I own the first three seasons of “MASH” on DVD and am practically wearing those out. I loved those seasons because they produced some of the best TV comedy ever and always make me laugh.
But after the third season, the show underwent a huge cast change. McLean Stevenson (Col. Blake) and Wayne Rogers (Trapper) left and in came Harry Morgan (Col. Potter) and Mike Farrell (B.J.) who stayed until MASH ended in 1983.
The show took on a different tone. Sure, there was comedy. But there were dramatic plotlines as well.
The other night on MeTV, I caught a couple of episodes from Season 4 which showed how the show changed. I had not seen them in a while. While I love the first three seasons of “MASH”, I’m equally fond of the other eight seasons that helped make it one of the best shows in the history of the medium.
The following is my top 10 all-time favorite episodes of “MASH.”
1. “Tuttle” — Season 1 — Hawkeye (Alan Alda) wants to get supplies to a local orphanage on a regular basis and makes up a fictional person named Captain Tuttle so he can put that name on all the paperwork that needs to be filled out. And what makes this episode so funny is you don’t know if Col. Blake or Major Burns (Larry Linville) actually believe Tuttle exists or they claim to know him because they don’t want to look bad for not being aware of him.
2. “A Smattering of Intelligence” — Season 2 — Col. Flagg and another intelligence officer come to the 4077th to find out what the other is up to with hilarious results.
3. “The Trial of Henry Blake” — Season 2 — Majors Houlihan (Loretta Swit) and Burns brings charges against Col. Blake and Blake is this close to a court-martial until Hawkeye and Trapper save the day. The final scene, where Blake brings back the general who led his court hearing, to the 4077th made my sides hurt when I first saw it. Everyone is standing at attention and wearing the wing-tip shoes that Radar (Gary Burghoff) was selling and Klinger (Jamie Farr) comes out to meet the general and Blake. He is wearing a dress and matching hat (he was the height of fashion while trying to get that Section 8), curtsies and presents the general with a bouquet of flowers.
4. “The General Flipped at Dawn” — Season 3 — A year before Morgan came to “MASH” full time, he played a looney general that pays a visit to the 4077th. I’m repeating this particular scene from memory. Col. Blake is giving the general a tour of the camp.
Blake: “And there’s our four-seat latrine, General.”
General: “Good. The men can encourage each other.”
5. “Adam’s Ribs” — Season 3 — Hawkeye is sick of the food in the mess tent. What does he do? He sends out for ribs from Chicago.
6. “Deluge” — Season 4 — The title says it correctly. The 4077th is deluged with wounded. The scenes from the 4077th are mixed in with a newsreel of the time. Most of the newsreel was light news, showing how those back home were another world away from what Hawkeye, B.J., Margaret and the rest of the characters were going through.
7. “The Interview” — Season 4 — Clete Roberts, an actual war correspondent during World War II and Korea, interviews the characters in an episode filmed in black and white to resemble 1950s television. It’s similar to what Edward R. Murrow did when he covered the Korean War.
8. “Morale Victory” — Season 8 — Hawkeye and B.J. are put in charge of a party to boost camp morale. But my favorite part of this episode was the performance of David Ogden Stiers as Major Charles Emerson Winchester. Stiers joined the show in Season 6 after Larry Linville left. Winchester is overjoyed that he was able to save the leg of a soldier. That is until he finds out that the solider was a concert pianist and Winchester had to take blood vessels or ligaments from that hand in order to save the leg. And the hand will never be 100 percent again. Winchester loves music and he tries to convince the soldier that the world of music is still open to him.
9. “Where There is a Will, There’s a War” — Season 10 — Hawkeye is sent to a battalion aid station right next to the frontlines. While there, he writes his will leaving most to his things to his Dad, but certain things to the people of the 4077th and makes his feelings know how much he cared about them.
10. “Follies of the Living – Concerns of the Dead” — Season 10 — Klinger has a severe fever and is the only one able to communicate with the spirit of a soldier that just died at the 4077th. A heartbreaking episode as we see the solider go from anger to sadness to acceptance of his fate. There’s nothing light about this episode. It’s one of my favorites because it shows the true cost of war.
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .