Since I worked on MASH for four years, I get a lot of MASH Friday Questions. Thought I'd answer a couple today that require some really candid answers. I may have answered some of these earlier. I don't remember.
From reader “Bee” comes:
Did it ever bother any of the MASH production staff that seemingly no attempt was made to make the women's hair and makeup seem to be of the 50's era? (Margaret had a Farrah Fawcett hairdo later on in the series fer cryin' out loud - and Klinger's getups were about the only reliable shout-outs to actual female dress of that time).
I LOVE the show, but this one thing always bugged me.
Bee, it bugged me more. To the point of driving me crazy. Nurses in Korea also didn’t have long nails, sport bright red lipstick, or wear tailored green sweatshirts with the MASH logo. Dog tags were for identification not accessories. Fashion experts were not consulted when designing wartime army fatigues.
But these are arguments producers rarely win. It’s the TV equivalent of trying to give a cat a bath.
From Just a Guy:
I’m curious what you think the fresh shelf life of a TV show really is--be it sit com or drama...
For example on MASH, if you watch real closely, after a couple of years (and this is especially true when new characters replaced the original), you can see where scripts are basically re-cycled, e.g. a situation occurs with Trapper and a few years later the same exact situation occurs with BJ and so on with Burns and Charles and other characters. Sometimes the role/words Hawkeye spoke to Trapper end up being the same (or virtually the same) or virtually identical are switched and BJ says them to Hawkeye, etc. etc. etc.
So my question is this: what's the shelf life of a TV show, how long do you think it lasts before it actually becomes redundant?
After five or six seasons every show starts showing its age. Sometimes recasting can add a freshness that keeps the show going for a few more years. And some shows that rely on a successful formula (like LAW & ORDER) seem to defy time and can go on forever.
But I’d say seven years is the magic number. Let’s see William Shakespeare come up with the 150th episode of Hamlet (and getting notes on the outlines from a network executive who just graduated from Sarah Lawrence).
The name of the MASH episode Just a Guy was referring to was Preventive Medicine from season seven. The story seemed very intriguing. The number of arriving wounded had increased because of one careless Colonel. Hawkeye slips him a mickey then to keep him from returning to the front removes his appendix. This was before malpractice suits and HMO’s, but there was still that pesky question of ethics. It created a nice debate between Hawkeye and BJ. We did a lot of rewriting on that episode, the cast was happy, we were happy, and they went off to the ranch to make it.
On Friday night David tuned in to the MASH rerun that CBS was airing at 11:45. After watching a few minutes he came upon a horrible discovery – IT WAS THE EXACT SAME SHOW THAT WE WERE FILMING. Identical. Same plotline, same argument. The only difference was it was better (no surprise there – Larry Gelbart vs. us).
We were mortified. I mean, it’s one thing to steal from other shows, but to steal from your own? We looked like a couple of blithering idiots. The amazing thing is that no one on the cast or crew caught it. And a lot of them were there for the original episode.
By the way, check out the first and last seasons of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. There are some episodes that are practically identical. So we weren't alone. Although that doesn't help. I'm still embarrassed.