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 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 3:32 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

M*A*S*H seems to have two different halves in its history and the fanbase is often divided over which era they prefer. I believe this often depends on how old you were when the show started.

There are those who like the earlier seasons, when Henry Blake was in charge, Frank Burns was the villain, Margaret was still "Hot Lips", and Trapper John was Hawkeye's partner in crime. They drank more from that homemade still, and there was more of a madcap feel to the show that owed more to the 1970s movie. Radar was the clerk, and Klinger always dressed in drag.

Then came the mid way point.

Henry Blake was killed, Trapper left, and Frank and Hot Lips split up. Col. Potter took charge, and BJ Honeycutt replaced Trapper John (who would later become Pernell Roberts! Oh, yeah!). Radar became a real wuss, Major Winchester became the new foil for Hawkeye. Klinger became the new company clerk and stopped dressing in drag. The show became more of a "dramedy" and the characters weren't as goofy as they were before, Hot Lips became "Margaret" and stopped sleeping around. Various additional bit players came into being and the chemistry became stronger.

So let's talk about M*A*S*H! Likes, dislikes, favorites etc.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 3:56 PM   
 By:   LeHah   (Member)

Many years ago in the summer of 1999 - I had the chance to meet and shake hands with Ring Lardner Jr. I was a little star-struck at first - and then the guy opened his mouth. If the softer side of this board will pardon the term, "crusty sonuvabitch" is the most apt description. Maybe I caught him on a bad day - but I get the feeling he wasn't very personable.

Before going in to meet him, our mutual friend advised me two things:

1.) Don't step on his toes (must've been a story, I didn't ask)
2.) Don't mention MASH

The guy who had it out for Altman over the movie also didn't like the TV show. And its kind of the elephant in the room when you want to ask the guy about winning the Oscar for a screenplay to a movie he hated.

Flash-back to the early 80s when I was in diapers: MASH was the show on constantly in our household. Well, that and All In The Family. I have vivid memories of the show that are ingrained in my person about as deep as The Empire Strikes Back and watching Star Trek TOS reruns at noon on Saturdays with my dad on the big floor console TV. And at the risk of sounding naive - MASH was always good. I still watch episodes today that are great and still find people who know what I'm talking about when I mention Adam's Ribs!

Yeah, the show shifted gears and I never really cared too much for Jamie Farr (not that he was bad, just that the show painted him a little too broadly most of the time) but through and through the show stayed the same in terms of quality. I wish more shows tried to get to that level of writing or quality but it seems the audiences of the world, not just America, are willing to settle for LOST tablescraps.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 4:00 PM   
 By:   Sarge   (Member)

I would argue there are four distinct eras...

1. Seasons 1-3 with the original cast - Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank, Margaret, Radar, Henry, etc.

2. Season 4, when McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers left, but Larry Linville was still on the show. Harry Morgan was a fine addition, but Mike Farrell was (and always will be) a poor substitute for Wayne Rogers.

3. Season 5 - David Ogden Stiers, aka Winchester arrives. This is a seismic shift - the energy of the show completely changed. His droll character slowed the tempo of both the show and Alan Alda's performance, and paved the way for a less comedic, more dramatic approach.

4. Season 8 - Radar leaves. After his departure, the show became a bit stale, showing flashes of its previous brilliance until the utterly perfect finale.

But I love it all.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 5:02 PM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

When Henry Blake and Trapper John left the show, the show ended, imo.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 5:25 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

This was a show that I never really got into. I would watch it, and occasionally enjoy it but it was never a favorite. I do think the early 3 or 4 seasons were probably the best.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 5:27 PM   
 By:   Sarge   (Member)

This was a show that I never really got into. I would watch it, and occasionally enjoy it but it was never a favorite. I do think the early 3 or 4 seasons were probably the best.

Most people tend to favor the Larry Gelbart years, but I think they still did good work after he left the show. Unlike, say, HILL STREET BLUES, which rapidly deteriorated after Steven Bochco was fired. wink

They were smart to end it when they did... you could tell they were creatively exhausted. But the finale was a vivid reminder of all the things that made the show great.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 5:35 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

This was a show that I never really got into. I would watch it, and occasionally enjoy it but it was never a favorite. I do think the early 3 or 4 seasons were probably the best.

Most people tend to favor the Larry Gelbart years, but I think they still did good work after he left the show. Unlike, say, HILL STREET BLUES, which rapidly deteriorated after Steven Bochco was fired. wink

They were smart to end it when they did... you could tell they were creatively exhausted. But the finale was a vivid reminder of all the things that made the show great.


One thing that worked in it's favor is that given the volitile, fast shifting currents of military conflict, cast changes were probably more acceptable to an audience- it wasn't a purely cast driven show, like, say, ALL IN THE FAMILY.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 5:56 PM   
 By:   Sarge   (Member)

One thing that worked in it's favor is that given the volitile, fast shifting currents of military conflict, cast changes were probably more acceptable to an audience- it wasn't a purely cast driven show, like, say, ALL IN THE FAMILY.

True. It was easier to explain away the cast defections - and in the case of McLean Stevenson, the death of Henry Blake enriched the show greatly.

Also, they usually took the opportunity to bring in a character the exact opposite of the one who left, which freshened up the dynamic. Henry Blake was an ordinary man thrust into a position of responsibility, but Colonel Potter was a career military man. Frank Burns was an incompetent nitwit, but Winchester was sophisticated and intelligent. The only one they dropped the ball on was BJ, selecting an actor who wasn't nearly as funny or interesting as his predecessor - IMO.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 6:02 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

One thing that worked in it's favor is that given the volitile, fast shifting currents of military conflict, cast changes were probably more acceptable to an audience- it wasn't a purely cast driven show, like, say, ALL IN THE FAMILY.

True. It was easier to explain away the cast defections - and in the case of McLean Stevenson, the death of Henry Blake enriched the show greatly.

Also, they usually took the opportunity to bring in a character the exact opposite of the one who left, which freshened up the dynamic. Henry Blake was an ordinary man thrust into a position of responsibility, but Colonel Potter was a career military man. Frank Burns was an incompetent nitwit, but Winchester was sophisticated and intelligent. The only one they dropped the ball on was BJ, selecting an actor who wasn't nearly as funny or interesting as his predecessor - IMO.


Yes, BJ was way too sanctimonious and preachy. I DID like Morgan as Potter. He displayed a paternal discipline over the mad house that Henry lacked. Henry just rolled with the flow.

Addendum: I did like the way certain characters grew and actually became fond of each other. Hot Lips became Margaret, a warmer, more accessable associate.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 6:10 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Some thoughts on the "character dynamics":

It's also interesting to note that Blake/Radar had better chemistry than Potter/Radar, whereas Potter/Klinger were equally effective as the Blake/Radar tandem had been. Henry was a mess, and Radar ran things for him. Potter was organized, but Klinger was, too-- but in a disorganized way!

Margaret's character changed from army brat who slept around and then became Florence Nightingale. I guess she couldn't perpetually be "Hot Lips", just like Hawkeye's womanizing was toned down a lot. I always disliked the Margaret/Donald Penobscott storyline, where she and Frank became estranged. And speaking of Frank Burns, I never understood why anyone liked him. He had no redeeming virtues, was one-dimensional, and was the worst surgeon in the 4077. Winchester was IMO a far worthier "foe."

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 6:15 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

Some thoughts on the "character dynamics":

It's also interesting to note that Blake/Radar had better chemistry than Potter/Radar, whereas Potter/Klinger were equally effective as the Blake/Radar tandem had been. Henry was a mess, and Radar ran things for him. Potter was organized, but Klinger was, too-- but in a disorganized way!

Margaret's character changed from army brat who slept around and then became Florence Nightingale. I guess she couldn't perpetually be "Hot Lips", just like Hawkeye's womanizing was toned down a lot. I always disliked the Margaret/Donald Penobscott storyline, where she and Frank became estranged. And speaking of Frank Burns, I never understood why anyone liked him. He had no redeeming virtues, was one-dimensional, and was the worst surgeon in the 4077. Winchester was IMO a far worthier "foe."


I think the thing that always bothered me about Linville's portrayal of Burns was the idiocy of the character's spoiled brattiness. In the 1970 movie, Robert Duvall portrayed him as a borderline evangelical nut-case, probably a little too heavy handed to attempt that characterization in a "sit-com".

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 7:01 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

MINORITY REPORT.

Comparisons are odious. So, please forgive me. At the time when so many were making such a fuss about TOOTSIE, a film I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to VICTOR/VICTORIA, a movie that made many of the same social points but without calling attention to itself. It preferred entertaining to preaching.

With that as a given, perhaps you'll understand my twisted perception, as follows...

All during the years that humanitarian awards were being given to M*A*S*H, a series I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to BARNEY MILLER, a series which was every bit as funny, but much subtler about its commentaries on the human condition, of which there were many.

That said, I still think that Larry Gelbart was a genius, and I wish he'd lived forever.

 
 Posted:   Oct 2, 2009 - 7:07 PM   
 By:   Steve Johnson   (Member)

MINORITY REPORT.

Comparisons are odious. So, please forgive me. At the time when so many were making such a fuss about TOOTSIE, a film I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to VICTOR/VICTORIA, a movie that made many of the same social points but without calling attention to itself. It preferred entertaining to preaching.

With that as a given, perhaps you'll understand my twisted perception, as follows...

All during the years that humanitarian awards were being given to M*A*S*H, a series I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to BARNEY MILLER, a series which was every bit as funny, but much subtler about its commentaries on the human condition, of which there were many.

That said, I still think that Larry Gelbart was a genius, and I wish he'd lived forever.


I agree that BARNEY MILLER was a funnier show. It had a marvelous cast.

 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 5:02 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

MINORITY REPORT.

Comparisons are odious. So, please forgive me. At the time when so many were making such a fuss about TOOTSIE, a film I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to VICTOR/VICTORIA, a movie that made many of the same social points but without calling attention to itself. It preferred entertaining to preaching.

With that as a given, perhaps you'll understand my twisted perception, as follows...

All during the years that humanitarian awards were being given to M*A*S*H, a series I very much enjoyed, I felt that greater recognition should have gone to BARNEY MILLER, a series which was every bit as funny, but much subtler about its commentaries on the human condition, of which there were many.

That said, I still think that Larry Gelbart was a genius, and I wish he'd lived forever.



At first I thought you were going to say that Klinger's drag was superior to that of TOOTSIE's and Victor/Victoria!

Preston Neal "Cold Bucket O' Water" Jones, ladies and gentlemen!

 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 8:08 AM   
 By:   TominAtl   (Member)

M*A*S*H seems to have two different halves in its history and the fanbase is often divided over which era they prefer. I believe this often depends on how old you were when the show started.

There are those who like the earlier seasons, when Henry Blake was in charge, Frank Burns was the villain, Margaret was still "Hot Lips", and Trapper John was Hawkeye's partner in crime. They drank more from that homemade still, and there was more of a madcap feel to the show that owed more to the 1970s movie. Radar was the clerk, and Klinger always dressed in drag.

Then came the mid way point.

Henry Blake was killed, Trapper left, and Frank and Hot Lips split up. Col. Potter took charge, and BJ Honeycutt replaced Trapper John (who would later become Pernell Roberts! Oh, yeah!). Radar became a real wuss, Major Winchester became the new foil for Hawkeye. Klinger became the new company clerk and stopped dressing in drag. The show became more of a "dramedy" and the characters weren't as goofy as they were before, Hot Lips became "Margaret" and stopped sleeping around. Various additional bit players came into being and the chemistry became stronger.

So let's talk about M*A*S*H! Likes, dislikes, favorites etc.


M*A*S*H truly was and is one of the greatest American televisions series ever, ranking up there with Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, etc., even through their "shift" in tone, cast and direction. And for me, the early years are still funnier and more madcap than the later years. Virtually anything having to deal with Frank Burns was a gas. And of course, that classic moment when, after the tremendous build up of having Gen. McArthur visiting the camp but only ended up being a quick jeep drive by, there was Klinger in his Statue of Liberty get up and dress and McArthur giving him drive by salute! Love it!

Oh yeah, the character Col. Flagg was a favorite of mine too.

" I have enough pictures of your file to have you executed for the rest of your life."

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 8:27 AM   
 By:   KostalPrevin   (Member)

I was never a fan of this series - it ranks with the Star Trek and Star Wars fanchises which I have assiduously avoided for years. I never found the characters to be likeable or credible for a moment. When MASH finally ended its way-too-long network run, its last episode was aired on my 23rd b-day. A truly fitting present.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 9:30 AM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

Jim,

Cold buckets of water have an honorable place in the history of M*A*S*H, starting with Hot Lips' shower in the Altman film.

But seriously, thanks for the laugh!

Carry on,

Preston

 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 12:21 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

When MASH finally ended its way-too-long network run, its last episode was aired on my 23rd b-day. A truly fitting present.

I'm relieved that your inner torment was finally extinguished. [withholds the fact that M*A*S*H will probably continue to air for the next eleventeen thousand years]

M*A*S*H is one of maybe six sitcoms that I actually like. Perhaps it was the fact that it was oddly comforting when aired in perpetual reruns during my childhood. I remember the reruns looking dingy and washed out, whereas the newest episode (Monday nights at 9pm?) were sparkling and new, much like the remastering of the show on DVD looks today.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 2:17 PM   
 By:   KostalPrevin   (Member)


I'm relieved that your inner torment was finally extinguished. [withholds the fact that M*A*S*H will probably continue to air for the next eleventeen thousand years]

Mr. Phelps - I shall survive :-0 I realize a lot of talent went into MASH, but for some reason or another it simply did not appeal to me. All my friends were great fans of the show in college. My fave sitcoms were The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show. I thought MASH was sorta okay when it was new earlier in the 1970s, but as the years wore on, it became a soapbox of sorts.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 3, 2009 - 4:29 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

And of course, it was the soapbox factor to which I was alluding in my earlier post. Better, I feel, to sneak the meaningful content in between the lines rather than to be quite so self-conscious about it.

 
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