The following is an expanded version of a post originally written on December 24th, 2010.
Do you make an effort to watch a Christmas episode of M*A*S*H around December 25th to celebrate the holiday and the series we all love?
There were three episodes of M*A*S*H set during or around Christmas: “Dear Dad” (Season One; originally broadcast December 17th, 1972), “Dear Sis” (Season Seven; originally broadcast December 18th, 1978) and “Death Takes A Holiday” (Season Nine; originally broadcast December 15th, 1980).
(During its eleven seasons on the air, no first-run episode of the series actually aired on December 25th. However, a repeat of “Lil” was broadcast on December 25th, 1978.)
In addition to the three episodes listed above, there was also a Boxing Day episode, “‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (Season Ten, originally aired on December 28th, 1981). and a New Year’s Eve episode, “A War For All Seasons” (Season Nine; originally aired on December 29th, 1980).
(For the record, AfterMASH also had a Christmas Eve episode, aptly titled “All About Christmas Eve” and broadcast during the show’s first season on December 29th, 1983.)
I was hoping to have time to rewatch “Dear Dad” this week but just couldn’t fit it in. I did watch it again back in January for an Episode Spotlight, and I rewatched “Dear Sis” in June for another Spotlight. We’ll see if next year I get around to reviewing “Death Takes a Holiday.”
Below you’ll find my thoughts on the three Christmas episodes of M*A*S*H. Which is your favorite (if you have one) and who do you think made the best Santa Claus: Hawkeye, B.J. or Colonel Potter?
“Dear Dad” (Season One; 12/17/1972)
This is easily the most amusing of the three Christmas episodes, even if it does involve Hawkeye riding in a helicopter dressed as Santa Claus to treat wounded soldiers under fire, which is pretty serious. It’s a bizarre scene but that’s the point and I think it works well.
Colonel Blake’s disastrous attempt at giving the 4077th a lecture on sex and reproduction is hilarious. An excerpt:
Colonel Blake: “The union of Figure A, man, and Figure B, woman, is the most sublime expression of romantic love. However, only in the institution of marriage is it recommended that this expression take place.”
Trapper: “Uh, sir.”
Colonel Blake: “Mm-hm.”
Trapper: “What happens in the event that Figure A is attracted to Figure B and wants to get married but Figure A is already married to, say, Figure C and Figure B is engaged to Figure D? But Figure A can’t keep his hands of Figure B because she’s got such a great figure.”
Colonel Blake: “Uh-huh. Well, according to the Army he’s got to forget her.”
Hawkeye: “That figures.”
You can find my January review of this episode here. In the comments, a number of people called this their favorite Christmas episode of the series and a standout episode from the first season.
Situations in which Charles is depicted in a positive light are rare but always well done. So while “Dear Sis” is properly a Father Mulcahy episode, the highlight is watching Charles receive his beloved toboggan cap.
The camp singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” is also a nice moment. And who doesn’t love seeing Father Mulcahy slug a soldier? You can read my June review of this episode here. The comments were mixed with a few people liking it and others not so much.
“Death Takes a Holiday”
“Death Takes A Holiday” has long been one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H. The main storyline sees B.J., Hawkeye and Margaret working furiously to keep a mortally wounded soldier alive through Christmas so his kids won’t have to think of Christmas as the day their father died.
It’s an intense episode but falls apart somewhat when looked at logically (would the soldier’s family really feel any better knowing he died five minutes after Christmas?) but still holds up well. What works best is the secondary storyline involving Charles and his family’s Christmas tradition. I’ve always found the line “It is sadly inappropriate to give dessert to a child who has had no meal” to be very profound and the scene in which Klinger brings Charles dinner and Charles calls him Max very touching.
So, who made the best Santa? I’ve always been torn between Hawkeye and Colonel Potter. Hawkeye’s bushy eyebrows really stick out in my mind but Colonel Potter brings a certain amount of gravitas to the role.