MASH

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.

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Murder, She Wrote

TV classics: Murder, She Wrote

USA 1984-96, 264 episodes, 12 seasons, 45 minutes each, CBS. Created by Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, William Link, Producer: Angela Lansbury, Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, William Link, David Moessinger, Music by John Addison. Cast: Angela Lansbury, William Windom, Tom Bosley, Ron Masak, Guest Stars: Julie Adams, June Allyson, Barbara Babcock, Gene Barry, Polly Bergen, Len Cariou, George Clooney, James Coburn, Courtney Cox, Marcia Cross, Mike Farrell, Michael Horton, Kim Hunter, Shirley Jones, Brian Keith, Dorothy Lamour, Martin Landau, Keith Michell, Kate Mulgrew, Leslie Nielsen, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Nixon, Richard Paul, John Rhys-Davies, Wayne Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Jean Simmons, David Ogden Stiers, Loretta Swit et al.

Plot summary: JB Fletcher is a retired English teacher gone bestselling author who writes mysteries for a living and solves real murders after hours.

Review: Already looking back on a renowned career in Hollywood and on the Broadway stage, Angela Lansbury became a household name when she entered America’s living rooms in the fall of 1984. As former English teacher gone mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, she won the hearts of audiences worldwide, solving crimes on paper and in person while sometimes butting heads with the police outside of her hometown Cabot Cove in Maine. Inquisitive by nature, Mrs. F found it hard to resist investigating the crimes she stumbled into, often bringing her own life in danger when she got too close to the truth.

Supported by some recurring characters, Jessica worked with her hometown sheriffs, Doctor Hazlitt, Scotland Yard and an agent from MI6. She solved murders on vacation and on book tours, found crimes that hit close to home but never got gritty. Her way of investigating was suspenseful yet family friendly. Murder, She Wrote was not CSI or Law & Order_ SVU.¬† The show relied on strong performances and a whodunit story rather than violence and exaggerated action. JB Fletcher was a widow and retired teacher, she didn’t carry a gun or used science jargon. She used her eyes and ears to observe and connect the dots – much like Miss Marple had, solving crimes a different way.

Always savvy, warm and assertive, Jessica Fletcher was a respected member of her community and extended family, always eager to expose the truth behind the crimes she got involved with. Angela Lansbury did a fine job creating one of TV’s most beloved characters, a part that put four Golden Globes on her resum√© and a record of twelve consecutive Emmy nominations.

Canceled due to time slot changes in 1996, Murder, She Wrote has remained a popular program in reruns and on DVD. Living on in a franchise that includes mystery novels, games and four TV movies, JB Fletcher is still a beloved member of many households around the world and continues to entertain her fans both young and old.

Murder, She Wrote opening theme