M*A*S*H- a season by season discussion!

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by ohnothimagen, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    And so, as a bump here's a discussion question (we'll do this for all the seasons as we go through them):

    What are yer three favourite episodes from season 1, and why (scenes, funny lines, story)?
     
  2. smilin ed

    smilin ed Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham
    Well, probably... Sometimes You Hear the Bullet, Yankee Doodle Doctor (it's Harpo, btw); Showtime (or Dear Dad Again or Tuttle. Sue me: it's hard to choose).
     
  3. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    My two favorite episodes of the first season are "Tuttle" and "Cease-Fire". Although there are number of very good episodes in S1, these two stand out.

    "Tuttle" is probably the most satirical of any episode. It could very easily have been a chapter in Catch-22.

    Hawkeye's closing eulogy is a classic:

    "We can all be comforted by the thought that he’s not really gone, that there’s a little Tuttle left in all of us. In fact, you might say that all of us together made up Tuttle. Our grief will pass. It’s already hard to remember exactly how Johnny looked, how he talked, his little laugh. Thankfully he’s left behind a memorial. I’ve been informed by Radar that Captain Tuttle’s G.I. insurance named Sister Theresa’s orphanage as his sole beneficiary. How typical. We salute you, Captain Tuttle, humanitarian and healer. Good luck, doctor, in that great big waiting room in the sky!”

    The episode was inspired by the Russian anecdote about Lieutenant Kijé:
    Lieutenant Kijé - Wikipedia
     
  4. dirwuf

    dirwuf Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fairfield, CT
    I've often wondered if "Cease Fire" was originally written as a series finale in case the show didn't get renewed, it seems strange for them to shoot their wad on this premise so early in the run...
     
  5. Jay_Z

    Jay_Z Well-Known Member

    I don't really think this is true. I think a more apt description would be self-interested bureaucrat. This show wasn't Hogan's Heroes. Hawkeye and Trapper were only marginally better than Blake at navigating the bureaucracy. Frank and Hotlips were better at it, which made the conflicts more of a fair fight. Even Blake and Radar had their own interests at times and opposed Hawkeye and Trapper, or needed to be rewarded with something. I am thinking about the Incubator episode. The one-off characters and guest stars had their own agendas. That's what made the show rich and work so well. With Blake running the camp, a character like Flagg was only a little off center from what was going on in the unit anyway, and was a lot more enjoyable as a result.

    The movie leads hated the "regular Army clowns" to the point of prejudice and harassment. The TV show dabbled a little in this, but thankfully moved on from a one-note approach that would have doomed the show to a status as a second-class Hogan's Heroes.
     
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  6. Jay_Z

    Jay_Z Well-Known Member

    Couple of comments about the first season:

    Did they really need two Dear Dad episodes?

    Klinger kind of comes out of nowhere. He's featured in a couple of episodes, then disappears for a while. Finally at the end of the season he's treated as almost a regular character, seemingly overnight. Did one of the network execs write a fan letter or something?
     
  7. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    Maybe they were running low on scripts. The episodic nature of "Letters Home" scripts meant they were probably easier/quicker to write.

    One subject for discussion: MASH and the subplot. It may not have invented the form in sitcoms (MTMS had done some) but MASH definitely went to town with it, and eventually overdid it. In the later Potter era it would rare to find an episode w/o a subplot.

    See my earlier post w/ Jamie Farr's interview w/the Museum of Broadcasting. Farr says he's in 6 the first season, 13 the second season, and then for #3 he was placed under contract (his story about how the characterization of Klinger came about is also very interesting).

    I don't know what specific reasoning they used for keeping Klinger (and enlarging his role). But it was soon clear, certainly by the time of his masterpiece Letter-from-Home scene w/Blake ("Half of family dying... Other half pregnant") that Klinger brought something to the show that no other character could.
     
  8. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    A few factoid odds and ends:

    Richard Hornberger supposedly liked the movie and hated the TV series, b/c of Alda (politics, characterization of Hawkeye, and/or something else). But RH's name never appeared in the TV credits, even at the beginning. He hated the show even before it aired?

    Altman gave a number of interviews where he waxed pompous about the TV series and "bringing an Asian war into the living room every week", etc... But Larry Gelbart claimed to have met Altman at a party where RA admitted his problem w/the series was simply that he got no money from it.

    On a related note, in his Playboy interview c. 1980 Altman said rather bitterly that he was paid a flat $25K director's fee, with no percentage, even of the net. He added that the film's producer Ingo Preminger had by that point already made $5M from it. (Per Wiki Hornberger complained of selling the rights to the book for "a few hundred dollars")

    Robert Klein was offered the role of Trapper but declined, allegedly b/c he did not want to relocate to the the West Coast.

    Donald Sutherland was offered a role in the series (like almost everyone else from the film) but turned it down. According to DS many years later he was at a party also attended by Alan Alda. Alda came up to him and said, "Thank you for my life".
     
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  9. smilin ed

    smilin ed Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham
    I'd also read Hornberger didn't like the show because of its politics, whereas he liked the movie - and that Altman thought the show was pro-war (I guess in terms of sanitising it for weekly viewing). Glad it worked out for everybody... IIRC, my copy of the book, bought back in the late 70s says Trapper 'raped a beauty queen' in the toilet of a train on the blurb. Different times - though the book only (thankfully) mentions him having sex with a girl in the toilet (of the Boston-Maine express, I think).
     
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  10. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    The kicker are the closing credits:
    Captain Tuttle
    as himself:laugh:
    Possibly. As we know, it was sort of a near thing that they didn't pull the show- rescheduling the series in season 2 made all the difference.
    And yet I believe some of the writers on M*A*S*H also wrote for Hogan's Heroes.
    It is interesting that two recurring motifs throughout the series- the "Letter" episodes and the Holiday themed episodes- were established right from the get go.
    Close- the Klinger was so popular with the fans, CBS got inundated with letters, they had no choice but to make him a regular character.
    In one of the other M*A*S*H discussions Jason @czeskleba linked to a fantastic set of articles on the show (I'll find it later); one of them specifically studied the whole "A plot"/"B plot" aspect of the series- something we take for granted with TV shows now, but though M*A*S*H didn't always knock it out of the park every time, they used that subplot tool well on occasion. IMO in some of the later seasons, the B plot is usually better than the A.
     
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  11. HenryH

    HenryH Forum Resident

    I'm very much a huge fan of both the film and the TV show, but I'll try to keep most of my comments relegated to the television series. (I've don't recall ever reading the book. I may have, but it's been awhile. I think I might be worth considering.)

    For me, the best years of the TV series were just before Col. Blake left to about the time Radar left, so roughly the end of season 3 to about the end season 8. Although, I think I'm one of the very few that enjoy the last few years of the show.

    Anyway, I just want to jump in here regarding the Col. Blake (Stevenson) character/period vs. the Col. Potter (Morgan) character/period...

    The first three seasons of M*A*S*H certainly offered some classic comedy, no doubt. And I do agree that Stevenson's version of Blake as the harried but well intentioned and competent man in a bad situation played quite well. Much better than the film's version of that character. But overall, the show had a certain standard sitcom vibe about it that was typical for the period in which it was produced. That's not so much a criticism as it is an observation. From my own perspective, it just doesn't have the uniqueness that the mid period of the show had. Basically, it was a light, silly comedy, with goofy premises along with an underlying acknowledgement of the serious circumstances. But the show truly transformed into something very distinctive in the fourth season.

    Stevenson's Blake was one of the boys, but his authority was respected...to a degree. I think that there was a blurred line between his command and the antics of the doctors that gave the show a kind of generic sitcom presentation. It worked in that context, but it's difficult to see how far they could have gone with that premise. The introduction of Col. Potter was a game changer, and helped to define a more sophisticated and broader approach to both storylines and humor. Potter's character was both a stabilizer and an inspiration. That character commanded respect, and the doctors understood that despite their inclinations, and their respect was genuine because they realized that Potter understood and empathized with the circumstances in which those under his command had to face. It created a great balance between the comedy and the drama within the show.

    Overall, it was one brilliantly written TV series.
     
  12. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    I wrote about MASH and HH here:

    M*A*S*H- a season by season discussion!

    Lawrence Marks, HH's most prolific writer (68 episodes), also wrote 28 MASHes, including a number of classics -- at least two of which are in my top 10: "Crisis" and "The Incubator". He's also credited with 2 other favorites, "Deal Me Out" and "A Smattering Of Intelligence", so he created the Col Flagg character.

    Arthur Julian (28 HHes) wrote one MASH, "Love and Marriage"

    Richard Powell (29 HHes, including the pilot -- though he didn't get a creator credit) wrote one brilliant MASH: "The Sniper"

    And of course Gene Reynolds, who directed over 30 HH episodes (and was instrumental in the hiring of Jamie Farr, as they had worked together on F Troop -- see the Farr interview I linked earlier for details)

    FWIW, HH could be rather satirical itself on occasion -- see the episode "Klink for the Defense", with its Kafkaesque trial scene. Not on the "Tuttle" level, but amusing.
     
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  13. Edgard Varese

    Edgard Varese Royale with Cheese

    This is true. There is a surgical scene, just before Trapper's arrival at the 4077th, in which you can clearly hear his voice: "Dish, let me have the long needle holder!"
     
  14. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    That happens on the TV show from time to time as well, post season 3- in some of the OR scenes you can clearly hear Trapper in the background saying "Cut that!". Obviously they had a loop or something for "Operating Room sounds":laugh:
     
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  15. Grand_Ennui

    Grand_Ennui Forum Resident

    Location:
    WI

    I'm gonna have to listen for that.
     
  16. Complier

    Complier Forum Resident

    Location:
    Harrisburg, PA
    All I have to say is that Frank Burns eats worms.
     
  17. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Location:
    Marple, PA, USA
    You should read the second one that Hornberger partially wrote. there is a scene on a golf course that is so uncorrect that not even South Park would dare take it on.
     
  18. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    On the subject of Frank...it is generally considered, by most of the M*A*S*H writers, producers, actors etc that the season 1 episode "Major Frank C Dobbs" -the one where Frank is convinced there's gold in them thar hills- is the series' worst episode. Is it? Whaddya think?
     
  19. smilin ed

    smilin ed Forum Resident

    Location:
    Durham
    It might be the worst of the first three - though the nose-job one comes pretty close (I mean, iirc, his nose is no bigger than Frank's or Hawkeye's and isn't in the same league as Farr's - who doesn't show up, of course...). I always thought the goat eating the payroll to be the worst, though there are many others - The MASH Olympics springs to mind...
     
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  20. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    I don't have a problem w/either "Dobbs or the nose episode. Maybe some people don't like "Dobbs" b/c it's so McHaleish-sitcommy, like several 1st seasoners (such as the boxing one). As I said before IMHO the worst s1 is "Edwina"; worst for s1-3 would also include "George", "Hot Lips and Empty Arms" (a frightening portent of the "Margaret" to come), "Five O'clock Charlie", and "The General Flipped At Dawn" (the resolution is incredibly weak). "House Arrest", although it has some good moments, bothers me with Hawkeye actually punching Frank; that seems like a total violation of the character as established in previous episodes (even if the incident does come from the movie -- kinda). (FWIW this episode contains a line Gelbart later said he wished he'd never written. I won't repeat it here, and I hope no one else will either, as will it surely lead to posts disappearing. If you've seen the episode, you can probably guess what the line is).

    As for worst episodes ever, there are almost too many to list: the baby one, anything spotlighting Loretta Swit... But I think the absolute worst are "Dreams" and the Eulogy one. The climactic scene of the latter may be the worst scene in the show's history.
     
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  21. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    IMO for season 1 the boxing episode ("Requiem For A Heavyweight"?) is worse than "Major Frank C Dobbs". "Requiem" is just a dumb episode, lowest common denominator stuff.
    I can guess what line it is, pretty tasteless on the part of Greenbaum and Fritzell (the "House Arrest" writers). Unless Larry Gelbart is saying he came up with that particular bit of cringeworthy dialogue...mind ya, some of the gay references to in season 1 ("Bananas, Crackers and Nuts", "The Ringbanger") are just as bad IMO. Fortunately they put all that right with the "George" episode -mediocre as it is- in season 2.
    The "eulogy" episode ("Who Knew?") is a prime example of the B-story (Klinger's hula hoop scam) outdoing the A-story (the dead nurse). I hate "Dreams", certainly one of my least favourite episodes of the entire series (No offense, Alan!)
     
  22. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dixie
    It's a fairly funny episode. The thing is, it's quite conventional -- pretty much any service comedy could have done it: I can easily see Tim Conway in the ring fighting to keep a pretty WAVE from being transferred. Only a few moments have what might be called the MASH vibe ("This fight has just been called on account of chicken", "Me doctor... Need hands.... Op-er-ate."). Note that in this early episode, Alda and Rogers are essentially equals. Rogers even gets the girl at the end. That would all change very soon.
    I think Gelbart said what I posted earlier... Maybe he spoke in more general terms ("That's a line I regret")

    We need to avoid politics here, so I'll just say that "The Ringbanger" is a great episode, one of the highlights of season 1. Nielsen's scenes (especially w/Frank) are not only hilarious but notable for facial expressions he would also use later in Police Squad and Airplane.

    ETA: This was my 4,077th message

    :laugh:

    :edthumbs:

    :shtiphat:
     
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  23. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen PORKCHOPS! Productions Thread Starter

    IMO the "Dear Dad" Christmas episode is the turning point. It did not take long for M*A*S*H to morph into being "The Hawkeye Show" and it didn't take Wayne Rogers long to start grumbling about it, either.
    Posted in a M*A*S*H discussion, no less:righton:
     
  24. Grand_Ennui

    Grand_Ennui Forum Resident

    Location:
    WI

    I don't think that's one of the worse episodes... Some that I don't care for have already been mentioned, but one I really never liked was a later season episode, I think it's called "The Nurses", and another I never cared for is the one where Hawkeye overlooks Nurse Kelly for the nurse he finds more attractive and ends up dancing with Kelly at the end of the episode... (I don't have the booklet in front of me, but I'm sure you'll all know the episode I'm talking about...)

    Of those mentioned as worse episodes, I totally agree with "Dreams", the Eulogy one, the goat eating the payroll episode...

    Someone mentioned "5 o'clock Charlie", which I don't mind, but I wanted to point out that on the back of the season 2 box, it says that episode, along with "The Incubator", are "Fan Favorites".
     
  25. Luke The Drifter

    Luke The Drifter Forum Resident

    Location:
    United States
    Ahead of discussion, but I love "Dreams".

    It was a bold direction for a TV show, and didn't it receive some awards?
     
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