Thursday, January 25, 2018

My Favorite MASH

With the upcoming M*A*S*H-Cast, I've been thinking of my favorite era of the show. I mainly saw M*A*S*H in reruns on Channel 29, but we would occasionally watch it live. I know we were among the millions that tuned in for the finale.

In any case, my favorite time of the show was from where Winchester joined (Season 6's “Fade Out, Fade In (Part 1)”) to when Radar left (Season 8's "Good-Bye Radar: Part 2"). This is for a couple of reasons, and they are entirely personal, so your mileage may vary.

First, I never liked how Frank Burns was treated as a character. The Frank from the original movie was an army surgeon who was, perhaps, a bit over-zealous in his religious views. He became the enemy of Hawkeye and Duke simply because he was there and they didn't agree with him. That escalated to the point where Hawkeye pushed Frank so far that Frank attacked him. Still, Frank was a good surgeon and did his job.

Not so much in the TV show. Here, Frank is a bumbling dullard who is more akin to a child than a doctor. While I disagree with how the character was treated in the movie, I am outraged by how he's treated in the show. There are times when Hawkeye, Trapper, or BJ show even a slight interest in being his friend which makes Frank become a puppy-dog. They then squash this possibility, crushing him. It's like having the cool kids pick on a special needs child just because it amuses them, and I never liked it.

Replacing Frank with Charles was brilliant, in my opinion. Now you had someone who could give as good as he got, plus he was able to team up with Hawkeye or BJ against the other. That made for a much more interesting dynamic on the show and, also in my opinion, raised it on an intellectual level.

While Charles added something the show needed, the departure of Radar had it lose something. The innocence that Gary Burghoff imbues Radar with is sorely missed in the rest of the show. Not that I dislike Klinger, but his cynical take on being company clerk is just like everyone else's cynicism. There's no wide-eyed amazement at anything anymore, and that's a detriment to the stories.

Still, it's going to be interesting hearing Rob Kelly's take on each episode, along with his guests. Maybe they can change my mind on the Frank situation, but I doubt it.

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  1. The show evolved as well as things went on. The early seasons were much more slapstick, especially with some of Klinger's "escape" attempts. That sort of locked Frank's character in as the weasel-y foil. Who was pretty much run and manipulated by Margaret for the most part anyways. So he was pretty much a shallow cipher compared to the movie character.

    I agree that adding Charles allowed for much more complex interactions, especially since they also had Margaret's character evolve as well. And Col Potter was a more complex character, or at least showed a number of more variable facets, than Henry.

    I think the series got much too serious for its own good by the end, so my favorites are around the period you mentioned, and some of the early ones. My favorite episode is still the "Practical Joker" episode since it also had Sidney in it.

    1. I think we can all agree that "The Practical Joker" is one of the best episodes of television, ever. :)