TV classics: M*A*S*H
USA 1972-83, eleven seasons, 251 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Cast: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, David Ogden Siers
Plot summary: During the Korean War, the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital struggles to keep the Army in business and their own morale afloat. Thank goodness for irony, puns and practical jokes!
Review: Based on Richard Hooker’s book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors and Robert Altman’s feature film adaptation, the M*A*S*H TV series presented life at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War in the 1950s. Led by Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce, the show started out as a comedy with a serious undertone and later changed into a drama with comedy elements. Often referring to political situations, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as America’s role in the Cold War, the show looked into the lives of Army doctors and their patients without an overexposure of cruelties. Despite changes in the writing staff and creative team over the course of eleven years, the quality of the show remained top notch, allowing its characters to grow and change from their weak start in 1972 until their popular farewell in 1983.
Rewarded with numerous Emmys and Golden Globe Awards, M*A*S*H was also honored with the prestigious Peabody Award in 1976 for its uplifting yet relevant nature. Blessed with a talented cast of actors throughout its entire run, the show was a hit amongst viewers in the US and around the world who appreciated the mix of laughter and tears, as well as the many critical questions the show raised over the years. Originally produced with a laugh track to please the network, the show was broadcast without it in a variety of countries and is available in both versions on DVD. As an old-school dramedy program, the show is every bit as entertaining now as it was when it first went on the air, with one major difference to a lot of programs today: M*A*S*H never lost itself in a depressing atmosphere. Based on a lot of interviews with and reports from actual Army doctors and nurses, the show was far from being out of touch with reality. Instead of merely dwelling on the gruesome reality of war however, the show offered a glimpse of humanity, irony and pragmatism, a rare treat in a world that’s obsessed with a darker shade of realism today.