MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) is one of the most memorable TV series ever produced. It was on the air for 11 years (much longer than the Korean War in which it took place). For those of you that have never heard of the show, it followed the trails and tribulations of the 4077th, a battlefield hospital for the American Soldiers in the Korean War. Military settings don’t exactly make one think of a comedy series but it worked. The writing on the show was and still is amongst the best in television history – and …t had to be. Each week the writers had to deliver an episode that mixed the horrors of war, comedy, and interpersonal relationships that made the viewer care about the characters. And it did. 14 Emmys and 9 People’s choice awards speak for themselves.
The 5th Season added a few twists and turns as Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) would be written out and Father Francis J. Mulcahy’s character would be expanded to a regular cast member after 4 years of odd appearances here and there.
Alan Alda also took on greater responsibilities behind the scenes as writer and director and produced some of the most moving episodes the series had to offer. For example in the 5th season he was involved in “Dear Sigmund” in which a doctor who suffers an episode of depression after the suicide death of a patient writes letters to Dr. Freud as a way of self therapy. It is a very moving piece that could easily have come off as clichéd and superficial but was transformed by brilliant writing, directing and acting into a memorable episode.
MASH is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Given the source material is now nearly 30 years old it is quite clear. Dialogue is what matters here and it is faithfully reproduced. There was no apparent sound distortion or harshness. Compared to today’s television shows the sound is very lackluster and lacking in depth but once again remember that the recording technology for television was very basic 3 decades ago. There is little in the way of sound effects and nil in the way of sound separation. The ability to remove the ridiculous laugh track is a very nice feature however.
Once again remembering that the source material is nearly 30 years old, MASH looks gritty and grainy. But, the original series had a faded look to it with a lot of earthy hues and it was faithfully transferred. Fans of the show expect it to have this grim look – it is about war after all – to clean up the print and make it bright and vibrant would be taking away from the overall feel of the show. It is still very watchable and the lack of perfect picture quality does add to the nostalgia.
It is a shame that there are no special features on this box set. I’m still not sure why this happens especially with an important piece of television history like MASH. Very disappointing.
If you are a fan of the series – this is a must have. The fifth season definitely adds to the character depth of our favorite soldiers and continued to provide a unique mix of comedy and emotion during a very trying time. If you are not familiar with the series then a rental is recommended first. MASH still hold its own as one of the finest shows produced in the history of television.
Special Features List