Monday, March 27, 2006

A user’s guide to “M*A*S*H”


The sound of helicopters. The Hollywood Hills standing in for Korea. The sparse acoustic strumming that segue ways into the famous mournful theme. Television viewers of all ages know these elements as the sure signs that they are in the throes of yet another “M*A*S*H” rerun.

If you have a TV, you’ve seen an episode of “M*A*S*H” and bore witnesses to the antics of the 4077th. If you are of a certain age, say mid-to-late-30’s, you’ve most likely seen them all. And if you lived in the Milwaukee area in the 80’s, Channel 12 (what up, Jerry Taff!) made damn sure that you saw them all at least 37 times by re-running the show every night for a good couple of decades. For all I know, they still might be. The point is, “M*A*S*H” has been the kind of syndication for a quarter century, easily besting all contenders to the throne.

But how to navigate the many years of episodes? “M*A*S*H” ran for 11 years, surely there were some dips in quality? Oh yes, there most certainly was. And in my mind, “M*A*S*H” can be neatly divided in this fashion:

Frank Burns / Trapper John / Col. Blake = Good
Charles Emerson Winchester / BJ Honeycut / Col. Potter = Bad

But perhaps you are more forgiving than I, and don’t mind Charles and BJ. In that case, there are a few simple rules a viewer should follow. In order to have an enjoyable “M*A*S*H” rerun experience, simply turn off your TV as soon as possible when you see any of the following (listed in order of importance):

1.) Nurse Kelly in a speaking role.

2.) Klinger's wife Soon-Yi.

3.) William Christopher's name during the opening credits.

4.) Alan Alda with lots of grey hair

5.) Alan Alda listed as "creative consultant."
6.) Klinger NOT wearing a dress
7.) Loretta Swit with super platinum blonde, almost-white hair

“M*A*S*H” reruns are currently airing on SpikeTV, I think at 9PM central time. You’ve been warned!

6 comments:

Vincent said...

There is a variable in all this that you have neglected to mention. Radars transition from the earliest seasons go to guy, to rabbit raising, grape nehi drinking farm boy. My stomach is queasy just thinking about his puckish personality and silly giggle around "the guys". I understand that Hawkeye needed to be a father to someone after the mysterious disappearance of Ho-John but why did they have to gild Radar?
Beware the very special Radar becomes a man episode like the plague.

BlogFoot said...

I agree, but that transition was slow, and thus, harder to pin down at a glance. My list was intended to give the viewer a quick "Oh shit, Nurse Kelly is talking!"-type of touchpoint. Visual "beware of dog" signs, if you will.

Vincent said...

If I am not mistaken wasn't this transition between the first and second season? The first season was "somewhat" like the movie, if I remember correctly wasn't Spear-Chucker and the Gasser in season one episodes as well. The second season walked away from any ideas from the movie and Radar became a dink. I am surprised that your warning carried no mention of After Mash. A possible future post?

BlogFoot said...

I thinks it should be obvious to all but the sweetly retarded that "After MASH" is to be avoided at all costs.
It'd be like telling someone not to put a loaded gun in their mouth.

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