Know Your Show: MASH #AtoZChallenge

by - April 15, 2016

This post is part of my #A2ZChallenge for April 2016 where my theme is TV Sitcoms.
For the letter M, I choose MASH.

Premise:

The iconic 'dramedy' follows the medical staff stationed at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the South Korean war.


10 reasons you will love it:



1) The show finds itself frequently in "Greatest TV Shows of All Time" lists simply because it remains timeless, funny, poignant and relevant even today, 44 years after it first aired on television.

2) While it was pitched as a comedy, MASH was so much more as it showcased the plight of doctors & army men stuck in a war they often did not approve of. It was uplifting and yet realistic, finding humour in the midst of tense moments.

3) The humour in this show was magnificent - the comedic timing and razor scalpel-sharp wit of surgeons Hawkeye alongside Trapper John and later B.J. Hunnicutt was brilliant, having you in fits of giggles, often at the expense of Major Winchester, head nurse Margaret Houlihan and Colonel Blake. The various ways in which the crew at MASH looked for respite from the vagaries of war led to some outstanding moments of comedy.

4) If the humour was brilliant, the serious moments could break your heart. The show refused to sugarcoat something as serious as war, showcasing both the physical trauma inflicted on the young soldiers as well as the mental agony of the doctors trying against all odds to save them. The departures of company clerk Radar, Commanding Officer Henry Blake & the final episode of the show are still clear in my mind 2 decades after I saw them; the emotional impact still hurts.






5) Alan Alda as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, a doctor who disapproves of the war he is in and is always out to ease the tension... or cause more trouble with his impish gags was a portrayal that became legendary, both for his biting wit as well as his inner battle to stay sane in a war that drove brave men to madness. He would do anything to save the life of the soldiers yet his hate for the army and war is clear in his utter disdain for their rules and regulations.

6) The cast would chop and change over the course of 11 years but the chemistry between the characters just got better. Each person played off the other's eccentricities to wonderful effect.
  • Henry Blake & later Sherman Potter were in charge of the camp, surgeons who pretended to be stern but always looked upon Hawkeye and co with a loving paternal gaze. 
  • Fellow surgeons Trapper John and BJ Hunnicutt offered the perfect foil to Hawkeye's barbs while Majors Frank Burns & later Charles Emerson Winchester were often at the receiving end, though they did win the occasional round too.
  • Max Clinger was the guy who would deliberately cross-dress in outlandish dresses and skirts to try and get a discharge from the war and go home. But when the time came, he would find his true calling.
  • 'Hot Lips' Houlihan as the head nurse was prim and proper supporter of war who was always riled up by the antics of Hawkeye and co.  
  • Radar was a young mild-mannered chap who joined the war as a clerk. To quote Hawkeye in the penultimate episode as he thought of the clerk he ragged for years, the war made a 'man of boys'.

7) The show won 14 Emmys. Alan Alda was the first person ever to win individual Emmys for acting, directing and writing for the same show. He also won 6 Golden Globes for Best actor for this show. 

8) 11 seasons. 251 episodes. Moderate continuity issues (storylines rarely continue together; characters just change as the years go by.) So you can jump in at any episode you feel like.

9) This show is so highly opined of even today because it was about life and finding joy in the midst of tough moments; a balance no other show has achieved as brilliantly in the years since. The futility and pettiness of war was seamless stitched together alongside the power of laughter and a big heart to heal.


10) Personal opinion: While I see myself as more of a 'Scrubs Dr John Dorian' kind of doctor today, the truth is that a large part of the kind of doctor (and human being) I wanted to be growing up was influenced by Alan Alda's version of Hawkeye. I've spoken about it in my review of his biography.



Yes, there is a truth in the saying that we get influenced by television and I am proud I chose Alan Alda's heartfelt rendition of a sharp witted doctor who just wants people to be happy.

If aliens were to judge us based solely upon this show:

They would realize what we humans still have not even 30 years after the show ended - that war is pointless.

Trivia:

  • The TV show lasted longer than the actual Korean war it was based on. (11 vs 3 years)
  • The TV show is based off the movie which is based off the book which is based off the real life experiences of the author who served in the war! 
  • The haunting theme song "Suicide is Painless" was written by the 14 year old son of the director of the movie, MASH. Robert Altman earned $70,000 for directing the movie. His son earned millions as royalties for the song.
  • The final episode "Goodbye, Farewell & Amen" is STILL THE MOST WATCHED episode of television in American history. Special TV sets were actually placed in parking lots and auditoriums for people to watch this single episode. As per statistics, 77% of Americans watching TV on Feb 28, 1983 were glued in to watch Hawkeye say goodbye. 


To see all the shows  I have talked about till date, please CLICK HERE.

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16 comments

  1. I have watched a lot of MASH and I loved it. I think I should watch some old episodes now.

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    Replies
    1. definitely rewatchable...I plan to watch it again from he start soon

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  2. This is one show I loved watching. Thanks for bringing back those happy memories!

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    Replies
    1. glad to hear you have fond memories... I do too :)

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  3. I wasn't aware of this one. So, thank you for sharing. will check it out. :)

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    1. please do.. you are gonna find lots of references to it

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  4. I haven't even heard about it. I need to google now!
    Tina From
    The Sunny Side of Life
    Twinkling Tina Cooks

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    Replies
    1. Try to get a hold of it or watch it if it comes on TV. well worth it

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  5. Love this show..what wonderful memories.
    Good going doc.
    Congratulations on the win!

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  6. I love New Girl! It's a great show - fun and makes me happy :)

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  7. This another of my favorite shows that has featured in your fantastic TV sitcom series.
    Though I watched the series as a grown up but I have found it really and inspiring :)
    P.S.- I am amazed by the fact that you seem to have seen all the shows aired in TV history (okay, I mean the English ones at least) this is something extraordinary in its own right :)

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  8. haha... I try to watch what I feel is good. Over decades, that tends to accumulate :)

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So what do you think ?