Like the TV incarnation of The Odd Couple
, the M*A*S*H
series has supplanted the original film in the public's consciousness. Legendary comedy writer Larry Gelbart (Your Show of Shows
) deserves a medal for developing Robert Altman's bloody, funny 1970 classic for television with much of its anti-establishment spirit intact. These 24 first-season episodes--bracingly less politically correct than the shows in the final seasons--chart the program's sometimes bumpy evolution as it tried to remain true to the film's anarchic spirit while finding its own voice. The most memorable episodes include "The Pilot," which establishes the characters in broad strokes; "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet," in which a friend of Hawkeye's (Alan Alda) dies on the operating table (look for "Ronny" Howard as an underage soldier); "Cowboy," in which someone is trying to kill clueless commander Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson); and the pivotal "Dear Dad," the first of what would be a series of multistory episodes in which Hawkeye writes to his father about life at the 4077th. It is interesting to note film characters who made early exits from the series, including Timothy Brown's Spearchucker and Karen Philipp's Lt. Dish (George Morgan, who plays Father Mulcahy in the pilot, we hardly knew ye). Klinger (Jamie Farr), bucking for his Section 8 discharge, doesn't appear until the fifth episode, "Chief Surgeon Who?" And Gary Burghoff's Radar is a much more wily and savvy partner in crime to "Yankee Doodle Doctors" Hawkeye and Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) than in later seasons. In its 11-year run, M*A*S*H
earned 14 Emmy Awards, and it remains one of TV's most beloved series. Though it is a staple of syndication, the episodes are presented here uncut, probably for the first time since their original broadcast. For M*A*S*H
devotees, this three-disc set is just what the doctor ordered. --Donald Liebenson
Korea, 1950. They were a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit stationed three miles from the front. Incoming helicopters full of wounded brought the horrors of war to them daily and sometimes bullets flew right outside the operating room door. Occasional hilarity and constant hijinks were all that kept them sane.
Loosely based on real-life MASH unit 8055, life at the 4077 revolved around the day-to-day routines of Captain Hawkeye Pierce, Captain Trapper McIntyre, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, Major Margaret Houlihan, Major Franklin Burns and Corporal Radar OReilly. Through these characters, viewers traveled beyond the long hours and the horrors of the operating room to a place where friendships were forged, laughter was found and drinks were served.