Thursday, March 01, 2007

Day 1: M*A*S*H Notes


March 1, 2007

Ultra Fine Point Sharpie & notebook - check. Ratty green sweater - check. Ice cream sundae - check. Time to watch every episode of M*A*S*H in order.

This is going to be an informal journal of my marathon immersion in M*A*S*H. That’s all I have mapped out. One of the great blessings of DVD culture is the availability of season sets of TV shows. It sounds like a silly prospect, for most television is free in the first place, and disposable by design. But in practice, watching episodes in sequence is special thing, more interesting than I’d thought it would be, even for non-serial shows. Charting the path of actors and their characters, identifying the style of specific writers, watching a the creative personnel figure out how to generate stories, keep situations fresh, and deal with production realities, watching a show find its footing, then its voice, then shifting pitch over time… all of these fascinating things to watch for are more apparent and chartable when a series is available in full, at your fingertips, and viewable in big chunks. The bone structure that supports the animal’s natural lifespan over seasons and years – more than a decade, in this case – is stretched so thin through weekly installments as to be invisible. When compressed into season box-sets, forms becomes clear.

I’ve already seen every episode somewhere between three and thirty times; I grew up watching M*A*S*H, and I’ve never really stopped. But because of syndication package realities, which make some episodes rarer than others, and the enormous quantity of M*A*S*H, I’ve never watched it in sequence.

I’ll be using FOX TV’s M*A*S*H: Martinis & Medicine uber-box set of all 11 seasons, released last fall. The oversized box, upholstered in olive canvas and weighing roughly as much as a jeep, really is the boon M*A*S*H fans needed. Although just compiles the exact same discs from the previously available individual season sets (and throws in the Altman film and a bonus disc), it takes up less space, and is an immeasurably handsomer package. I stopped buying the individual seasons after the third set (I kinda figured on something like Martinis & Medicine), but they had some of the ugliest box art in the world. The big

Enough preamble. I may find something useful to say about situation comedies. It may just be me slumped on a couch watching TV. Mostly I just want to see what happens to someone who watches every episode of M*A*S*H in a row.

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