Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Wayne State University Press
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I would like to thank the staff at the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA, especially the accommodating people in the Arts Library Special Collections who assisted me in locating research material in the Larry Gelbart, Burt Metcalfe, and Gene Reynolds files. My sincere thanks also goes to the staff at UCLA’s Film and Television Archive who allowed me to watch otherwise unavailable episodes of AfterMASH.
Introduction: M*A*S*H in American Popular Culture
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Although twenty-five years have elapsed since “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” aired on February 28, 1983, time has done little to diminish the significance and influence of CBS’s M*A*S*H (1972–83), a groundbreaking television series that struggled during its first season (finishing forty-seventh in the ratings for 1972–73) but soon thereafter claimed a mainstream following that ensured success for the next ten seasons.
1. A Novel Idea and an Unconventional War Film
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To tell the story of M*A*S*H as a televisual phenomenon, it is necessary to first reflect on its literary and cinematic forerunners, which anticipated many of the themes that would be cultivated and treated with greater sensitivity and complexity during the program’s eleven-season run on CBS. So, let us now turn our attention to that best-selling antiwar novel from 1968, which set the satiric tone adopted in Robert Altman’s film ...
2. Big Ambitions for the Small Screen
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William Self, Richard Berger, and other studio executives at Twentieth Century-Fox wanting to cash in further on the critical and commercial success of Altman’s M*A*S*H sent Gene Reynolds the original novel and asked the former child actor-turned-television producer to create a pilot episode based on the antics of the 4077 medical personnel. Having not only served in the United States Navy during World War II but also worked as an actor during the studio ...
3. Ensemble TV
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As stated in the previous chapter, the pilot episode of M*A*S*H aired on September 17, 1972, in the midst of several industrial changes and government rulings designed to bring greater programming diversity to television (these include the Prime-Time Access Rule implemented in 1971 and the FCC-imposed fin-syn rules established the year before, which prevented the big three networks from integrating vertically). When the series premiered, the Columbia ...
4. Mobility as Metaphor
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By the end of its first season, when it had been shown opposite such long-running Sunday night programs as The Wonderful World of Disney (a.k.a. Disneyland, NBC, 1955–90) and The FBI (ABC, 1965–74), M*A*S*H ranked forty-sixth in the Nielsen ratings. Although not an immediate success, the CBS series dodged cancellation after its first dismal season and managed to become a hit from its second season onward, thanks primarily to a shuffling of the network’s ...
5. “Dead Serious” in Living Color
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Although, as Donald McBride argues, television coverage of the Korean War “was sketchy at best” during the years in which it was fought (1950–53), this “police action” was nevertheless brought to the attention of the American public through other media, entertainment, and news outlets. 1 Beginning in January 1951, William Gaines’s EC comic book series Two-Fisted Tales offered visceral, blood-soaked ...
6. Hot Lips, Hostilities, and the Cold War of the Sexes
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Thus far, I have explored the production background of M*A*S*H as well as its connection to literary and filmic antecedents, not to mention similar TV shows from the 1970s that challenged, in some way, the status quo. The final three chapters map out the complex and evolving relationships of the men and women in the 4077, moving from an examination of the interrelated issues of sex, gender, and identity to a discussion of racial representations and the politics of place.
7. Mobile Army Sexual Hijinks
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One of the most significant departures from Hornberger’s novel, reflected in both Altman’s film and the television series, is the change in Hawkeye’s marital status. In the original text, Captain Pierce is married and has two young sons. Also tied down is Duke, a Georgia-born doctor and father of two daughters who was not brought into the television series (owing in part to the character’s racial bigotry). In the ...
8. “Another Day in the ROK”
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As Elisabeth Weis asserts, at the heart of M*A*S*H’s textual universe are the so-called good guys, the Caucasian characters who are defined by “(1) their competence as doctors; (2) their tolerance toward the Other (usually, a Korean peasant or a black solider); [and] (3) their sense of humor.”1 The second classification provided by Weis, related to the doctors’ and nurses’ benevolence toward so-called “LIPs” (“local indigenous personnel”), ...
Conclusion: “I Shall (Not) Return”—AfterMASH
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As the second of three CBS spin-offs of M*A*S*H, preceded by Trapper John, M.D. (1979–86) and followed by W*A*L*T*E*R (1984), AfterMASH was seen as an obvious attempt by network executives to ride the coattails of the original series.1 Although riddled with critical bullets after its debut on September 26, 1983, AfterMASH lasted an entire season (only one of its thirty episodes never aired).
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Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2008
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: TV Milestones