PA Announcement: Laughter is good medicine,
This review is from: M*A*S*H - Season 1 (Collector's Edition) [DVD]  (DVD)
War is not funny. It is many things, but war itself is not funny. But in the most horrible of places and times that people in war find themselves in, there are the moments of great irony. It is these moments that MASH brings so poignantly to our screens, and which highlight the frailties and humanity of those people caught up in war, as well as the futility, horror, and outright stubbornness they often encounter. This programme first aired in the US in 1972, following a smash hit film by Robert Altman of the same name. America was still suffering from Vietnam, and many critics said this would not allow the show to succeed. But succeed it did, and it became a TV legend of epic proportions.
It is Korea, 1950. The UN sent in peacekeeping troops to help stop the Chinese and the North Koreans from overthrowing the Korean government. The show takes place mostly at a mobile Army surgical hospital (MASH) unit. Most of the doctors and nurses were drafted, as were the enlisted personnel who worked there with them. They are a mere three miles from the front, and stray artillery and even sniper fire often hits their camp. They even have a minefield to be mindful of.
The comedic situations are based on the real life experiences of the real MASH 8055 and a few other unit doctors the writers actually interviewed. I have to tell you now they strove for great accuracy in this series with everything you see being GI correct for the period.
The doctors and nurses are often waist deep in wounded (no gory scenes, though a medical scene is in EVERY episodes as Alan Alda insisted on it when he signed on) that are brought in by chopper, jeep, ox cart, you name it. Amidst this, they forge friendships, laugh at military incompetence (How many thousand tongue depressors and no toilet paper did the army send this shipment?!), celebrate Christmas (thermometers on the tree for icicles made for a classic moment), and for practical jokes. A lot of humour is also to hand from situations arising between the gung ho regular Army doctors and nurses, and the draftees, most noticeably Dr. Hawkeye pierce (Alan Alda) who is not only a draftee, but very antiwar and wants the war to end NOW. This is in addition to later series' run ins with the so called Military Intelligence officers the whole camp endures at their most inane. I have to say this is one truly funny series and it had many memorable guest stars, so you will find yourself hitting the pause button to take a good look. (A young Ron Howard makes an appearance for one.)
The audio is excellent and while the original laugh track (which when it first aired in the UK, the BBC had switched off) is included, you are able to turn it off from the set up menu quite easily and must do so or else you get canned laughter. The audio is presented in Dolby Surround sound, but like most old TV shows, you will likely find you need to turn the volume up a bit to hear it as clearly as it was mastered from nondigital sources.
So if you like comedy, and like realism (without any gore of course!), this is a great show to watch. If you like military programmes, this is also a great show to watch; you will be nodding your head knowingly at many of the situations! Perhaps, with us in yet another of these peacekeeping situations, this little box set is all too timely.