Fox // 1980 // 502 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 11th, 2006
So how long were these guys in Korea again? Season Nine of the venerable anti-war comedy/drama is here.
Well, it's another set of stories from the 4077 in Korea. The war rages on, the wounded keep piling in, and the doctors and nurses cope as best they can with acerbic wit and practical jokes involving dropped pants.
Mixed in with the often juvenile hysterics, and the frequent drunken escapades, is the brutal price of war, as the doctors, led by chief surgeon Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), and including the soft-spoken family man B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), pompous windbag Charles Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers), and aided by head nurse Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit) attempt to piece together the unending flow of casualties while maintaining their sanity. Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) offers guidance, Max Klinger (Jamie Farr) scams, and Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) follows through with steely leadership. Together they temper the ugly side of war with micro-brewed martinis and one-liners.
This season serves up 20 episodes detailing the trials and comedic mayhem that flourishes in the 4077:
* "The Best of Enemies"
* "Cementing Relationships"
* "Father's Day"
* "Death Takes a Holiday"
* "A War for All Seasons"
* "Your Retention, Please"
* "Tell it to the Marines"
* "Taking the Fifth"
* "Operation Friendship"
* "No Sweat"
* "Depressing News"
* "No Laughing Matter"
* "Oh, How We Danced"
* "Bottoms Up"
* "The Red/White Blues"
* "Bless You, Hawkeye"
* "Blood Brothers"
* "The Foresight Saga"
* "The Life You Save"
With Season Nine, M*A*S*H was in the twilight of its network run. Though still a successful show, the end was drawing near for the folks at the 4077 to wrap up their time-defying run.
By this time, M*A*S*H was firmly cemented as an anti-war series. And perhaps, slightly, to its detriment. Long gone were the early days of Hawkeye's nonstop cavorting and womanizing, replaced now by bold public displays of vehemence and parody aimed at the military. Be it his monument to the insipidness of army bureaucracy made entirely from tongue depressors (thanks to a botched supply order) in "Depressing News" or his drive to keep Klinger out of the sinister clutches of -- DUM DUM DUMMMM!!! -- army reenlistment ("Your Retention, Please"), Hawkeye bid "adieu" to the rapscallion, and "howdy!" to the activist.
Personally, I though the old Hawkeye was more fun. Granted, there is still plenty of goofiness on display here, but by now the series is saturated with a darker, preachier tone on the evils of war. Is it a bad thing to be preachy about? No, not at all. Slightly irritating as in "Okay, okay, we get the point?" Yeah, a little.
I wonder if this series would succeed today. Watching these episodes, it occurred to me that the military guys get beaten up pretty bad here. Pretty much every visiting higher-up in fatigues is a lecher, jackass, McCarthyite, or incompetent. And it is of course no secret that BJ and Hawkeye care little about rules and regulations. While I certainly don't think M*A*S*H is blatantly slanderous of the United States military, some of the barbs and characterizations likely would not fly these days.
Still, this is M*A*S*H, one of the all-time great shows ever, and that label is well-deserved. The writing in this season is crisp and witty, and the jokes fly faster than the bullets of a North Korean sniper. The characters are just as interesting as when we found them five seasons ago (BJ and Potter show up in Season Four) and the stories recognize this. Characters receive big time spotlight this go-round, and we are made privy to their past and idiosyncrasies as much as ever.
For example, we get a peek into Hawkeye's troubled past in "Bless You, Hawkeye" as he relives a childhood trauma manifesting as an allergic reaction, BJ's ongoing struggles of being away from his wife ("Oh, How We Dance"), and even some surprisingly penetrating psychoanalysis of what makes the unflappable Charles Emerson Winchester tick in "The Life You Save," the haunting meditation on the Major's fixation on mortality.
There's a lot of solid stuff here, and if you don't mind the antiwar rhetoric, this season as entertaining as any other...though I do lament the extinction of Hawkeye the cur.
Sadly, this another ho-hum set from Fox, who, apparently, is content enough to get these bad boys packaged up and distributed. The shows look fine, preserved in their original full screen aspect ratio and looking far sharper than what you'd find on syndication. The original mono soundtrack does what it needs to.
Again, no extras here, save for a few interesting paragraphs in the liner notes. Man does this show cry out for a commentary track or two.
It's got message and it doesn't shy away from it, but M*A*S*H is still devastatingly clever and often very poignant. Yes, we're approaching the home stretch, but the staff of the 4077 is still as sharp as their scalpels. No extras make the Commies mad.
Not guilty, but, come on Fox, throw us a bone here!
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: 502 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* M*A*S*H Season Six Review
* M*A*S*H Season Seven Review