Question: What was your parents’ favorite TV show?
I’ll hazard a guess and say that it was M*A*S*H. There’s a high statistical probability that your parents raved about M*A*S*H and chortled about how Hey Hey It’s Saturday wasn’t really a kids show. Infact detailed statistical analysis performed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that 95% of all parents in the 1970s and 80s adored M*A*S*H. What’s more those that did not nominate M*A*S*H as their favorite show where either a) grouchy blighters who disapproved of the TV or b) complete bogans without a shred of taste*.
The series which centered of the high drama and high jinks at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War ran for 11 years from 1972 to 1983. The Korean War itself only lasted three years. However the Vietnam conflict loomed large during the 1970s and the program spoke eloquently about the futility of war. It was also very well written with just the right mix of comedy and pathos with a sprinkle of crumpet. Our parents lapped it right up. It was provided something of a template for the flood of medical dramas that followed.
Despite the show ending over 30 years ago here are some of the things that have stayed with me:
1) Dear lord – over thirty years ago! Geez I feel old.
2) When someone yells “choppers” its never good news.
3) The surgeons led by Hawkeye Pierce were good engineers too. They’d set up an extremely efficient gin distillery in their tent proving that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
4) Of course some people disapproved of this kind of behaviour.
5) Somewhat hypocritically.
6) And it was all a bit low brow for others.
7) My Mum fancied Major Charles Emerson Wincestor III. Before you all gasp WFT Nanabulous! it must be noted that beneath Wincestor’s pompous posturing was a brilliant surgeon with a heart of gold.
8) I had a soft spot for lewdly named BJ Hunnicutt. I tend to gravitate towards second fiddles for eg I prefer Goose to Maverick in the comedy classic Top Gun.
9) The camp showers didn’t provide much privacy. Double thumbs up.
10) This resulted in much hilarity. Double thumbs up.
11) In any surgical unit there is always an Alpha-nurse who despite her hard assed demeanour and glacial exterior will erupt like Krakatoa in a moment of passion. At the 4077 it was of course Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. Hot Lips was so called because when a tyrst with Frank Burns was broadcast to the entire camp (some cheeky scamp had planted a microphone under the cot) she was heard to utter breathlessly “Kiss my hot lips Frank”.
12) I seriously doubt Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner derived his inspiration from Corporal Maxwell Klinger. Despite spending his war years parading a series of outfits that even Lady Ga Ga would think twice about Klinger never did get his Section 8 discharge. Instead ironically he fell in love with a Korean lady and stayed in the country he had been so desperate to escape from.
13) Who didn’t want to adopt Corporate Radar O’Reilly?
14) Oh my! Army surgeons are naughty boys.
15) Allan Alda will be Hawkeye Pierce forever. Playing an iconic role like that can be both a blessing and a curse for an actor. Whilst he was one of TV’s most popular stars at the time after M*A*S*H he faded from view largely. Over the intervening decades he showed up in various Woody Allen movies and some critically acclaimed series like ER and the West Wing but he always seemed like Hawkeye Pierce winging it.
16) I am one of those annoying people who loathes commercial radio. Whilst doing the drop offs one morning I switched on Linda Mottram’s program and happened to hear a wonderful man speaking about the importance of communicating science. It turns out the warm, familiar voice was none other than Alan Alda. At age 79 Alan is the founder and driving force behind the Stony Brook University Centre for Communicating Science. The facility trains up and coming scientists on how to best convey their work and ideas to the public. To me this is pure awesomeness. Firstly I love a non-vacuous celebrity story. It restores my faith in humanity when the privileged use their wealth and fame to do something constructive for the community. Secondly its a darned important cause. So three cheers to you Alan Alda. Hawkeye Pierce was great but I admire you much more.
Did your parents love M*A*S*H?
What other vintage shows deserve the Mumabs treatment?
Goose or Maverick?
* Actually I just made that up. This is a blog not the New York Times.