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How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:57 pm
by Redbird Craig
I was thinking of this while watching a MASH marathon over the holiday. I've always thought that MASH was split into 2 fairly distinct eras, the 1-3 and the 4-11 eras. The change from Trapper/Henry to BJ/Potter caused such a shift in the storylines that even thought it's bulky to split something 30/70 I felt like they were almost different shows.

However, I could be persuaded that the real split was between 1-5 and 6-11. Once Frank left that allowed for the final break for Margaret's character from "Hot Lips" to someone on equal footing with the other characters. Frank's leaving also forced Hawkeye and BJ to have to deal with an adversary of their equal in Charles so I think it flattened out the positioning of all the characters in their little universe.

I still think the real split is between the "us v. them" of seasons 1-3 and the more "collaborative" ones of 4-11, but I can see it both ways. Any thoughts?

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 11:12 pm
by Big Daddy O'Reilly
I think we already have a thread about this, but truth be told, I'm too lazy to go browsing for it right now.

Interestingly, the producers of M*A*S*H feel rather similarly to the way you do; according to them, they feel Seasons 1-4 are "the same", Season 5 stands alone, and Seasons 6-11 are "different." And, it makes sense when you think about it: 1-4 were the Larry Gelbart & Gene Reynolds years; 5 was the solo Reynolds year; 6-11 were the Alan Alda/Burt Metcalfe years.

Personally, this is how I've always split the eras up:

Seasons 1-3 are definitely the seasons where comedy was at the forefront of the show; episodes were considerably a lot more lighthearted and humorous - partly because of network meddling, and partly because Larry Gelbart was relying on anti-war satire during a time when the war in Vietnam was still underway.

Seasons 4-6, while still humorous seasons in their own way, but the balance between comedy and drama kind of yo-yo'd during this time: Season 4 gradually got darker and more serious; Season 5 did something of an about-face, and was a little more lighthearted; Season 6 kept the balance a little more in check.

Season 7 is definitely has a feel all it's own: it's not quite as humorous as the previous seasons, but certainly nowhere near as dark as the following seasons . . . and, at the same time, you can almost sense there's a change in the air, but you can't explain why (other than knowing how the following seasons are).

Seasons 8-11 are the dark, dramatic, serious, sombre, melancholic, preachy seasons; the human drama was suddenly the new driving force of the show, while the comedy and humor suddenly took a backseat.

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:01 am
by Redbird Craig
Thanks for the reply. I’m still a newbie so I’m sorry I didn’t see the previous thread. I agree that the show got very preachy near the end. There’s plenty of times I found myself buckling under the sheer weight of the message being laid down on top of us.

I personally loved the first 3 seasons and found that to be the height of the series. I enjoyed the show throughout its run but I found the final couple of seasons to be a bit ponderous.

I think you’re right in your analysis of how the seasons played out. Once Frank left they were able to stretch the characters out into more serious areas because there’s no way they could have deepened Frank’s character that way. He would have remained essentially static and created a strange dynamic as the other characters “grew”, especially Margaret.

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Wed Feb 12, 2020 8:26 pm
by TageRyche
I always split the eras of M*A*S*H* up by the character departures.

So I chop it up as:

Seasons 1 - 3 when McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers left.

Then Seasons 4 and 5 when Larry Linville left.

Then Seasons 6 and 7 (and the beginning of Season 8) when Gary Burghoff left.

Seasons 8 - 11 stand on their own since there were no departures.

For me it is less about how the content changed than the casting changes.

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:14 pm
by Redbird Craig
I can see that way of thinking. My feeling is that the show took a turn for a variety of reasons once Trapper and Henry left away from the broad comedy and more into dramedy territory. It doesn’t mean I’m right, just my opinion.

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:13 am
by TageRyche
Redbird Craig wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:14 pm
I can see that way of thinking. My feeling is that the show took a turn for a variety of reasons once Trapper and Henry left away from the broad comedy and more into dramedy territory. It doesn’t mean I’m right, just my opinion.
There's nothing wrong with differing opinions. That's supposed to be what makes the world go round. So yours is no less valid than mine. Doesn't necessarily make mine right either.

Re: How do you split MASH eras?

Posted: Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:47 am
by Redbird Craig
I agree. There’s no right answer, it’s just how we look at it. I think it’s interesting to consider how the show would have been different if those cast departures hadn’t happened, which I think is a topic mentioned somewhere else on this site.

I felt like the show was at its best with Trapper and Henry but would it have lasted as long if they had stayed? The show might have gotten stale.