Thursday, February 16, 2006

The last MASH

In the news:

Last U.S. MASH unit bows out on humanitarian mission

“The U.S. Army bade "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" to perhaps its best-loved institution on Thursday when it decommissioned its last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) and handed it over to Pakistan.

A legendary institution that gained worldwide fame through a long-running television comedy series and a hit 1970 feature film portraying a fictional 4077th MASH, has a history dating back more than 60 years to the end of World War Two.

The field hospitals served in U.S. wars since, from Korea to Vietnam and Iraq, saving many thousands of lives.

The MASH decommissioned on Thursday -- the 212th based in Miesau, Germany -- was based in Iraq until last year.”

******

I spent four years working on the TV series MASH and it was an experience I will always treasure. A few years ago we had a reunion at the Museum of Broadcasting. Standing with the cast and writers I really felt like I was part of a Superbowl winning team.

A few years ago 60 MINUTES did a segment on writers facing ageism (ironic since the 60 MINUTES correspondents range in age from 65-211). One industry idiot suggested that if a writer had a MASH credit he should leave it off his resume because it made him appear too old. To me that’s insane. I could not be more proud of my association with MASH and the day I take it off my resume is the day I start selling Marie Osmond dolls on QVC. (But for the record, I was 9 when I started on that show).

How many television series have books and scholarly papers written about them? Although I must admit, I’ve read these and they’re a joke. They talk about the brilliant symbolism, our deeper philosophical and empirical meanings, the clever use of the Anti-Christ, affectionate homages to classic literature – none of that is true. We were just looking to come up with a joke so we could go to lunch or a story beat for Radar so he’d leave us alone.

But we knew this: we had the best job in Hollywood, worked with the finest people, and it’s nice to know that as the last real MASH unit fades into history the show will live on and the sacrifice and heroics of those brave doctors, nurses, and corpsmen will be appreciated and celebrated long into the future.

6 comments:

Doug Barber said...

That's funny. I often joke with my writing partners about how our "motifs" will one day be interpreted by grad classes the world over. I'm also derided by the same partners whenever I find myself reverse engineering profound meaning from a line or joke or nuance (usually one created by me). They just don't understand.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't make MASH in this day and age without being called anti-American.

I watched every episode of that show three or four times over in syndication between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 on weekdays while lying on a shag carpet, with my foot on the TV to change the channel, eating baloney sandwiches.

doggans said...

//One industry idiot suggested that if a writer had a MASH credit he should leave it off his resume because it made him appear too old.//

Because apparently the pride for having written for one of the most-beloved shows in the history of television doesn't stand up to the slight embarrassment of aging?

I wouldn't know, since I am young and have obviously never written for MASH.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ken,

I know this is a business of taste but I cannot tell you (especially in this last year)after scrolling up and down for something to watch - in vain - I seem to settle on the block of back to back MASH episodes.

It saddens me a little bit that (to me) the best television today is still a show that's in its late thirties.

But it is "How To" television.

And like last night, it still holds me after all these years.

Everything I need to know about a good melody I learn from Cole Porter.

Composition? Gershwin.

Timeless Pop music? Beatles

Movies? A Place in the Sun

And TV? MASH

Thanks to all you guys for setting the bar so high.

So Ken: Keep it on the res.

Mark

Anonymous said...

I'm the same as Mark there.. I end up watching a big block of M*A*S*H and it's like sinking into a lovely familiar blanket.
-J

Alok Shukla said...

That was some great writing - MASH is a classic. A lot of us still devour it and I am just 26 years old.