Monday, August 17, 2009

M*A*S*H Season 10 Ramblings

Season 10 of M*A*S*H is an interesting one, at least from my point of view, because it contains some of my least favorite and some of my favorite episodes ever, both being written by the same people! In the later seasons, as I have contended, there isn't the consistency of brilliance that was a mark of the middle seasons (3-7). This is not to say there are 'bad' episodes in the season, but the goal of making people say 'wow' isn't accomplished every time the show was trotted out.

The episodes that stand out are 'Where There's a Will, There's a War' and 'Sons and Bowlers', with 'The Tooth Shall Set You Free' as an honorable mention. In 'Where There's a Will, There's a Way', Hawkeye gets sent to the front because an aid station's surgeon has been killed. Feeling endangered, he writes his will, leaving seemingly insignificant items to his cohorts at the 4077th. However, as he writes, the items are fraught with meaning. I find it to be an incredibly touching episode, and one that doesn't contain a lot of the cudgel bashing that can sometimes be a mark of the later seasons. It isn't a laugher type of episode by any stretch, but it was written in a way that anyone with a pulse can sympathize. At base, it explores man's reaction to his own mortality; a topic M*A*S*H explored constantly from day one, but particularly well in this episode.

'Sons and Bowlers' has two good story lines – Hawkeye being concerned with the fact that his father is going to have an operation, which brings up memories of his mother dying some years before. The second story line concerns the 4077th competing against a Marine unit in various athletic events, including bowling. Colonel Potter thinks they can win in bowling, but the Marines have a ringer – Marty Ubancic, the 'Trenton Tornado'. Unfortunately, to really grasp the episode, you have to watch it in its uncut form on the DVD; syndication really doesn't do it justice. Uncut, you get an exploration of some of Charles' inner thoughts, his sense of compassion, and even jealousy over the relationship Hawkeye has with his own father.

'The Tooth Shall Set You Free' explores a bit of the bigotry that occurred in the service in that time, and has a good side story of Charles' tooth issues. Interesting guest appearance by a young Laurence Fishburne is also a part of the episode.

The episodes on the negative side of my ledger in Season 10 are the two-parter 'Snap Judgment' and 'Snappier Judgment', 'Picture This', and 'Twas the Day After Christmas'. The two-part episode has to do with Klinger getting involved with the black market ('Little Chicago') after Hawkeye's Polaroid gets stolen. It has a lot of courtroom boredom and tries too hard to be funny. Winchester as a counselor is painful to watch, although I guess that is part of the goal.

'Picture This' entails Potter trying to paint a picture of the 'gang', but there are a lot of arguments going on. Hawkeye moves out of the Swamp over BJ stealing his socks, but BJ and Charles drive each other nuts and everyone else gets involved with white lies in order to get Hawkeye to move back into the Swamp. It sounds like it should be funny, but it ends up being an extremely childish plot. The painting looks nice, but that's really the only nice part of the episode.

'Twas the Day After Christmas', I just find to be a incredibly lame episode. Tangent: Let me clarify that there aren't any poor episodes of M*A*S*H. Every episode has a high production value and is well shot and acted. Most of my beefs come in the writing and creative stage. No one is mailing it in at any point, but it becomes clear in the later seasons that they are straining to find plots and story lines. It isn't all the fault of the writers and so forth; no one expected M*A*S*H to go eleven seasons. Nevertheless, criticism is deserved in some cases. But I digress…the episode itself portrays the British tradition of 'Boxing Day' where people trade positions (i.e. enlisted become officers and vice versa for the day). Ultimately, it isn't a very interesting episode. I just want to know how many different times the show could go through Christmas, even though there were technically only three during the Korean War. Again, I digress….

There is even one episode in which I am bipolar - 'Wheelers and Dealers' - I hate the story line about BJ going nuts because his wife has to take a job as a hostess in a coffee shop, but I love the story line about Potter having to go through driving school to regain his license back. Sgt. Rizzo probably has his best lines in the show. Veeeee-hicle!

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