Fox // 1981 // 543 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 15th, 2006
War is hell(arious!)
The finish line is in sight. After 10 seasons of combat casualties, martini sipping, practical-joke pulling, and hair graying, the charismatic doctors of the 4077 M*A*S*H unit in Korea face just two one round of critically acclaimed episodes after this stretch. Everyone's still on active duty: Hawkeye (Alan Alda, The West Wing), BJ (Mike Farrell), Charles (David Ogden Stiers), Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), Hoolihan (Loreta Swit), Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), and Klinger (Jamie Farr).
This season, our pals at the 4077 face a multitude of challenges: Hawkeye, BJ, and Charles are forced to evaluate personnel and make promotion recommendations, Father Mulcahy comes to grips with the fact his boxing hero is a jackass, Klinger is falsely accused of pilfering a camera, Hawkeye nearly meets his doom at the front lines and drafts a makeshift will, BJ fabricates a time of death to spare a family recurring misery, Charles endures severe tooth pain, and the entire camp is besieged by a renegade goat. Just another undetermined amount of time in Korea.
Three discs, 21 episodes:
* "That's Showbiz"
* "Identity Crisis"
* "Rumor at the Top"
* "Give 'em Hell Hawkeye"
* "Wheelers and Dealers"
* "Communication Breakdown"
* "Snap Judgment"
* "Snappier Judgment"
* "Twas the Day Before Christmas"
* "Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead"
* "The Birthday Girls"
* "Blood and Guts"
* "A Holy Mess"
* "The Tooth Shall Set You Free"
* "Pressure Points"
* "Where There's a Will, There's a War"
* "Promotion Commotion"
* "Girls and Bowlers"
* "Picture This"
* "That Darn Kid"
This penultimate season continues the trend that the latter seasons had started, focusing primarily on the antiwar vibe and weaning Hawkeye away from his more rakish habits that had characterized his actions in the beginning. By now, Alan Alda was a major player behind the scenes, and the show's direction was reflective of his creative input. As we lurch toward the end, and the record-busting finale, not much has changed since we've last seen these guys, save for a few things: Klinger is a sergeant, BJ is even more forlorn about his family, and Hawkeye's increasingly graying locks are seemingly resulted from his constant griping.
I don't really mind the staunch anti-war feel of the series, but I will admit the incessant pissing and moaning sporadically got irritating. What I miss most was the more care-free feel of the show from the beginning (though I was never a fan of Wayne Rogers or McLean Stevenson) and the licentiousness of Hawkeye. Back then the series felt like a Meatballs movie, and I dug that energy.
But the reason why I'll still stick up for this show and give it a good score is the quality of writing. The wit is intact, as well as the bounty of infamous one-liners uttered by our hosts. Though Hawkeye is a shadow of his former debauched self -- heck, he's nigh-asexual in this season -- the character is still engaging and funny. BJ gets some good cracks in as usual, but the guy seemed like a sourpuss this go-round (maybe it was his depressing turn in "Wheelers and Dealers" where he goes ape-dirt trying to raise money for his family back home). While those two anchor the show, my all-time favorite character, Charles, is in typically fine form as the noxious Boston elitist. He is made the butt of many jokes, but his classiness mitigated with cowardice and ignorance proves fertile for comic fruit in its own right. As the obligatory yang to BJ and Hawk's yin, Charles is much more multi-dimensional that Larry Linville's Frank Burns ever was.
The episodes are mixed this season. "Give 'em Hell Hawkeye," "Wheelers and Dealers," "A Holy Mess," and "Pressure Points" drive home the anti-war message soundly; "That Darn Kid," "Promotion Commotion," "Picture This," and "Communication Breakdown" represent the slapstick, straight-humor vein of the show; "Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead" and "Twas the Day After Christmas" are emblematic of the more experimental storytelling the creators went after in the latter season. The common thread: these shows are well-done through and through.
These season sets, sadly, are not. The video and audio transfers are merely adequate, with some iffy grain issues popping up here and there. Worse, there is not a single special feature. I complained about this in the other reviews I wrote, and I'll keep doing it: this is like the most popular TV show ever made and there's nothing the producers could drum up to include on the DVD releases?!? And the bulky packaging still sucks.
Still solid after all these years, M*A*S*H never fails to entertain. It's drastically different than its early incarnation, but that's to be expected for a long-running series. It's a shame these sets are piss-poor though.
There's not much to collect in this "collector's edition." The show: not guilty. Fox: guilty for AWOL extras.
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 543 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* M*A*S*H Season 9 Review
* M*A*S*H Season 7 Review
* M*A*S*H Season 6 Review
* M*A*S*H Fan Site