“ Genre: Television - M*A*S*H / Parental Guidance / Actors: Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers ... / DVD released 2005-03-28 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: Box set, Full Screen, PAL „
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M*A*S*H (Mobile Army Surgical hospital) was a television series that ran for eleven seasons between 1973 and 1983. The series was set in the Korean War and based around the oddball characters that served in the 4077th MASH.
The series itself fits into the category of black comedy set in the Korean War. It is probably the best place here to mention that this series does not insinuate ever that war or the situations is causes is a funny thing or that it is comedic in any way shape or form. It simply highlights how in the toughest of situations it is often the humour of those that remain that prevails the longest. Sort of along the 'they can crush us but they'll never crush our spirit' lines. Therefore the series does not shy from making some statements about war even if they are made in a comedic way but is careful to place just the right amount of emphasis on sensitive issues without becoming bogged down with them.
None of the episodes in this or other series' focus on the actual fighting of the war as the focus is clearly on the MASH unit. For this reason every episode shows a least one scene with the doctors performing surgery, highlighting how the staff at the 4077th MASH unit frequently find themselves knee deep in wounded and running out of both beds and medical supplies. This combined with the endless need for the doctors to spend their days and nights performing what is coined 'meatball surgery' leaves them sleep deprived and frustrated by a lack of military competence.
== Characters ==
MASH 4077th is commanded by Colonel Sherman Potter. Potter is regular army and used to be a member of the cavalry. He is devoted to his wife Mildred and talks about her frequently with other members of the camp. On the camp he has a horse called Sophie that he tends to and goes out riding on. On the whole Potter runs a very relaxed camp but ultimately this is very successful. Although the others very rarely show it they do respect him and he them.
Head of his surgical staff is Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce who is otherwise known as Hawkeye and played by Alan Alda. Hawkeye is an astoundingly gifted surgeon but detests anything remotely army like. He refuses to carry a weapon and is not awfully fond of the early mornings the army seem to revel on. Despite this he is a dedicated worker and will do anything to save the life of the men on the tables in front of him. Hawkeye lives in the SWAMP, the more than suitable name for their tent, with fellow draftee and con-conspirator Captain B.J. Hunnicutt. Hunnicutt is a true family man who is dedicated to his wife and kids. He immediately gelled with Hawkeye the second the pair met and since then they have been near inseparable, glued together by their quick wit and fondness of practical jokes.
'''***Hawkeye & B.J: The surgeons in the army they say we're pretty bright, we work on soldiers through the day and nurses through the night***'''
Next in line is Major Charles Emerson Winchester who after Frank's somewhat lunatic departure is sent to the 4077th. He hates being there from the very start and isn't particularly fond of anyone in camp although he certainly has a certain spot for Margaret. He is completely different to Frank who was awfully gung-ho yet drastically incompetent and likes to boost about his surgical prowess. Despite this he isn't a particularly quick worker unlike Hawkeye, B.J and Potter but as time passes he becomes more than eager to learn.
'''***B.J: Ninety days? Charles operates faster than that ***'''
Head of the nursing staff is Major Margaret Houlihan. Margaret has just recently married Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott and is seemingly besotted with him. Margaret wants nothing more than to impress her army father and is always ready to do her job to the best of her ability. Unfortunately this does mean that at times she is harsh, pushy and loud but ultimately she is good at her job and this wins her praise from the others. Her feelings towards Hawkeye and B.J also soften due to Frank's departure from the unit.
'''***Col. Potter: [discussing Houlihan's husband] That fella's married to a live grenade'''
'''Radar: He's lucky, he's in Tokyo out of range***'''
Next in line is MASH 4077th Company Clerk, Corporal 'Radar' O'Reily. Radar holds the entire unit together and does everything from delivery the mail and ordering new supplies to playing the bugle, carrying patients and generally caring for the rest of the staff on the base. Radar worships the ground Hawkeye walks on but is relatively naïve and is often found pulling up a cot and seeking guidance for both Hawkeye and B.J. Radar's biggest skill however is his amazing ability to hear the arrival of the Choppers before they can even be seen nor heard and his tremendous talent of being able to pre-empt everyone's orders.
'''***B.J: When Radar says he's got work to do he means it'''
'''Hawkeye: If it weren't for that leprechaun, 4077 would be a licence plate***'''
Despite the importance of Radar in past series he doesn't feature as highly in this one and the presence of Corporal Klinger becomes more and more prominent. Klinger is bucking for a section 8, madness, discharge and so frequents the camp in women's clothing. Ultimately however this doesn't interfere with his work and he can always be relied upon to do his job. It is this that he is most highly valued for and his name often rings throughout the OR.
'''***Klinger: Hey I'm from Toledo half my mail comes from death row***'''
The final consistent member of the camp is Father Mulcahy. Somehow Father Mulcahy manages to keep sane in the chaos that surrounds him and is always available to offer comforting words. He is however also always ready to jump in and lend a hand wherever and whenever he is needed and proves on more than one occasion to be a real asset to the unit. He also has a quick wit and is a highly respected member of the team.
'''*** B.J.: You know, Father, the first time I've met you, I thought there's this nice decent guy, kind of sweet and gentle, you know? How's he ever gonna last out here? I got to tell you, you're just about the toughest bird I know.'''
'''Father Mulcahy: Well, I'm certainly a lot luckier than some of the people we've seen come through here. ***'''
It must be said that the MASH 4077th unit has an amazingly unmilitary demeanour but despite this they have the best result of any MASH hospital in Korea. Their lack of military discipline, mischievous jokes and quite often constant drinking however does not get in the way of the fact that the entire team pulls together when they are needed the most and dedicates every effort to assisting the surgeons, save lives.
'''***Hawkeye: I'm here to pull bodies out of a sausage grinder. If possible without going crazy***'''
== Episodes ==
This series places a stronger focus on the stories of the episode rather than on the humour but that does not mean that humour is scarce because within the poignant story lines are tremendously funny anecdotes and hilarious antics. The series as a whole has achieved a brilliant balance between seriousness and comedy that give an amazingly unique feel meaning that in many ways it gives a good insight into life in a military outfit.
This series contains 24 episodes all of which, excluding episode 1, are 25 minutes in duration. Episode 1 is itself 50 minutes long.
Episode 1 - Fade Out, Fade In
When Frank Burns cracks up in R&R over Margaret's marriage his temporary replacement Doctor Charles Emerson Winchester III's position is made more permanent.
'''***Hawkeye: [To Winchester] You just have to kill the germs you don't have to hang around for the funeral***'''
Episode 2 - Fallen Idol
Radar completely idolises Hawkeye until he suffers an accident and then he begins to question everything he thought he knew.
Episode 3 - Last Laugh
A friend fond of practical jokes gets B.J arrested for a supposed run-in he had with a General down in Seoul.
'''***Father Mulcahy: Anything I can do?'''
'''Col. Potter: Pray'''
'''Father Mulcahy: Oh, that's all I ever get to do***'''
Episode 4 - War of Nerves
Psychiatrist Sidney Freedman gets depressed when a young boy he sent back into combat blames him for his injuries.
Episode 5 -The Winchester Tapes
Winchester is recording a letter home to his parents dictating everything he ahtes about life at the 4077th.
'''***Hawkeye: Come on Beej, you got to have a pair of pf Pyjamas, you had a pair when you got here'''
'''B.J: I had a lot of things when I got here, faith, hope, sanity, a liver ***'''
Episode 6 - The Light That Failed
Delivery errors stop the 4077th receive the vital supplies they need and when the last page of the murder novel everyone is reading is missing the must all guess at the identity of the killer.
Episode 7 - In Love and War
Despite warnings Hawkeye falls in love with a Korean woman whilst in the meantime Margaret comes to find out that Donald may have made a pass at another nurse.
Episode 8 - Change Day
Military script is changing and Winchester plans to cheat the natives out of their money.
Episode 9 - Images
Hawkeye and B.J try to discourage Radar from getting a tattoo but he thinks one will make him a man.
Episode 10 - The M*A*S*H Olympics
The Olympics are in full flow but spirits within camp are a little low until the brainwave to hold their own Olympics looms into view.
Episode 11 - The Grim Reaper
A Colonel tries to bring charges against Hawkeye after he shoves him in a bar but after being injured in battle he comes to see his skills.
Episode 12 & 13 - Comrades in Arms (Part 1 & 2)
Hawkeye and Margaret become trapped behind lines and grow closer and close as time goes on.
'''***Col. Potter [after Margaret decks Hawkeye] Hell hath no fury like a woman sustained***'''
Episode 14 - The Merchant of Korea
Hawkeye and B.J become despondent about doing Winchester favours due to money that they owe him and so challenge him to a poker game.
Episode 15 - The Smell of Music
Winchester playing his horn is really irritating Hawkeye and B.J so they decide not to wash until he stops playing it but this is annoying everyone else.
Episode 16 - Patent 4077
In order to perform arterial surgery properly the 4077th need a certain tool. There isn't such a tool in existence so they set about making one.
'''***Col. Potter: [On the telephone] You can? Oh that's swell...... Ninety days? That stinks ***'''
Episode 17 - Tea and Empathy
A soldier's confession leads Father Mulcahy to undercover a stash of blackmarket penicillin right when the camp needs it the most.
Episode 18 - Your Hit Parade
The camp is inundated with casualties and so they must be placed in personnel tents too. In an attempt to raise spirits Radar starts playing tunes over the intercom.
Episode 19 - What's Up Doc?
When Margaret thinks she may be pregnant, Hawkeye must request the service's of Radar's rabbit to find out for certain.
'''***Margaret: That time of the month hasn't been that time of the month yet and that was last month'''
'''Hawkeye: Maybe your watch stopped***'''
Episode 20 - Mail Call Three
When the post arrives Kinger finds out his wife wants a divorce and B.J receives news that another man has made a pass at his wife. Meanwhile Hawkeye receives another love letter addressed to another Benjamin Pierce.
Episode 21 - Temporary Duty
The 4077th and the 803rd exchange Hawkeye and a nurse and receive a crude surgeon and an old friend of Margaret's
'''***Col. Potter: Pierce good luck and watch out for Colonel Wheally. Bigelow [female nurse] good luck and watch out for Captain Pierce***'''
Episode 22 - Potter's Retirement
Potter strongly considers retirement when he learns of a negative informant within the camp. It is up to the others to everything they can to stop him from leaving.
Episode 23 - Doctor Winchester and Mr Hyde
Due to stress in surgery Winchester starts to take amphetamines and soon becomes rather addicted to them.
Episode 24 - Major Topper
The camp has a bad case of morphine and a Corporal that is even crazier than Klinger.
***Klinger: [discussing a lunatic soldier] No he's past that he talks to his socks'''
'''Col. Potter: As long as he keeps them clean***'''
== General Episode Opinion ==
All of the episodes in this series are of a consistently high quality but are for me let down by the introduction of a new character that doesn't gel particularly well with the others at the start of the series. The episodes that start the series off have nothing particularly wrong with them, in fact they follow roughly the same format as before but somehow they lack a certain drive. This is probably because we as an audience have become so used to the others foiling Frank's plans and ribbing him about his seeming lack of medical knowledge and Winchester as a character just doesn't provide them with these opportunities.
It must be said however that the series does pick up in the second half and the overall scripting improves in my opinion. The second half of the series provides more gags and humorous antics and because we are becoming accustomed to Winchester's character these gags and quips are soon associated with him and allow him as a character to generate humour of his own.
== My Favourites ==
My favourite episode of the series is Episode 15 ' The Smell of Music'. This is an absolutely hilarious episode and shows the ludicrously of camp life. This episode also shows a more fun and light-hearted side to Margaret and has within it some the most fantastic lines that make you laugh out loud.
'''***B.J: Make you a deal Winchester. You knock off the horn, we shower***'''
My next favourite episode is Episode 18 'Your Hit Parade'. This episode sees the camp over-run with casualties. But unlike normal the casualty numbers are so high that they are placed in personnel tents as well as in pre-op and post-op. This makes for fantastic viewing, as Hawkeye, B.J and Winchester must share a tent with Colonel Potter. I loved this because it was a real gem of an episode after some of the dry ones of the first half of the series.
'''***Col. Potter: Come in bunkies'''
'''Hawkeye: Oh, talk about plush'''
'''B.J: When I grow up I want to be a Colonel'''
'''Col. Potter: Leave an aisle, I make a lot of trips during the night'''
== Acting ==
The acting in this series is like in all the previous series' is very strong and consistent throughout. Alan Alda as always puts in tremendous performance in every episode and brings a very natural feel to the show. This series also allows other characters and therefore actors to shine through, which give the series a rather rounded, feel when it comes to the cast.
== Disc Facts ==
Apart from the twenty episodes the three discs that the episodes are spread across contain no special features. Ok the menus are interactive but is that anything special really. All of the episodes however can be watched with subtitles in a variety as well as with French audio if you should so wish.
It is also probably a good place here to mention that this series like all of the others has a certificate rating of 15, which is well deserved due to the sexual references, gaudy humour and general behaviour at times.
== Closing Comment ==
Unfortunately however despite loving M*A*S*H as a series I did find that this one just wasn't as good as it's predecessors. I personally found that the first half of the series just lacked a certain spark and just couldn't for some reason gel with Winchester as a character of the storylines. I am however very pleased to say that the second half of the series really did live up to all expectations and pulled the series up tremendously. This doesn't have mean that the first half of the series is awful, it is just different and larger comic speeches and subtle actions take the place of quick witted snap shots, which can take a while to get used to.
As a lover of the show as a whole therefore I would still highly recommend this series even if it is just for the brilliant second half.