I have M*A*S*H as one of my 'likes' on Facebook, and last week they had a post stating that September 17th was the 40th anniversary of the airing of the show's pilot. My heart sank a little, as I was still about 5 episodes away from the finale. I wanted some kind of sweet serendipity with the show's anniversary, but accepted that wasn't going to happen, and that was fine, I didn't want to rush my final episodes with the show in order to reach a deadline.
As I went through old posts I'd written about my journey watching this show, I wanted to find my very first post about buying the DVDs of season 1, so I could know how long it had taken me to finish all 11 seasons in broadcast order. I found the post, dated September 19th, 2011. I thought, "Wow, that's so close to the anniversary! I had no idea!" But then when I read the post, I realized I said I had bought the DVD on Saturday. The 19th was Monday. THE SEVENTEENTH WAS THAT SATURDAY. Waaaay back in September 2011, with no knowledge of the original pilot's air date, I wandered into the discount DVD section of Barnes and Noble, and started this wonderful experience. 39 years--to the day--the show itself started. I am baffled and bemused.
I'm also a little amazed that I completed the show in 1 year, give or take a few days. It seemed so much shorter, but also like I've been watching it every night for my whole life.
In that post I also mentioned that as a kid I would have dreams about Hawkeye Pierce. What I didn't say was that they were of a romantical nature. Well, 11 seasons later, I am here to tell you that pre-pubescent Maryann had excellent taste in men. He was and remains my favorite character. Did you know that Alan Alda wore the same chain of dogtags and the same pair of boots for all 11 seasons? Incredible.
It's sort of hard for me to write about what going through this show has meant for me, how's it made me feel. The nostalgia is so thick and the experience of watching it alone every night before bed was so singular, I can't possibly describe how attached and endeared I felt to this band of characters. So I'm going to let someone else say it. The following quote is from a real Church bulletin, dated March 20, 1983 (about a month after the finale aired):
I've tried to analyze why I care so much about this show. Partially, it is because of the fact that drivel is the rule rather than the exception on modern TV that M*A*S*H is such a shining star. Also, a lot of the escapism that is presented keeps us focused away from our own problematic realities. But, M*A*S*H plugged me into the dreariest, most depressing of events -- Reality. It made reality fun or at least bearable... In essence, M*A*S*H was more of a church than a hospital. The characters were human. They cared and erred, they had clay feet and compassionate hearts, they had smart mouths and sensitive souls. They were a family, sometimes more, sometimes less like the family of God. To me, they were a symbol of hope in the midst of tragedy, caring in the midst of the ultimate injustice, Life in the midst of death.(If you think this is too high praise, then you have not watched all 11 seasons. Or if you did and you still think that, you and I can never be friends. A huge loss to you, I'm sure.)
My Top 5 Favorite M*A*S*H Quotes (all Hawkeye, of course)
1) "I always feel patriotic when I come out of the OR: my whites are covered in red and it gives me the blues."
2) [Colonel Potter: "That was an order, Pierce."] "[Snaps fingers] Oh, waiter? Would you take this man's order?"
3) "I make jokes because it's the only way I can open my mouth without screaming."
4) "I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns. I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even 'hari-kari' if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun."
5) [To Radar:] "Look, you can't lay all that on my shoulders. Don't you know how much this place stinks? Don't you know what it's like to stand day after day in blood? In the blood of children? I hate this place. And if I can't stand up to it to your satisfaction, then...then the hell with it. How dare you? The hell with your Iowa naiveté, and the hell with your hero worship and your teddy bear, and while you're at it, the hell with you! Why don't you grow up for crying out loud? I'm not here for you to admire. I'm here to pull bodies out of a sausage grinder, if possible without going crazy. Period."
Want some interesting facts about the show that I find incredibly fascinating? I thought so. CBS did not want to the show to feature ANY scenes of surgery, hoping to keep the show 'light.' The compromise reached was that CBS could add a laughtrack (to the dismay of the production team) but it would never be played for scenes in the OR. It's said that 'the sun never sets on M*A*S*H,' it's always syndicated in some time zone somewhere on earth. The show won 14 Emmys, and ended up lasting four times longer than the actual Korean War. Alan Alda would end up writing 23 episodes and directing 36, and was nominated for 25 Emmys for his work.
Ok, I'm done. Just don't ever badmouth M*A*S*H in my presence (I'm looking at you, "War is the H Word" episode of Futurama. You're on my list.) And is there any TV show theme song with more pathos than "Suicide is Painless"? Not for me. I think only Cheers comes close. Which is, incidentally, the next classic show I'm going through from beginning to end.