed around the cuddly living-room psychology of the TV series, and you're free -- as with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia -- to hate and/or despise the main characters. And again, this is illustrative of the times, even if a rather extreme instance, in that someone like Kellerman's Houlihan who brought an apparent fixation with professionalism (executed with officiousness) needed a dressing-down and while much of the same abuse would also have been directed at a male foil, in the story it ends up having this very sexual and sexist tinge.

(There's an underlying cultural issue here which is that the predecessor to sexual harassment was non-sexual, or at least gender differentiated, harassment in the workplace as a matter of course. Drunken frat/Moose Lodge antics, that sort of thing. In many ways the sexist type was just the last of this to go. In M*A*S*H, all forms, it's treated as a sort of reaction to the madness of the war, but it was much more normalized than that. I've just been watching The Palm Beach Story, too, and as with many films of the era, there's a lot of problematic racial and sexual assumptions built in almost throughout.)
posted by dhartung at 11:48 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


KOREAN WAR ENDS IN TEARFUL 3-HOUR FINALE -- antics of Hawkeye Pierce, Hot Lips Houlihan bring close to amusing Asian conflict
posted by philip-random at 12:07 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


The MASH DVDs allow you to watch the show without a laugh track.

I was about to say, 'What on earth are you all talking about? M*A*S*H never had a laugh track!' but Wikipedia tells me a laugh track was added to US broadcasts at the insistence of CBS, while in the UK we got the proper version.

I'm really curious to see what a laughed-up M*A*S*H is like, but knowing the programme without one the idea just seems horribly inappropriate and tasteless.
posted by jack_mo at 12:19 AM on July 3


I remember it on the BBC without the laugh track too. When I've stumbled across it lately on some no mark cable channel it's had the laugh track though.
posted by vbfg at 12:58 AM on July 3


I'm really curious to see what a laughed-up M*A*S*H is like, but knowing the programme without one the idea just seems horribly inappropriate and tasteless.

They never used it during OR scenes, and the laugh track kind of fades away as the series goes on. I mean, it literally gets quieter, and eventually they just dropped it, IIRC. It fits the early, jokier seasons better, but I don't recall it ever seeming too obtrusive. (Then again, I did grow up with it.)

I hated the movie. Hated every second of it, especially the Hot Lips shower scene. If you loved the TV show, that movie was basically pissing in your face for two hours. Smug, surly, awful. HATED IT!

The Spearchucker stuff and some of Hawkeye's more iffy scoundrel-ism do grate in the early seasons. But soon that stuff falls away, and with Hawkeye they find a way to make him a relentless flirt who also clearly adores and respects women. The character is all wrong for 1951, but as his own guy he is the best.

When I babbled about the crackling dialogue earlier, I didn't say that one of the things that really impresses me is how the characters have their own voices, and they're funny in their own ways. Hawkeye doesn't talk like Radar, and Radar doesn't talk like Colonel Potter. Can you imagine the challenge of staying true to the voices of that huge cast, for a decade, and making it funny every week? Those writers should get Purple Hearts.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:00 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, Joe in Australia, that fic was amazing. What a shame it didn't finish!
posted by gingerest at 1:07 AM on July 3


And I'm aware of other portails of black characters on TV in the 70s, and none of them, not even Huggy Bear, is as racistly named as MASH's was. I'd been watching the show growing up and didn't realize it was bad until high school.
posted by Catblack at 4:23 AM on July 3 [+] [!]


Black characters on TV and, err, in RL. Same with the sexist treatment of women. Perish the thought that fiction should strive for realism, eh? Nope, let's just sanitise all that stuff away, not try to show it how it was. History needs to be cleaned up. Because that's always healthy.
posted by Decani at 1:14 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


Hawkeye and BJ in a contest with Winchester over who can stop bathing the longest

I'm reading this thread and M*A*S*H is on TV RIGHT NOW where I am - and it's this episode... which I have never seen before.
posted by evil_esto at 1:59 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


A great show...thanks for the post.

I was stationed at the 121st Evac. Hospital in the early 70's in South Korea. The irony of sitting in the day room of the psych ward at the 121st watching the movie with an odd combination of psych patients, projected on the wall from an old projector, was not lost on me.

There wasn't (in real life) a 4077 MASH unit, it's rumored that the 121st was the model used for the book/movie/tv show.
posted by HuronBob at 2:43 AM on July 3 [7 favorites]


Donald Penobscot's bachelor party. Love it.
posted by double bubble at 3:13 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


For the record, it was a book before it was a movie.

Also for the record, before the 1968 book was the 1953 movie Battle Circus, which nobody ever mentions, even though it covered a lot of the same ground. It starred the obscure actors Humphrey Bogart and June Allyson.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:47 AM on July 3


I think M*A*S*H really jumped the shark when Captain Spalding (Loudon Wainwright III*) left the show.


--------------------------------------
*That's Rufus Wainwirght's father to you kids.
posted by Herodios at 3:59 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Larry Linville left the show because he was sick of playing the show's butt monkey who was written an unsympathetic, one-note character.

I remember when he left, my dad said that the army he remembered had a lot more Major Burns than Captain Pierces.
posted by octothorpe at 4:07 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


@elsietheeel: Come on now, Linville was on Love Boat that one time. Probably Fantasy Island too, come to that. If he'd been a client on Magnum PI he'd have the trifecta.

My favorite quote (and there are SO MANY): "Geddup, Radar...you'll get dirt in your nose."
posted by hearthpig at 5:21 AM on July 3


@fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: ...the one where they're trying to keep a guy from dying on Christmas

That episode devastated me, and it's likely the only one I've never watched in rerun, because my father died on Christmas.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 5:24 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I remember when he left, my dad said that the army he remembered had a lot more Major Burns than Captain Pierces.

Sooo many more. I have never been in a unit that didn't have a Major Burns. Sometimes they were quiet, biding their time until they got that one little bit of power that they could wield like a broadsword, but they were always there. Captain Pierces, though... those ran about 25 percent, and they almost always ran in pairs.
posted by Etrigan at 5:34 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


the M*A*S*H rerun addiction subplot in "Infinite Jest" was one of my favorite bits
posted by thelonius at 5:38 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


For those of you who complain about the Simpsons or Community going on too long, M*A*S*H invented going on too long. Its latter six seasons would have been a pretty good four seasons.

Well, I don't think it overstayed its welcome, but at eleven seasons, it certainly went on too long. The Korean War only lasted three years.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:42 AM on July 3


The snopes article on Henry's death is great. I love that ep.
posted by double bubble at 5:47 AM on July 3


Anyone remember a quick skit from a variety show right after the Col. Blade death episode with McLean Stevenson in a life raft yelling something like "hey everybody, I'm not dead"? I think it was probably Carol Burnette but I'm not sure.
posted by octothorpe at 5:58 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


i was a young kid when this was on and the whole show kinda mushes together.
it was on at dinner from the time i was like 8 until i was 11, i think, late 80s.

point being i was a bit of a bookworm, head in the clouds kid, so i never made any parralells about vietnam etc til much much later.

however something i remembering as probably the most disturbing thing to me as a kid watching that show that i remember finding all the more disturbing because no comment was made upon it whatsoever (not that they ever made comments on what happened).

there was an episode where the young korean boy told hawkeye he wanted his eyes to look all of theirs. i think maybe hawkeye had saved this kid and possibly his mother from being killed somehow. anyways, that's when i learned the term epicanthic fold (i thnk that's it.) and there was a lot of handwringing and they finally did the surgery.

and as much as i like the show, even as a kid, i somehow found that extremely hard to believe because weren't they at WAR with this kid's countrymen and he wants to look like them? i had never heard of plastic surgery so i also didn't even understand that was a thing so the idea of someone wanting to change their appearance so utterly, that that was even possible was just deeply unsettling.

i did always enjoy the witty banter tho. and the martinis. i thought major houlihan put up with way too much shit even before i had a clue about boys. i really sympathized with her because i was teased mercilessly as a kid by people who professed to like me.
posted by sio42 at 6:01 AM on July 3


Yes, I remember it - but I've only seen it as a clip on a larger show about mash or something (vs first run).
posted by double bubble at 6:04 AM on July 3


I have an extensive and detailed fantasy life that revolves around Hawkeye Pierce (only I call him Ben). Maybe that's why I moved to Maine.
posted by JanetLand at 6:12 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Maybe that's why I moved to Maine.

M*A*S*H Goes To Maine . . . "finest kind".
 
posted by Herodios at 6:21 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


n'thing Ken Levine's blog, lot's fascinating stories about TV, movies and baseball. And Volunteers.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:24 AM on July 3


jb: "I liked the Potter/BJ seasons a lot better than the first three, because the show became a stronger drama."

So there IS someone who thinks the later seasons were better! I thought it was just an urban legend!
posted by Chrysostom at 6:27 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I came here to mention my favorite "M*A*S*H" character and line:
FLAGG: "I have no home, I am the wind."

EXIT FLAGG via the window, followed by a crash

HAWKEYE: *looking out the window* "I think the wind just broke its leg."
But then I started thinking about how laughing at the CIA -- and military intelligence: "It's an oxymoron, like 'jumbo shrimp'…" -- used to be so easy and so funny. But now that the NSA reads everything, seeing Flagg as bumbling scares actually worries me.

- - -
Also, I hated Alan Alda for like twenty years because of the maudlin, self-indulgent later "M*A*S*H" episodes. I have only stopped reflexively turning off the TV at the sight of his face in the last few years.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:34 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


M*A*S*H has been my favorite TV show since I was old enough to know how to turn on a television. I absolutely credit it with helping me become a more solidly educated liberal and a better anti-war activist. It makes my heart sing to see this post and I can't wait to dig into all of these fantastic links over the holiday weekend, preferably with a martini in hand. Thanks so much, joseph conrad is fully awesome!

Also, I hated Alan Alda for like twenty years because of the maudlin, self-indulgent later "M*A*S*H" episodes.

Man, I've loved Alan Alda for like twenty years because of the maudlin, self-indulgent later M*A*S*H episodes! (NB it didn't hurt that he was an absolute stone fox for the duration of the show.) My friends have been referring to him as my boyfriend for most of my life; that he is both an outspoken feminist -- swoon -- and an awesome science educator just makes it all the better.

I wrote him a fan letter on pink notebook paper when I was a girl and his handlers sent back a really nice autographed card that pointedly referenced some of the stuff in my overearnest missive... namely his ongoing dedication to feminism, which was super-inspiring to me as a third-grader and remains super-inspiring to me at 32. I would watch him read the dictionary, and if he doesn't live forever, I'm going to be very, very upset. (Ditto Mike Farrell, who is also an amazing activist!)

Other than that, I wish I had some kind of interesting anecdote or information to share but all I can say is that I just really, really, really love M*A*S*H. I even have a 4077th-inspired tattoo!
posted by divined by radio at 7:01 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


weren't they at WAR with this kid's countrymen and he wants to look like them?

The Korean War was a civil war, with the communists backing one side, and the US backing the other. So yes, they were at war with the kid's former countrymen, but they were also defending the kid's countrymen at the same time.
posted by corb at 7:05 AM on July 3


The exteriors for the show were shot at a 20th Century Fox ranch in what is now Malibu Creek State Park. A few years ago, the park began setting up historical displays where the sets used to be. I've been meaning to go for a while now, but haven't got around to it - might be a fun MeFi (MeFit?) Meetup. :) posted by Celsius1414 at 7:13 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Just yesterday I was wondering when we are going to see a sitcom about our involvement in Iraq and / or Afghanistan.

I mean, M*A*S*H made the Korean War funny.

And remember Hogan's Heroes? Those wacky Germans!

Surely we'll soon see someone making everyone giggle about those silly terrorists, right?
posted by GatorDavid at 7:21 AM on July 3


Anyone remember a quick skit from a variety show right after the Col. Blade death episode with McLean Stevenson in a life raft yelling something like "hey everybody, I'm not dead"? I think it was probably Carol Burnette but I'm not sure.

Dead on. From the Monster M*A*S*H wiki:
After the news of Colonel Blake’s death shocked the world, the very next night on The Carol Burnett Show, the opening shot was of McLean Stevenson in a smoking raft, waving his arms, hollering, "I’m OK! I’m OK!"
Doesn't appear to be on YouTube.
posted by Etrigan at 7:30 AM on July 3 [6 favorites]


I think my favorite episode was where there was a brutal cold snap, and the staff take to burning everything that isn't nailed down. One of the last shots is Henry on the phone in an empty office, his desk and everything else having been burned.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:35 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Aversion Therapy, it was a very funny book. My Dad was a doctor, read a lot, and the only time I saw him laugh out loud reading a book was reading MASH, by Richard Hooker and H. Richard Hornberger. I still use terms from the book and movie - 'pro from Dover' and dental work sometimes makes me hum 'Suicide is Painless'.

great post, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


On more reading, 'Richard Hooker' was the pen name for Dr. H. Richard Hornberger. The 'and' writer was W. C. Heinz.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on July 3


a sitcom about our involvement in Iraq and / or Afghanistan

Bluestone 42, BBC comedy-drama about a bomb disposal team in Afghanistan. (Wikipedia entry)

I wasn't in Afghanistan but I was in Iraq, and I think I met someone corresponding to every one of its characters, sometimes several times over.
posted by Major Clanger at 8:17 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


"Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: pull down your pants, and slide on the ice."
posted by koeselitz at 8:22 AM on July 3 [5 favorites]


I liked the Potter/BJ seasons a lot better than the first three, because the show became a stronger drama.

but, in the Americas anyway, MASH wasn't a drama. It had a laugh track. The episodes were 22 minutes long. It was sitcom all the way. I touched on it already, but the long slow devolution of MASH from pretty much the funniest (certainly darkest) comedy on TV to a self-righteous "dramedy" packing enough liberal guilt to prolong a war (as long as the advertisers deemed it profitable) -- well, that was a weird (and not particularly fun) thing to witness in real time.

Also, I hated Alan Alda for like twenty years because of the maudlin, self-indulgent later "M*A*S*H" episodes.

me, too. I remember the turning point being his performance as a smug, enormously successful, narcissistic prick in Woody Allen's Crimes + Misdemeanors. Which for me is a much more successful example of funny and serious finding effective harmony.
posted by philip-random at 8:26 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


The chicken was actually a ghost all along.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:32 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I probably have lots more to say about this and need to read the articles and thread here, but:

Anytime the final episode comes on TV, I watch it. And I inevitably end up crying like a baby when Hawkeye and BJ snap to attention for Potter. I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

And the final shot being that gigantic GOODBYE leaves me in bits.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:51 AM on July 3


For me the peak of M.A.S.H. was roughly from when Potter arrived to when Radar left. There were still a lot of good episodes even after that, but it did tend to be too Alda-dominated. A lot of people claim the first season is the comic peak, but the sexism kills it for me. The nurses are merely rotating girlfriends for the real cast, Hoolihan is a cartoonish adjust to the cartoonish Burns.

It's the rare show where the cast replacements were usually a strong improvement. Potter was a more complex figure than Henry, Winchester than Burns. And of course, the departure of Burns let Hoolihan complete her transformation into a powerfully complex character of her own. She had obviously been developing since the 2nd season, but too often the writers would fall back into the lazy trap of having her be the backup to Burns even after their relationship was over.
posted by tavella at 9:01 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Loved the "Hot Lips Made Me a Feminist" link. Every time I see a female character on TV who sets feminism back thirty years, or a "Strong Female Character" of the type parodied so well by Kate Beaton, my stock response is, "Well, she's no Margaret Houlihan."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:05 AM on July 3


Also, watching The Walking Dead with my sister, any time baby Judith cries or one of the other kids makes noise when walkers were nearby, we automatically look at each other and yell, "It's the last episode of M*A*S*H*!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:07 AM on July 3


If it were on Netflix in its entirety

from your mouth to God's ears

then I'd really HAVE to get Netflix
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:16 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Apparently Radar was based on a real company clerk Hornberger worked with. Video interviews with him here and here, and an article in the Ottumwa Courier here.
posted by lharmon at 9:20 AM on July 3


Catblack: And I'm aware of other portails of black characters on TV in the 70s, and none of them, not even Huggy Bear, is as racistly named as MASH's was. I'd been watching the show growing up and didn't realize it was bad until high school.

Catblack, I think you'll much prefer Little House on the Prairie, where everyone was shocked at Mrs. Oleson for not welcoming a black family into their all-white town. EVERYONE, including her own daughter, the child-villain Nellie. Shocked.

That show was so whitewashed you'd think they'd gladly give their land back to the Native Americans if they'd only asked.

Thoroughly morally-acceptable humor. A nice, wide, clean divide between the Good and the Bad.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


GatorDavid: Just yesterday I was wondering when we are going to see a sitcom about our involvement in Iraq and / or Afghanistan.

I mean, M*A*S*H made the Korean War funny.

And remember Hogan's Heroes? Those wacky Germans!

Surely we'll soon see someone making everyone giggle about those silly terrorists, right?

M*A*S*H was about the Koreans in the same way that hot dogs stands are about canines.

Another series that you won't like is Black Adder Goes Forth. Totally, subtly pro-war. Yup.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:28 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


It's pretty shitty to say 'This instance of racism is not racism because jokes.' Was M*A*S*H's intention to interrogate systemic racism in the military by having a black character named Spearchucker, or was that just his name because it's the kind of racist shitty thing racist shitty people would do in the world depicted? The latter is shitty without the former.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 AM on July 3 [4 favorites]


The chicken was actually a ghost all along.

I see dead poultry.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:57 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: “Was M*A*S*H's intention to interrogate systemic racism in the military by having a black character named Spearchucker, or was that just his name because it's the kind of racist shitty thing racist shitty people would do in the world depicted? The latter is shitty without the former.”

As far as I can tell, his name and character was indeed intended to interrogate systemic racism in the military.

Show-watchers like me (I hated the movie, and have never read the book) will probably be surprised that there is such a character, because his problematic nickname was pointedly never mentioned even once in the show. Presumably the producers didn't want to touch that. I'm not sure how I feel about that. They always echo this excuse for removing his character: that there were no black doctors – but this does not seem to have been the case, since the memoirs on which the book and eventual show were based mention at least one black doctor. More likely they just didn't want to write for that character, who seems kind of cartoonish to me.

Still, it sounds like the book and movie were trying to interrogate racism with that character. From Wikipedia:
"Spearchucker" Jones was also a character in both the novel M*A*S*H (and its sequels) by Richard Hooker and Robert Altman's movie. In each, the Spearchucker character is a superior surgeon who was also a stand-out collegiate athlete ("Spearchucker," a common racial slur, is said to instead in this case refer to his javelin-throwing prowess). Initially, he is transferred to the 4077th to help them win a football game against a rival outfit. It is established in the novel that Jones is from Duke Forrest's hometown of Forest Park, Georgia, and knew Duke's father. Duke makes racist comments about Jones, causing Hawkeye and Trapper to punish Duke.
That's a pretty thin summary of plot points, granted, but it's more than the actual page on the novel gives, so I guess that's all we have. I don't remember the movie well enough to comment on what it was apparently trying to say. But having someone who is supposed to be a brilliant neurosurgeon be called "spearchucker" and adopt that as a nickname does indeed sound a lot like an ironic commentary on racism in the military and in society at large at the time.
posted by koeselitz at 10:02 AM on July 3


The 'no black surgeons' excuse was always the official one, but after watching the first season I suspect they just weren't comfortable writing for him, or at least not inspired. He's usually a hanger-on in the plot lines.
posted by tavella at 10:09 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "[Little House on the Prairie] was so whitewashed you'd think they'd gladly give their land back to the Native Americans if they'd only asked."

Which is quite a contrast to the books.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:24 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell, his name and character was indeed intended to interrogate systemic racism in the military.

I agree with you w/r/t the film. I'm not sure if I ever saw any of the episodes of the show which featured the character, and I never read the book. I'm mostly pushing back against what I see a lot of in this thread, which is 'You can't complain about his racist name because people in the military really were racist and/or it's a comedy and you are taking it too seriously,' both of which are bullshit arguments.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Catblack, I think you'll much prefer Little House on the Prairie, where everyone was shocked at Mrs. Oleson for not welcoming a black family into their all-white town. EVERYONE, including her own daughter, the child-villain Nellie. Shocked.

What? Tell me that did not actually happen. I loved Little House on the Prairie, but returning to it, it is racist as the day is long.
posted by corb at 10:28 AM on July 3


So I wonder why Duke didn't make the cut for the TV show? He was almost as major a character in the book and movie as Hawkeye and Trapper.
posted by octothorpe at 11:12 AM on July 3


Nope, corb, it happened. The show had been on for several seasons by then, and I'd stopped watching it. Flipped to it when nothing else was on... and got contact diabetes from the treatment.

Seems like it was probably this episode:

Blind Journey, Part I
Episode: 097 | Aired: November 27, 1978
Meanwhile, pompous Mrs. Oleson (Katherine MacGregor) is doing her best to keep Joe Kagan (Moses Gunn), a black man, from joining the town's church. As so often happens, Mrs. Oleson is due for an immensely satisfying comeuppance


Searching for it, however, I found these episodes, which dealt with racism much more realistically:

Yearning to escape the hard life that sent his father to an early grave, the young son of poor, black Mississippi sharecroppers makes his way to Walnut Grove and offers to sell himself to the Ingalls' family in exchange for an education.

Dr. Baker is enthusiastic about his new assistant, a young university-trained physician named Caleb LeDoux ... until he realizes he is black. The Ingalls family are among the few to accept Dr. LeDoux, while others' reactions range from prejudice to outright racism.

(Not sure how broad and wide the spectrum is between prejudice and outright racism...)
posted by IAmBroom at 11:25 AM on July 3


there was an episode where the young korean boy told hawkeye he wanted his eyes to look all of theirs. i think maybe hawkeye had saved this kid and possibly his mother from being killed somehow. anyways, that's when i learned the term epicanthic fold (i thnk that's it.) and there was a lot of handwringing and they finally did the surgery

sio42, I think you may be misremembering the episode, "Give 'em Hell, Hawkeye" (or conflating multiple episodes?). In this episode a young Korean boy does ask BJ to give him this surgery, which BJ refuses to do. The kid makes a comment about going somewhere else for the surgery, but Margaret convinces him he doesn't need it by telling him how handsome he is. the writing was a little clumsy, but a LOT better than allowing the kid to go through with it.
posted by blurker at 11:36 AM on July 3


In the book, the doctor who saves the Ingalls from malaria is black. I didn't read the last few books, but in the earlier ones, the racism is mostly directed at Indians.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:42 AM on July 3


If "Abyssinia, Henry" had been the final episode M*A*S*H would've been the greatest show in the history of television.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:59 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Yearning to escape the hard life that sent his father to an early grave, the young son of poor, black Mississippi sharecroppers makes his way to Walnut Grove and offers to sell himself to the Ingalls' family in exchange for an education.

A young Todd Bridges, IIRC.

So I wonder why Duke didn't make the cut for the TV show? He was almost as major a character in the book and movie as Hawkeye and Trapper.

I believe that Tom Skerritt turned it down. In the season 3 "Life with Father" episode, Hawkeye makes the only TV reference to him:

"Maybe she's looking for Captain Forrest.
Who?
The brain surgeon who fell down a lot.
No, no. He's been gone over two years. He's got a toy store now."
posted by Melismata at 11:59 AM on July 3


Fandom Crossover: Larry Hama plays a North Korean who basically carjacks Frank Burns in an episode of MASH. He later went on to a great career as a comic book writer. Hama, a Vietnam veteran, wrote virtually every issue of the G.I. Joe comic and did most of the creative work in the '80s revival of the property, having developed all of the character identities. Interestingly enough in the MASH context, the comic was considerably more sober and even cynical about military service than other expressions of the property (cartoons, etc).
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:01 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: “I'm mostly pushing back against what I see a lot of in this thread, which is 'You can't complain about his racist name because people in the military really were racist and/or it's a comedy and you are taking it too seriously,' both of which are bullshit arguments.”

Oh, absolutely – I thought it was a very good question to ask. And honestly, I rather like the show, and it seems like one is doing a great disservice to whatever good it did if one writes it off as merely portraying what was going on at the time or something like that. M*A*S*H clearly engaged in social commentary, some of which was really biting and incisive. If we just say "oh it's just a joke" or "oh that's just how things were," we're annihilating everything that made M*A*S*H worthwhile.
posted by koeselitz at 12:08 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Another favorite: Klinger bringing Henry the letter home saying he needed a hardship release because his mother is dying:

Mother dying
Sister dying
Sister pregnant
Sister dying and mother pregnant
posted by double bubble at 12:22 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Fandom Crossover: Larry Hama plays a North Korean who basically carjacks Frank Burns in an episode of MASH.

Holy cats, really? It really is a small world.

M*A*S*H did approach race every once in a while--I seem to recall a later episode where a soldier doesn't want any of the "bad blood" in him as a transfusion, and the 4077th teaches him an important lesson about racism.

Just remembered a story about an acquaintance of mine. When signing his marriage license, he kept saying "Sherman.. T... Potter" while writing his signature, a la Klinger...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:26 PM on July 3


I've never seen it, but the description of the episode of family guy where the kid is eating a bucket of fried chicken on the bus is hysterical. One of these days I have got to sit down and binge on family guy. I think I've seriously missed out.
posted by double bubble at 1:09 PM on July 3


Here's that scene, double bubble: It was a baby!
posted by maxsparber at 1:15 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


That is awesome!
posted by double bubble at 1:23 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I love M*A*S*H. It's like my comfort food of TV. I feel like most of the episodes I've seen too many times to count, yet every so often, I'll catch one that I've NEVER seen before, and it's like discovering a lost world. I would love for Netflix to pick up M*A*S*H, just so I could watch it once all the way through, and know that there's officially nothing more to see.
posted by gueneverey at 1:44 PM on July 3


There are a lot people who think Family Guy was universally terrible. My personal take is that it was frequently pretty funny until it was canceled. The episodes after it came back from the dead are a lot poorer. Stick with the first three seasons, is my advice.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:45 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Swear like Col. Potter!
posted by Sunburnt at 2:20 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


There are a lot people who think Family Guy was universally terrible. My personal take is that it was frequently pretty funny until it was canceled. The episodes after it came back from the dead are a lot poorer. Stick with the first three seasons, is my advice.

I agree. Zombie Family Guy is just no. Nope.
posted by sweetkid at 2:22 PM on July 3


"Horse hockey!" is the one I always remember.
posted by JHarris at 3:19 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


But this is a great exchange from the Potter quotes file, which I'm starting to love:

Potter: It's been a long war, and I passed my prime about ten squares back.
Hawkeye: Look, Colonel - Sherman. You could give me a hundred reasons to leave, and I can't give you one good reason to stay. Stay anyway.
Radar: What he said.
B. J.: Please.
Potter: Well, I'll have to think about it... What the hell, I'll stay.
Hawkeye: Thank you, Colonel, you'll regret every minute of it!
Potter: I probably will.

posted by JHarris at 3:23 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


I was hoping the AfterM*A*S*H Podcast linked in the OP would be about the show AfterMASH.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:33 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]


Beaver biscuits!

Meadow muffins!

Man I loved Potter.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:40 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


MASH had several distinct eras. At some point the drama overtook the comedy and the writing slipped (it would be hard not to, after so many shows). So when someone talks about the show, I always want to ask, "which version are you talking about?" Especially when someone says they disliked it.

A friend of mine pins it all to Trapper. When he left, the anarchy left. His replacement, BJ, was okay and certainly no warmonger, but he utterly lacked Trapper's danger

Somewhere online I read about what was described as the "BJ moustache rule." Namely, any episode where BJ has a moustache is -- well, lower your expectations. I've never researched exactly when that happened, but as a general observation that feels right to me.

I think my favorite episode was where there was a brutal cold snap

Ken Levine has revealed that at least one of those bitter cold episodes were the writers' way of striking back when the actors were requesting too many script changes ... because they were shot in a very warm studio. Wearing parkas. (Add me to those recommending his blog.)

For more about Larry Gelbart's distinguished career, including MASH and much more, watch his Archive of American Television interview. Long but worth it.

(One of my favorite Gelbart stories, not from the interview or related to MASH: director Stanley Donen asked him to read the script to his upcoming movie Blame it on Rio; when Gelbart agreed, Donen sent him the script on a Friday. Monday, Gelbart delivered a rewritten script, explaining that it was simply quicker than writing notes.)
posted by pmurray63 at 5:06 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Found it! Klinger's last line is brilliance:

Klinger: I got this in mail call today, sir.
Henry: What is it? Klinger: It's a letter from my mother. 'Dear son...'
Henry: You obviously haven't sent her a recent picture.
Klinger: 'I hate to bother you in the middle of a war, but I have some terrible news. Your father is very sick. (looks at Henry and sighs) If he knew I was writing to you, he'd be very angry. Fortunately for us, he's in a coma.'
Henry: Klinger--
Klinger: Sir, please. 'We know your colonel has a good heart, and surely he'll let you come home for your father's funeral, or his 65th birthday, whichever comes first. I will close this letter now, son of my heart, because my tears are making the paper soggy and hard to write on. Your loving, aggravated, broken-hearted mother.'
Henry: Uh huh. (reaching for a file behind him) Here we go. (pulls out other letters) The father dying, right? Klinger: Yes, sir. (feigns sobbing)
Henry: (leafing through the other letters) Father dying last year. Mother dying last year. Mother and father dying. Mother, father, and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. Here's an oldie but goodie: half of the family dying, other half pregnant.(puts down the letters) Klinger, aren't you ashamed of yourself?
Klinger: Yes, sir. I don't deserve to be in the Army!
posted by double bubble at 8:31 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]


the show was full of anachronisms and ran far longer than the actual war did!

Thanks so much for this post ... we got the DVD set last December, and have been slowly working through it, and it's reignited one of my "Oh, if I had the time I'd...." ideas, which would be to watch the episodes and try to sort them out chronologically (because as broadcast they don't always seem to fall chronologically) and map them to specific dates (give or take). It seems harder than it is -- I'm constantly caught, while watching the show, that they reference this or that real-life thing.

I suspect the actual outcome of this would be that the show has Burns and Winchester actually both serving there at the same time, but I think it would be an interesting experiment.
posted by anastasiav at 9:15 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Cow cookies.
posted by Melismata at 12:27 PM on July 4


watch the episodes and try to sort them out chronologically (because as broadcast they don't always seem to fall chronologically) and map them to specific dates (give or take). It seems harder than it is -- I'm constantly caught, while watching the show, that they reference this or that real-life thing.

This is the Internet. Of course someone has done this.
posted by Etrigan at 2:22 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


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