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MASH

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Here's the thread for discussion of the show itself, including specific episodes, contents and themes in general, etc.  I'll start some character threads for specific character discussion.  Feel free to start threads of your own. Unlike TWoP, we don't mind having more than one thread for old shows like this.

Oh, and welcome everyone!

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I gotta say, by the show's end Klinger may have been my favorite character, largely due to the wit and warmth that Jamie Farr brought to the role.  He started very one-dimensional but (like most characters) gained depth as the series went on, especially after he became company clerk.

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Loved him.  And, no lie, I feel like I learned some things about how to be a good leader from watching how this character handled directing the wacky people around him.

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For the mo let's have this be a catch-all to discuss the genius of the writing, particularly the dialogue.  We can post our favorite quotes and talk about why they're awesomely written (if we want), or just refer to the writing in general.  I'll start.

 

Perhaps my favorite line from the show is my favorite because of how absolutely brilliantly it was written.  When Winchester is doing his family's taxes in "No Sweat" (S 9, Ep 11).  He explains to Father Mulcahy why their accountant isn't doing the paperwork:

 

"As of last Tuesday, our C.P.A. is a certified public enemy. Having been incarcerated on five counts of fraud, two counts of embezzlement, and countless counts concerning accounts for which he cannot...account."--Brilliant!!

 

Of course, my favorite Winchester quote is [when someone wakes him at at 5:30 AM]:

 

"A Winchester only recognizes one 5:30 per day.  This is not it."  

 

I may have been known to use a modified version of that quote from time to time, not being a morning person myself.

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"I am a free man, I can step in, out!  Out, in!"

"How dare you call me a you, you!"

"Bullets cost money!"  "I would like that tattooed on my thigh!"

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Love all of the above quotes. There are so many lines from this series that I adore, from Frank's very simple "Nerts!" to Hawkeye's lengthy and lyrical rant on why he will not carry a gun. Don't even get me started. But I will say that the episode that I first really paid attention to, way back when I was 12 or something, has one of the best scripts ever, "For Want of a Boot."

Margaret: "Henry Blake is a sham commander, a farcical administrator, and a spineless, irresponsible, lecherous old beanbag."
Hawkeye: "Margaret, we're not going to get anywhere if you keep holding back."

Trapper: "Klinger's not a pervert!"
Margaret: "How do you know?"
Trapper: "Because I'm one and he's never at the meetings."

...Just to quote a few off the top of my head.

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Margaret (walking in on Trapper and Hawkeye using Frank's duffel bag for boxing practice): "Just a minute! Isn't that Frank's bag?"

Trapper (after glance at Hawkeye): "We thought you were Frank's bag."

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Many too many to name, but one I ALWAYS laugh at...Frank and Hot Lips are hiring a local to do a bust of new CO Col. Potter, and "the artist" is showing off an example of his work...

[hands Frank a short 2x4]

ARTIST: (admiringly) Used to be round

FRANK: It looks like a 2-by-4

ARTIST: Thank you

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No snarky epithet, but one of my favorite Winchester lines, and one that I've used to describe the city I live in, is when he first arrives at the 4077th, he describes it as "A festering boil on the buttocks of the world."

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Being from Kansas, I've always been partial to his line: "One does not wax philosophical when one's about to be sent to Leavenworth . . . . Oh my God, that's in Kansas!"

(NB: This is the only version of this quote I could find online, when I went to verify the wording, but I could have sworn he says something about one's "address being changed to Leavenworth."  Am I misremembering?)

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Yeah, I've watched every episode dozens of times.  I've got a lot of the dialogue stuck in my head word for word.  Still trying to find a productive use for that.

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One of my favorite lines (although not my favorite episodes) is the one with the newspaper shortage.  When the newspaper wars erupt to the point where all of Charles's possessions except the newspapers get stolen, his reaction is "I will get you all for this, IF I HAVE TO STEAL A B-29!".  There's something about the delivery of that line that completely cracks me up.

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I'm glad you posted that, EricJ. I read his blog regularly, and although he talks about baseball announcing and radio DJing (two things he also used to do) more than I care for, his inside stories about the shows he wrote for and how Hollywood works can be very interesting.  I wish he'd spill more scoop on MASH though.

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Frank was one of my favorite characters.  When he was on the show, I thought I hated him.  But I was a kid.  Turns out I loved to hate him.  Or maybe just loved him. I gave it up for good after Klinger started wearing fatigues, but the show really started going downhill for me when he left.

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Yes, yes!  That was the brilliant Richard Lee Sung, who was on 11 different episodes, and played a different Korean character in nearly all of them.  Always cracked me up.

Loved that guy.  He also was one of the Kim Lucks on Officer of the Day ("It must be our Kim Lucky day").  I believe that was the episode where Hawkeye asked "Can you identify yourself?"  "This is me."

Another favorite quote of mine, is Henry:  "This is Colonel (Captain?) Pak, R.O.K.  And Lt. Mulcahy, G.O.D."

Or Mulcahy sees Klinger praying and says, "I thought you were an atheist."  "I gave it up for Lent."

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Frank had one of the greatest "burns" ever before he left.  Shortly after Margaret got engaged to Donald, they're all in the mess tent.  Frank says something about possibly dating some nurse.  Margaret says she "seems a little young for you" and Frank responds...

"I thought a little youth might be nice for a change"

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Yeah, that was one of the very rare moments of genuine camaraderie between Hawkeye, BJ (I think?) and Frank.  It was really nice.

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I agree, RedZone, that was a great moment, and one of the best burns in TV history. But five minutes of wit doesn't make up for four years of flat characterization and a cartoonish personality. Give me Charles Winchester any day.

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I agree about the foil thing.  The thing about Frank was that he was so out of the other doctors' league in just about every way possible that after a while playing pranks on him ceased to be funny because it made him pathetic.  Charles, on the other hand, was more than their equal.  They were very smart with that character in making him the objectively superior surgeon, and a person who was more than capable of giving as good as he got.  That's what made that relationship so interesting and fun.

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Oh, how I loved this guy's lines. My favourite:

"My voice shall be heard from this wilderness, and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewahhhhhhhh!!"

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He bugged me because to me he seemed really sanctimonious. I think there was one episode where he acted like an ass to everyone, and of course, unlike all the other characters, came to realize the error of his ways, again proving the sanctimony of his character being a better person than everyone else. YMMV on that one. 

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In the beginning of the show's run, Hawkeye was fun (along with Trapper John).  Then he became a bit too preachy and became more overbearing as the years went on (probably due to Alan Alda getting more control of the show).  I read a long time ago that the actor who played Trapper John left the show (hated that!!) due to his character getting fewer and fewer lines (since most were going to Hawkeye).

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BJ, the character, was too bland to have any snarky title.  Makes me wonder if Alan Alda had a heavy hand in deciding BJ's personality - be the straight man for Hawkeye, be quiet enough for Hawkeye to babble on and on throughout their scenes together.

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BJ, the character, was too bland to have any snarky title.  Makes me wonder if Alan Alda had a heavy hand in deciding BJ's personality - be the straight man for Hawkeye, be quiet enough for Hawkeye to babble on and on throughout their scenes together.

I wound up liking Mike Farrell as a human being (well, the part of him we could see through the character) but never really being all that interested in BJ.  The show had some good moments with BJ as a practical joker, but overall he was just a pile-on in the tone of the show becoming far too serious.  He couldn't be truly outrageous being the character he was.  Potter couldn't be too outrageous being what he was.  Klinger stopped wearing a dress.  Frank left, and Winchester at times COULD be roundly mocked,  but often was not.  And Hawkeye turned into Alan Alda.  It made for some excellent individual episodes, but overall hurt the show.

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He both made the show for me in the early days, and ruined it in the later ones.  He made Hawkeye into another version of himself, and that just plain didn't work.  We got some interesting individual episodes of television out of that strategy, but overall a show that had none of the fun spirit of the early version.

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Kromm, I partially agree.  For me the show became unwatchable the last few seasons, but I thought the changes in Hawkeye were only part of the problem.  EVERY character became clones (with a few quirky character traits thrown in) of some 1970's ideal.  Potter was a lovable old grandpa type, Margaret (no longer "Hot Lips", heaven forbid) became a deeply caring proto-feminist, BJ was a lovable family man, Kilnger was a lovable screw-up who tried his best, Charles was a blue-blood with a carefully concealed heart-of-gold (and lovable, of course), etc...It made for one big, happy TV family but lost all the fun of having characters with real differences interact in very trying circumstances.

It also completely undercut the main theme of the movie and the earlier seasons:  people faced with the horror of war often become jaded and use dark humor as a defense mechanisom and casual sex as an escape.  Instead, I'm struck by how in the later seasons every single character became a nobler and more caring person as they spent time at MASH.  It was like the war did them all a world of good as people!

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IIRC it was the episode where Trapper and Hawkeye wanted an incubator to help make pencillin or something. It was health related and would save lives so of course the Army says no. Hawk and Trap got to a press conference and start questioning a general and there is a cut to Henry Trapper and Haak witting in Henry's office and Henry is railing at them. He stops and reads the paper in front of him, "Did you really call a two star general a nincompact?

Col. Flagg was always great because he said the most outrageous things in the most casual, matter of cat way. "Corporal, I'm gonna need you to get me a box of scorpions." "Sir di you--" "Big ones. And if you can't do that, get me two snakes and a rat."

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Kromm, I partially agree.  For me the show became unwatchable the last few seasons, but I thought the changes in Hawkeye were only part of the problem.  EVERY character became clones (with a few quirky character traits thrown in) of some 1970's ideal.  Potter was a lovable old grandpa type, Margaret (no longer "Hot Lips", heaven forbid) became a deeply caring proto-feminist, BJ was a lovable family man, Kilnger was a lovable screw-up who tried his best, Charles was a blue-blood with a carefully concealed heart-of-gold (and lovable, of course), etc...It made for one big, happy TV family but lost all the fun of having characters with real differences interact in very trying circumstances.

It also completely undercut the main theme of the movie and the earlier seasons:  people faced with the horror of war often become jaded and use dark humor as a defense mechanisom and casual sex as an escape.  Instead, I'm struck by how in the later seasons every single character became a nobler and more caring person as they spent time at MASH.  It was like the war did them all a world of good as people!

I partially agree with this.

I think the bit about people using dark humor and sex as a means of escape is true, but that only gets you through for so long and you burn out on that. You saw that in Band of Brothers, the early episodes there was a fair bit of joking and joshing but by the last two-three episodes everyone was sick of war and espeically sick of the replacements who were "WHEN ARE WE GONNA JUMP INTO BERLIN I WANNA SEE SOME ACTION!!!!!!!!!" I can see why the oldtimers would want those asshats to get shot just so they'd shut the hell up.

As for all of the characters becoming quasi goody two shoes, that happens on every show. Every character turns towards being more good the bad, the only real exception on the show was Frank and let;s be honest that whole "Oh look it's an unlikeable smarmy jackass who is a horrible doctor" was getting bored and played out, there was little if anything the character could have done and they certainly couldn't have had him make some magical turn into a likeable guy.

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There was a blackout and many MASH members were huddled in a small space:

Voice of Young Female Nurse:  "Sorry Father."

Voice of Father Mulcahy:  "That's OK my child, how would you have known?"

Which I always assumed meant the she had inadvertently touched him "down there" in the darkened crowd- but none of that was said explicitly .  I just loved the subtlety here.

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Loved this character!  You could really see the miserable heart-of-gold human being beneath his arrogant shell.  My favorite scene is where he listens to his sister Honoria's stuttering voice on tape.  Tightens my throat every time.

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He is the brunt of one of my favorite lines.

Someone is offering to sell some porn to MASH in a trade and says that the porn is great and looking at Radar (who he has never seen before) says: "Will probably kill you."

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Edited because I just realized I wrote a general MASH post, but put it in Alan's thread.  Sorry; I'll move it and just talk about Alan now.

I fell in love with Alan on MASH and continue to admire his work!  He seems like such a good guy, and as far as I know only Gary B (who has his own problems) has had anything negative to say about him.  He made Hawkeye and the show for me!

Edited by Crs97
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One of my favorite characters ever and so gently played by William Christopher.  I loved his speech when he stayed up all night with Patrick Swayze and arrived late to mass with the bishop.  I also appreciated how William Christopher would behave in the background; he may have no lines in a scene, but you would see him praying or putting on his stole.  He wasn't the strongest actor, but he was perfectly cast for Father Mulcahy!

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I love MASH, but I never thought of it as a straight-up comedy. 

Unpopular opinion:  I actually like the later episodes better than the earlier ones.  Yes, there are some clunkers in the later seasons, but I would much rather watch Hawkeye sermonize about the horrors of war than hear the rape jokes.  I also thought the addition of Charles and Col. Potter made the show better.  Larry Linville was wonderful, but the character of Frank was too one-note to continue for much longer.  They tried to add some sympathetic tones to Frank and his "Goodbye, Margaret" was heart-breaking, but he was too much of a caricature by the end of his run.  Henry was fine, but Col. Potter added some needed gravitas to Hawkeye and BJ's antics.

I am lukewarm on BJ.  A quibble about the episode in which Hawkeye tries to discover BJ's real name, but all his army records just have BJ listed on them:  I met a gentleman who was drafted for WWII.  His full name was two initials.  The army wouldn't accept it.  He showed them his birth certificate that just listed the two letters, one as his first name and one as his middle name.  They forced him to choose two names.  Everything he ever received from the army said "John Ross" when his real name was "J.R."  Every time I see that episode I think of him.

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Mary, that is a wonderful scene.  I also love the look on his face when he opens the child's letter to find a leaf - "Autumn in New England" - and his despair when he confronts the head of the orphanage about selling the chocolate candy on the black market - "It is inappropriate to give a child dessert when he has had no supper" (paraphrasing).  He quickly became a favorite character.

Gentlemen.

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