Saturday, January 31, 2015

MASH: Where Where You?

Where were you between the years 1972 and 1983? I went from not-being-born to becoming a nine-year- old. And if you asked me what TV show I remember my parents watching throughout that decade it was MASH. I have a feeling we comprised four of the 125 million people watching the final episode in late February of 1983, which, as legend has it, created a drop in water pressure in New York City because everyone headed to the bathroom at the same time after the episode ended.

Mash is coming to Netflix (streaming I presume) in February, according to the company, and it’s being touted as another show to “binge watch.” Many of us grew up watching re-runs of the episodes through the 80’s, but the idea of pushing a button and watching episode after episode on a hand-held screen would have seemed like something from the Jetson’s.

It will be interesting to revisit this show as an adult. There were at least three misconceptions I had when I was a naïve kid catching it while my parents let me stay up late, or later, on afternoons in re-runs.

The first was that the war was about Vietnam. I was told it was about the Korean War, but I remember not knowing how to put that in context and eventually just associating the green fatigues with the ones I’d seen more recently in the news about Vietnam.

The second misconception I had was that the show was a comedy, missing the darker side to the comedy that make it, in some descriptions, a dramady or dark-comedy. Which brings me to the third thing I mistook about the show as a kid, which, as with the dark tone, would be any sexual innuendo or theme of romance. 

So now that the series will be on Netflix, I’ll be seeing it from the perspective of an adult. Alan Alda, the tall, wry, doctor, Hawkeye Pierce, is now almost 80. And, as many have stated, the 256 episodes of MASH far outlived the three-year war on which it was based.

Last February, well before MASH came to Netflix, comedy writer Ken Levine wrote in his blog about what happened once they took the film from a Hollywood lab to the studio.

“Once we approved the final product the show was shipped to CBS. They transferred it to videotape and that’s what they aired. First you lost a generation due to the transfer. And then for whatever reason CBS’s color was just a bit off.”

Watching the show on disc 40 years later, Levine said the color was closer to what he remembered seeing before the transfers.

Levine’s post came before Netflix’s acquisition, but maybe we’ll all be seeing MASH in a whole new light.


This post is part of my monthly series on shows to watch, with our without the kids. I have a blog about education, "Never the First to Finish: Why Pace Matters"  featured on the website Getting Smart this week. I invite you to hop on over. Thanks for reading Lunch Box Mom.