Saturday, February 02, 2013
The best way to watch MASH
Once the show was edited the post production process began. The film was color corrected, the sound fixed, credits added, and of course the damn laugh track was added.
When it was all completed, one of us on the staff had to drive to the lab in Hollywood and screen the finished product one last time just to make sure everything was perfect. I was not the most conscientious watchdog. “My name is spelled correctly? It's fine. Send it off.”
But seriously, I was struck by how dazzling the print was. The colors were amazingly vivid.
Then I’d watch the show on CBS the following Monday night and it never looked as good.
Once we approved the final product the show was shipped to CBS. They transferred it to videotape and that’s what they aired. First off you lost a generation due to the transfer. And then for whatever reason CBS’s color was off just a bit. The hue was a degree or two red. Red and green don’t mix and on the air the show always looked just a touch drab. This was true of most CBS shows back then. ABC was super-bright, and NBC had to best, richest color – at least to my eye.
Once in syndication the picture quality of MASH varied wildly. Depending on the quality of the print, what generation it was, the station that was airing it, and the passage of time it could look passable or your grandpa's home movies.
Why do I bring this up? Because the DVD’s of MASH look better than they ever did when they first aired. They look the way I expected after screening the final cuts. I haven’t watched any of the series on Netflix (if it’s even on Netflix) so don’t know how it compares to the DVD’s. But if you want to revisit MASH, the DVD’s are the way to go. And you can turn off the goddamn laugh track.
It always used to drive me crazy watching MASH on the air. I’d fiddle with the color and could never get it right. No one else in America had the advantage of seeing the pristine 35 mm version first so no one knew the difference. And again, it’s not a big thing – but it made me nuts.
Now, finally, after almost forty years, I can watch and really enjoy MASH episodes… except that I can’t
Now I’m constantly thinking “we could do a better joke here”, “there’s got to be a more clever ending to that scene”, “that explanation was a little clumsy,” etc. I’m hoping that somehow in the next forty years technology will fix that too.