M*A*S*H 1972-1975

As I was sidelined…I drug out my Mash episodes and started to watch them in order. I got to the 5th season and then started to jump around. I also like the movie but I’ll concentrate on the TV show for these three days of posts.

Mash was one of the best-written tv shows ever. It’s hard to do a simple one page on this show because it lasted eleven seasons on a war that lasted a little over three years.

It seems everyone has their own favorite era of the show. For me, I have always liked the irrelevant feeling of the original cast. I never watched it in real-time between 72-75 because I would have been too young to get it then… I started to watch it around 1977 but after watching in syndication I liked the Henry Blake, Trapper John, and Frank Burns era.

This show was different than many other comedies. It was funny but also could turn serious.

I’ve always divided M*a*s*h up in three sections… Original cast 72-75 (S 1-3), Radar leaving 76-79 (S 4-8), and the end… 80-83 (S 9-11). The atmosphere changed in every section. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Mclean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers would have stayed a couple of more years…how that would have changed how it evolved. I’ll be posting on these sections in the next few days.

Characters from the first 3 years.

Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – Alan Alda – This character may have installed my love of the Marx Brothers. Alda followed Groucho’s template of sardonic humor.

Trapper John McIntyre – Wayne Rogers – I think Trapper John was Hawkeye’s best partner. They were just different enough to work. Like Henry, he left way too soon. 

Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake – McClean Stevenson – Henry wasn’t much of a leader but he was fun to have around. He really emphasized having Doctors running an Army camp. What he lacked as a leader he made up for with compassion and care for his people…

Major Frank Burns – Larry Linville – Maybe the most annoying whiny character on any show.  When I was younger I hated Frank Burns…but later on, I saw how vital he was to the show. The show really missed him when he quit…still it would terrible to meet a live Frank Burns.

Major Margaret Hot Lips” Houlihan – Loretta Swit – Of all of the characters that changed as the show progressed…Margaret changed most of all. She was still an army brat here but she could match Frank in being military and paranoid. Margaret and Frank would be an item until the 5th season.

Corporal Walter “Radar” O’Reilly – Gary BurghoffThe most important member of the 4077… He made that camp run while representing the childlike qualities of a kid from Ottumwa, Iowa.

Francis John Patrick Mulcahy – William Christopher – William did a great job of representing Father Mulcahy. He was totally believable as the friendly priest of the 4077.

Maxwell Klinger – Jamie Farr – Corporal Klinger would go to great lengths to get out of the Army…wearing women’s clothing (in the 50s), reporting relatives dying (the same ones over and over), and even eating a jeep. Also trying to escape with a glider with pink house shoes…he looked like a big red bird with fuzzy pink feet. 

Episodes that stand out are

Sometimes You Hear a Bullet – This one gets serious when a friend of Hawkeye’s is writing a book about the war and is hit on the battlefield and Hawkeye cannot save him. A young Ron Howard is in this one playing a kid who lied about his age to get in the army just to impress a girl. Hawkeye was going to keep it a secret but eventually turns him in when he sees his friend die.

“Abyssinia, Henry” – Probably my favorite Mash episode ever. They do something that just wasn’t done back then…kill a character off in a comedy. McClean Stevenson wanted off the show (a move he would regret) after three seasons and Henry Blake gets his papers to go home. He tells everyone goodbye and at the end, Radar comes in the operating room to say that Henry’s plane was shot down with no survivors.

Trapper: Klinger is not a pervert.
Frank: How do you know?
Trapper: because I’m one and he’s never at the meetings.

Frank: Your conduct in there was not only unbecoming in an officer, it was equally reprehensible as a medical man!
Hawkeye: Frank, I happen to be an officer only because I foolishly opened an invitation from President Truman to come to this costume party. And as for my ability as a doctor, if you seriously question that, I’m afraid I’ll just have to challenge you to a duel.
Trapper: Swords or pistols?
Hawkeye: I was thinking specimen bottles at 20 paces.
Frank: There are ladies present.
Hawkeye: Oh. (to Margaret) Sorry, baby.
Margaret: “Major” to you!
Hawkeye: Sorry, Major, baby.

Frank: All right, McIntyre! Time for your checkup. Into your birthday suit.
Trapper: Take a walk, Frank.
Frank: This is the army.
Trapper: Then take a hike!
Frank: Are you refusing to take your physical from a superior officer?
Trapper: No, I’m refusing to take my physical from an inferior doctor.
Hawkeye: (entering the Swamp) What’s all the adrenaline for?
Frank: McIntyre’s refused to take his clothes off for me.
Hawkeye: Well, not everybody is Major Houlihan, Frank.
Trapper: Which is a relief to us all. Out, Frank.