Judge Ryan Keefer learned about the word "hermaphroditic" when he watched M*A*S*H in syndication growing up. True story.
Our reviews of M*A*S*H: Season Six (published July 28th, 2004), M*A*S*H: Season Seven (published January 19th, 2005), M*A*S*H: Season Nine (published January 11th, 2006), M*A*S*H: Season Ten (published May 15th, 2006), M*A*S*H (Blu-Ray) (published October 5th, 2009), M*A*S*H: Five Star Collection (published January 22nd, 2002), and M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell And Amen (published May 23rd, 2007) are also available.
"Well, boys, it would be hard to call what we've been through fun, but I'm sure glad we went through it together."
After some deliberation on whether to extend M*A*S*H past a tenth season when many people in the cast and crew felt that they were gassed, the decision was made to extend things to an eleventh season that would undoubtedly put an end to the show. And after 250 episodes, a February night in 1983 marked the end of the show, where three out of every four people were watching. How does the end look, and how does the season stack up to the rest?
Facts of the Case
OK, here are the 15 episodes minus "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," and they're split over the first two discs of this three disc set. The episodes are:
• "Hey, Look Me Over"
• "Trick or Treatment"
• "Foreign Affairs"
• "The Joker is Wild"
• "Who Knew?"
• "Settling Debts"
• "The Moon is Not Blue"
• "Run for the Money"
• "U.N., The Night and the Music"
• "Strange Bedfellows"
• "Say No More"
• "Friends and Enemies"
• "Give and Take"
• "As Time Goes By"
As for Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, the episode starts quietly enough with a rather gaunt looking Hawkeye in a mental institution, recalling the details of a day at the beach that went horribly wrong. During this time, peace talks seem to resurface with much more credibility to them, and the camp has to figure out what to do with their lives. Charles frantically looks for a new job post-war (and connects with some Chinese prisoners of war along the way), and Klinger seems to have fallen in love in the last days there. B.J. gets orders to go home, which he does before Hawkeye is released to come back to camp. Everyone is forced to bug out when a fire approaches and eventually consumes part of the camp. And the doctor who is assigned to replace B.J. comes to camp, and we find out that it's…B.J. As the cease-fire draws near, more and more members of the 4077 realize they won't see each other again, and start to discuss what they'll like to do when they get home, where they'll go and what they'll do, leading to one of the more memorable final scenes in television history. The subplot with Hawkeye remains outstanding, and on its own could probably have been an excellent standalone episode.
The shifts in creative control had long since been made, the jokes about goofy practical joking doctors were futile at best, especially since Hawkeye (Alan Alda, The West Wing) and B.J. (Mike Farrell, Providence) were long past the irresponsible age. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit, Beer) couldn't really be looked at as the blonde bombshell nurse anymore. The hot temper of Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan, Dragnet) is pretty comical by this point, and the draft-dodging dress wearing Klinger (Jamie Farr, Scrooged) has become a get rich quick type of hustler. The best character transformation during the last few years had to be for Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers, Doc Hollywood), who went from being a stodgy blueblood to warming up and possessing more of the human touch as time went on.
Does it take away some of the luster of M*A*S*H when the later seasons hit airwaves? Probably. Admittedly, it did have its moments in later seasons, where shows were real effective messages and interesting choices of style, but the yuks were simply gone, whether you contributed to the laugh track that permeated all of the episodes or not.
Besides, after ten seasons of the show which can easily be divided into the Wayne Rogers/McLean Stevenson period and the Stiers/Morgan period, the only thing left for the show to be remembered for was the ending. With any luck, the brushfire that destroyed some of the sets was the final writing on the wall. And for all the talk and the reverence heaped on the last episode, it's just one good story and a bunch of goodbyes, which, after being on the air as long as it was, should really be what it's all about.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This may be a bit of a broken record for other judges, but the lack of any extras at all for such a treasured show is an embarrassment. With all of the looks and examinations of the show through the years, including what I'm guessing was a lot of anticipatory press for "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," no one decided to include this on this season's run of discs? I would have expected this from Paramount or Universal, but not Fox, bunch of ferret faces.
Well, the only reason to buy the season is to finally see the last episode on DVD, so watch it, enjoy it and move on. Otherwise, see if you can luck into the hard to find Martinis and Medicine boxed set collection that Fox put together. It may cost a lot, but it's got all the discs and some extras to boot.
Unhook the still, scramble the choppers, and get the nurses out of camp. The court is bugging out and trying to find a decent treatment for this television masterpiece, because it just isn't here.
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