Thursday, August 16, 2012

M*A*S*H up

Once upon a time, I watched M*A*S*H three times a day; four times on Mondays. It aired at 3pm when I came home from school; it was on from 7 to 8pm after dinner, and on Monday nights a new episode aired on CBS at 8 or 9. It goes without saying that M*A*S*H was my favorite show, and a formative influence on my sense of humor, such as it is/isn't, right up there with various BBC comedy series (Fawlty Towers, Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) and Howard Stern.

I know from Grape Nehis and stills, Toledo Mudhens and meatball surgery. I know that the M*A*S*H theme song was entitled "Suicide is Painless," because, along with "You Light Up My Life," it was the song I most enjoyed playing on my flute. I made a pilgrimage to see the M*A*S*H set at the Smithsonian. I went to see age-inappropriate movies like The Four Seasons and The Seduction of Joe Tynan just because I was such an Alan Alda fan.

I have definite M*A*S*H opinions, some of which don't jibe with the popular view. BJ over Trapper John. Henry Blake over Colonel Potter. Frank Burns WAY over Charles. Frank Burns was probably my favorite character; "Frank Burns eats worms" my favorite line in the whole series (it still slays me). I slightly preferred Klinger to Radar but could've easily done without both of them. Colonel Flagg was my favorite recurring guest character, but I also liked Dr. Sidney Freedman (and by high school his stock shot up when I discovered he was a photographer once married to Diane Arbus). I was glad that Hawkeye and Hot Lips never got together; I hated that episode when they kinda sorta did. Barf. I liked it when Hawkeye was with that nurse who went on to star in the Polaroid commercials with James Garner. I never saw the original M*A*S*H movie, and yes, I know it's Altman and it's so much better and darker, and I don't care. I hated the series finale, like most people, but maybe that's just because I didn't want it to be over, or because I was over it. I'm not sure which. It was 1983. I was 15, and already deep into Cheers, which had premiered the year prior. And like most TV series of that era (any era?), M*A*S*H didn't exactly get better with age.

I can't really watch M*A*S*H now, though I'll happily sit through back-to-back episodes of The Odd Couple, Hogan's Heroes or Mister Ed. Its earnestness can make me queasy; the laugh track hurts my brain. And I have a hard time refraining from reciting all the dialogue I've memorized, which can be annoying if I'm with someone and sad/weird if I'm watching alone.

Anyway, it stands to reason that I should kick sargent-major ass on these Golden Trivia M*A*S*H cards, which came out in 1984, the year after the series ended. I bought these at an estate sale earlier this summer, when I knew my brother and fellow M*A*S*H couch potato would be visiting. I wasn't as good as I'd expected to be, but over cocktails, we both managed to horrify our respective spouses with our M*A*S*H knowledge. I mean, seriously, who doesn't know Frank Burns's blood type?

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