Okay, here's a fun fact. When Judge David Johnson was a little guy, he came down with a serious case of hives, forcing his parents—huge fans of M*A*S*H—to miss the series finale, much to their chagrin.
Our reviews of M*A*S*H: Season Six (published July 28th, 2004), M*A*S*H: Season Nine (published January 11th, 2006), M*A*S*H: Season Ten (published May 15th, 2006), M*A*S*H: Season Eleven (published January 31st, 2007), 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.
"Live! That's an order!"
The boys and girls from the 4077th M.A.S.H. unit march out in this release of their seventh seasonal outing in the war-torn landscape of Korea. With only their wit and home-made hooch to lean on, Hawkeye, B.J., and the rest of the crew must reconcile their own sanity with their duty as smart-ass doctors.
Facts of the Case
Season Seven in the 4077th marked a few highlights in this long-running "dramedy" series. B.J. Hunnicut (Mike Farrell) developed an impressive mustache, "Hawkeye" Pierce (Alan Alda) started to shy away from his womanizing tendencies, Radar (Gary Burghoff) was in his final tour of duty, "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit) was treading the uncertain path of divorcee, and Klinger (Jamie Farr) was enjoying one final season of cross-dressing.
Fox has put together all 25 episodes from the 1978-1979 season, on three discs. They are:
• "Commander Pierce"
• "Peace on Us"
• "Our Finest Hour, Parts 1 and 2"
• "The Billfold Syndrome"
• "None Like it Hot"
• "They Call the Wind Korea"
• "Major Ego"
• "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
• "Point of View"
• "Dear Comrade"
• "Out of Gas"
• "An Eye for a Tooth"
• "Dear Sis"
• "B.J. Papa San"
• "The Price"
• "The Young and the Restless"
• "Hot Lips is Back in Town"
• "Rally Round the Flagg, Boys"
• "Preventative Medicine"
• "A Night at Rosie's"
• "Ain't Love Grand?"
• "The Party"
Season Seven of M*A*S*H trumpeted an evolution in the series. Some may say it improved, others may yearn for the days of Wayne Rogers, but it did change. Aside from the character changes—and some, especially Hawkeye's, were steep—the narratives started down a different path.
Hawkeye focused his energy less on debauchery and more on his anti-war attitude; indeed the series, known for its strong anti-war messages, laid it on thick this season, and set the table for even more vigorous anti-war episodes (not that this made it any less entertaining, in my opinion).
I was never fond of the first three seasons of M*A*S*H and intensely disliked the Trapper John and Colonel Blake characters. B.J.'s appearance in season four and Potter's ascent to the throne were both welcome changes for me. Most of all, I appreciated the swapping of Charles Winchester with Frank Burns. Burns was funny enough, but he was too one-dimensional, with no redeeming qualities at all. And he was no match for B.J. and Hawkeye. Charles offered a better foil for the two—here was skillful doctor with wit who could go toe to toe with his bunkmates. Obnoxious, sure; but not as overblown a caricature as Frank Burns.
Anyway, all these changes had taken place long before season seven, but what stands out is the way the writers (including Alan Alda, who became a major scribe) involved these characters in increasingly innovative and experimental episodes. "Point of View" is an excellent example. An episode like this is a herald for upcoming unique episodes that find the docs operating in real time (with a ticking clock on screen), or each having surreal dreams. The show certainly changed in its run, and that I think is evidence of the writers trying to take it new directions.
"Inga," the Emmy-winning episode written and directed by Alda, represented a turning point for Hawkeye's character. It was if the writing staff determined that this was to be the moment that Hawkeye turned away from his rakish lifestyle—and indeed the forthcoming seasons placed his hormones on the back burner. (A case can be made that his womanizing was subsiding substantially following the early years, anyway.)
Basically, if you're a fan of the "mustache years," marked by B.J.'s upper-lip growth, a non-cross-dressing Klinger, and less focus on clowning around and more on ending the war, this is the set that ushers in that era.
Though I usually praise Fox for its television treatments, I am continually disappointed by its handling of M*A*S*H. There are no special features at all—no commentary tracks, no featurettes, nothing. This is one of the most beloved shows of all time, and the lack of anything supplementary is ridiculous. The packaging is pretty shoddy as well.
Fox transfers the show to DVD format well. Presented in its original full-screen format, the video quality is clean and the colors are solid. For evidence, compare "Our Greatest Hour," which was taken from syndication because the original prints were lost, to any other episode on the set. The difference is striking. The original mono sound does its job.
These releases have always been mainly for M*A*S*H completists. With extra features being AWOL, this is a sub-par DVD, but the strong content found within this season makes up for it.
Not guilty, though the 4077th deserves some more love.
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