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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.
***Father Mulcahy: Well then why did the army forbid its use?
Hawkeye: They decided that too many people were dying because curare wasn't being used properly. By that same logic they should outlaw cars.***
== Characters ==
I Know full well that not everyone likes to read about the characters of a series in a review but for me I think that this is an integral part as it gives you a real insight into the programme itself. If you however personally feel that this is not what you want then simply skip to the next section which is titled 'Episode Overview'.
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 in turn he them.
***Colonel Potter: Notice how much nicer lunch is when they serve real food.***
Chief Surgeon 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.
''Margaret: [To Hawkeye] You are a little boy with the mind of a dirty old man.''
Next in line is Major Charles Emerson Winchester who is in his fourth series as a member of MASH 4077th. Winchester is rather pompous and loves to spout about his somewhat aristocratic background as well as the fact that he hates the army. He is however a superb surgeon and has gained respect because of this. This series sees Winchester develop his relationship with the boys of the SWAMP even further and it is nice to see him participating in most of their ludicrous antics, although he still does bear the brunt of quite a few of them.
***BJ: You know Charles, this floor is a lot like you - filled with culture and breeding that no-one can stand.***
Head of the nursing staff is Major Margaret Houlihan who is now well and truly single after divorcing husband Donald a couple of series previously. Since the first series Margaret's entire personality has softened somewhat and although she is still sometimes rather brash and at times relatively harsh she is ultimately proving that she's a great person to have on your side. Not only that but Margaret is simply the best at her job and her growing friendship with both Hawkeye and B.J is only letting this shine so much more.
***Margaret: [both Hawkeye and Margaret are in the Swamp, drunk] This place stinks.
Klinger is the 4077th company clerk and operating room orderly. The previous series saw Klinger stop bucking for a section 8, madness, discharge and therefore stop frequenting camp in women's clothing This allowed us to see a different side to Klinger and this continues in this series. Ultimately he has always been a superb orderly and a worthwhile hand in the operating theatre and this has always shone through whether he wore women's clothing or not but this series lets us see a more army dedicated Klinger that no one would ever have figured would appear.
***Klinger: [Klinger has taken apart the PA system] Do you know anything about PA systems?
Charles: Only that they convey sound at a greatly increased volume, if they have not been dismantled by a "cretin" who doesn't know how to put them back together again. ***
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.
***His Eminence: You're a hard act to follow Father.***
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.
***Margaret: It never fails to astonish me. You're alive. You're dead. No drums. No flashing lights. No fanfare. You're just dead.***
== Episode Overview ==
Series 9 of M*A*S*H is made up of 20 fantastic episodes, which in my opinion are some of the best although the quality of M*A*S*H as a whole make this a tough contest to win.
The twenty episodes each last roughly 30 minutes and tell a different story about life in the 4077th. There are however long running themes and ideas that cross all the episodes, which helps to add a sense of continuity and reality to the series in general. It is my opinion that it is this sense of continuity that make M*A*S*H as good as it is because everything that happens seems to have a knock on effect somewhere else and therefore make everything that occurs on screen seem much more real and the characters as large as life.
The episodes in this series see the 4077th deal with visits from Margaret's father, an alcoholic head nurse, a pushy retention officer and Cardinal Reardon. A heat wave is also taking its toll, an extensive delivery of tongue depressors has unexpectedly arrived and Klinger is trading in vintage wine. On top of this Winchester is given temporary command and Hawkeye posted as Officer in charge of food as well as bring taken at gunpoint by a North Korean soldier and tasked to go a day without cracking a joke. Furthermore Colonel Potter's blood pressure is rising rapidly, Hawkeye is suffering from a sneezing fit and B.J is seriously injured in the O.R. On the bright side however Christmas arrives at least, as does B.J's anniversary and letters from a school in Hawkeye's hometown as well as Radar.
The humour in all the episodes is as strong as ever. The witty one-liners are back with a vengeance but the more subtle and sophisticated drip-fed jokes are equally here to stay and this mix makes the series a real gem to watch.
***Hawkeye: I don't want to say it's wet out but on the way over I saw a duck carrying an umbrella.***
== Favourites ==
My favourite episode of the series is Episode 6 'A War For All Seasons' simply because it was a completely different episode in so many respects. Due to how the episodes time period was a complete year this gave the writers the opportunity to highlight how plans change as time progresses and some of the depictions were extremely humorous. The constantly changing design of Margaret's knitting for example and Klinger and Colonel Potter's baseball bets are all fantastic to watch progress. At the same time however the episode had many really poignant moments destined to make you think.
'''Col. Potter: Here's to the New Year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one and may we all be home before she's over.'''
My next favourite episode is Episode 3 'Cementing Relationships'. This episode sees the team search for the source of infection and the jokes come thick and fast. The witty one liners in this episode are some of the best written in the series and the use of all the characters near enough equally makes for fantastic viewing.
***Colonel Potter: I know M is or mobile but we haven't moved in five months...because we like it here. It's near shopping and transport and wounded.***
== Acting ==
As I have come to expect from MASH as a series, all the actors involved in this one put in tremendous performances from the outset. The connections between all members of the cast are plain to see and make the viewing process so much more enjoyable. Together all involved generate an immense amount of humour, which is predominantly driven by the superb script but also by the mere stances, postures and small characteristics of the characters, which are delivered perfectly. Each cast member brings their own little something to the show and it is these sparks that bring the on-screen characters to life and allow them to live in the memories of those that watch the programme.
Alan Alda's performance as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce is once again one that really stands out for the crowd as the charisma he has as an actor transpires straight into the character and makes everything he does seem ever so natural. This combined with the shining talent of Jamie Farr, as Klinger, who continues to build his performances as the series' progress and the wonderful naturalness of Mike Farrell, as B.J Hunnicutt makes this series a real gem.
All the cast also do a spectacular job of the medical side to the show and all of their medical actions seem to flow with a great ease that makes you believe that they do the jobs they are portraying every single day. I think it is this professionalism that makes the show so successful as if the medical side didn't look accurate then the overall feel and tone of the show would be destroyed.
== 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 ==
Series 9 of M*A*S*H is an absolutely outstanding series with a plethora of fantastic episodes, memorable moments and quintessential quotes. The focus is like it has been for the last couple of series more focused on the episodes but this is simply because the characters are so well-developed that they need little assistance to flourish further. The balance between seriousness and comedy is as always perfectly balanced and episodes such as A War For All Seasons and Bless You Hawkeye help to develop character backgrounds and long running ideas without going over the top.
What I love more than anything about this series and the entire show is that the insight it gives into a military outfit is portrayed in a very real way. Situations do different things to different people but more often than not they draw people closer to one another and prompt them to do things they would otherwise never be caught doing and this series portrays this wonderfully.
***B.J: Charles don't be hasty show a little compassion. Hawk you coming down with something? A cold? The Flu?
Hawkeye: I don't have a cold it's just a little sneezing.
B.J: Oh, well in that case Shut Up!***
The television comedy M.A.S.H. debuted in 1972. In the process of becoming one of the most successful and beloved programmes in TV history, it completely reinvented situation comedies. Based on Robert Altman's hit film, the sitcom ran for an astonishing 11 years. The line between comedy and drama has never been so delicately trod upon as in the series about the 4077th military medical hospital. Season nine includes the episodes 'Cementing Relationships;, 'Death Takes A Holiday', 'No Laughing Matter', and 'Bless You, Hawkeye'. 20 episodes.