Set in an emergency medical camp, the sitcom M*A*S*H
was based on Robert Altman's 1970 movie
of the same name, which notionally took place during the Korean War but was implicitly a bleak commentary on the US involvement in Vietnam. First aired in 1972, the series is broader and less edgy than the film, taking the original characters and reducing them for stock comic value. Nonetheless, the sense of hip insolence is preserved in Alan Alda's carousing, wisecracking but essentially decent Hawkeye--Groucho Marx in a surgeon's mask.
The first series shows Hawkeye and buddy Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) dealing with the bloody and messy end of the war. Though not often explicitly critical of the conflict, their attitude towards the uptight, irascible Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Loretta Swit's prim, buttoned-up nurse "Hotlips" Houlihan suggests a healthy contempt for military mores. Fortunately, their commander Henry Blake (McClean Stevenson) is an easy-going soul who indulges them and allows a genial atmosphere to flourish at the 4077th.
The pilot--in which Hawkeye arranges a raffle where the prize is a night with a gorgeous nurse to raise money for a Korean kid to get to college--sums up the spirit of these early episodes: soft-centred liberalism mixed with somewhat dated sexism, albeit more slickly delivered than contemporary British sitcoms such as On the Buses. The skirt-chasing and buffoonery in this first series would give way to a more earnest tone as the show continued.
On the DVD: M*A*S*H is disappointingly short on special features. However, there is the option of removing the jarringly inappropriate intrusive laugh track that was used on US broadcasts of the show but not the UK version. These episodes have been comprehensively cleaned up for DVD consumption. --David Stubbs
The entire first season of the satirical US television series (and spin-off from Robert Altman's 1970 film), which depicts the crazy antics and the sexual adventures of Captain 'Hawkeye' Pierce (Alan Alda), Captain 'Trapper' John McIntyre (Wayne Rogers), Major 'Hotlips' Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Corporal 'Radar' O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff). They all work in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War and the black humour of the medical team is contrasted with the terrible waste of life that they are exposed to. Episodes included are: 'The Pilot', 'To Market, To Market', 'Requiem For a Lightweight', 'Chief Surgeon Who?', 'The Moose', 'Yankee Doodle Doctor', 'Bananas, Crackers and Nuts', 'Cowboy', 'Henry, Please Come Home', 'I Hate a Mystery', 'Germ Warfare', 'Dear Dad', 'Edwina', 'Love Story', 'Tuttle', 'The Ringbanger', 'Sometimes You Hear the Bullet', 'Dear Dad, Again', 'The Long-John Flap', 'The Army-Navy Game', 'Sticky Wicket', 'Major Fred C. Dobbs', 'Ceasefire' and 'Showtime'.