38. M*A*S*H

Creator: Larry Gelbart
Years: 1972-1983

This show will forever me linked to me watching it with my dad night after night after night. It’s hard for me to be objective about the show because of that. Watching my dad laugh near constantly surely affected my opinion of the show, even if I wasn’t laughing with him all the time.

What I feel confident saying is that I really dislike a lot of the early seasons where the humor was mostly slapstick. McLean Stevenson is great at it, but most of the cast is pretty awful, especially Alan Alda. I pretty much wanted to slap the bastard over and over. Hot Lips’ character is just terrible in the beginning as well, being nothing more than a floozy. Her relationship with Frank makes zero sense.

That said, the episode where Henry dies would rank in my top 25 I think (along with the finale). It’s still one of the saddest moments ever in television. Keeping the reveal a secret until the day of shooting probably helped not to mention that the terrible news was during emergency surgeries so that the character really had no time to grieve. So powerful.

The show eventually gets better as the humor moves away from slapstick. Characters begin to act more rationally. Margaret Houlihan’s character becomes quite the feminist and delivers some strong scenes. Alan Alda is significantly better at drama and shows it, and I feel B.J. Honeycutt was a better partner in crime than Trapper; it felt less frathouse and more genuine friendship. David Ogden Stiers is a pretty darn good actor, too. Even Klinger’s character grows a bit near the end once they finished the tiresome “dressing in drag to get a discharge” bit. And as mentioned, the final string of episodes are great, culminating in one of the best series finales ever.


2 thoughts on “38. M*A*S*H”

  1. I never really got around to more than a handful of episodes of this show, but it always stood out to me that a show started out as slapstick and moved away from it, since normally slapstick is a desperate move to stay around. I wouldn’t mind checking this out at some point, but I’d probably feel like I should start at the beginning, and the number of episodes is…daunting.

    1. Yeah, I dunno. Unlike Cheers it isn’t strong early, so you probably wouldn’t make it far. On the other hand, I wouldn’t know where to tell you to skip ahead to and if you did, you’d miss out on McClean Stevenson.

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