Longtime readers of my blog may remember that I consider April 1999 to be the “birth month” of my M*A*S*H website, which means this month I’m celebrating 17 years writing about our favorite TV show. Honestly, I don’t know when the website was launched. But the earliest files I can find on my computer–transferred from various other computers over the years–are from April 1999.
Over the past month, I’ve thought a lot about what it was like being a M*A*S*H fan in 1999. Those of us who started watching M*A*S*H on FX in the late 1990s weren’t seeing complete episodes. Several minutes were cut from each episode to fit more commercials into each half-hour. Of course, we didn’t know what we were missing, never having seen the full episodes.
(The first season of M*A*S*H wasn’t released on DVD until January 2002, so in 1999 the only way to watch the show uncut was to collect the Columbia House VHS tapes, which cost $19.95 and contained just three episodes. Even if you bought all 71 tapes–which stopped being sold in 1998–you only owned 207 episodes.)
I still have episodes on VHS taped off of FX and they don’t look good. Watching M*A*S*H on DVD means uncut episodes, no laugh track, and improved audio and video quality. Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure there are still some episodes I’ve never seen uncut despite owning the Martinis & Medicine Collection since 2006. It’s actually nice to know there are bits and pieces of M*A*S*H I’ve yet to watch and enjoy.
Earlier this month, countless M*A*S*H fans were outraged when the series was removed from Netflix. Could any of us in 1999 have imagined binge watching on laptops and tablets and smart TVs? I’ve mentioned before I was upset to see M*A*S*H leave Netflix because it was easier to use Netflix than to deal with my DVDs. It could be worse. I could still be stuck watching M*A*S*H on FX.
(Also, Netflix didn’t offer the option to watch without the laugh track, which is how I prefer to watch M*A*S*H. And I’m concerned that some of my DVDs are getting a little scratched from too much use.)
It’s probably fair to say that fans who only know M*A*S*H from Netflix or DVDs have a different relationship with the series than fans who were introduced to it in local or cable syndication. Likewise, fans who first saw M*A*S*H in syndication have a different relationship with the series than those who watched it on prime time in CBS from 1972 to 1983. I wasn’t alive during M*A*S*H‘s original network run. That may explain why I’ve always been fascinated with what it was like to watch M*A*S*H on CBS.
I recently revised my Watching M*A*S*H in the 1970s feature to include the original CBS closing credits to “Commander Pierce,” the Season 7 premiere broadcast on Monday, September 18th, 1978 from 9-9:30PM. There’s a voiceover for three other CBS shows: The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, One Day at a Time. I think this sort of thing is interesting. Others may not.
I don’t know what the future holds for M*A*S*H. Maybe it will return to Netflix one day. Or maybe it will end up on another streaming service like Hulu or Amazon Prime. Maybe it the series will be remastered in HD and released on Blu-ray. Or maybe not.
Nor do I know what the future holds for this website. Earlier this week I posted my 172nd Episode Spotlight review. The remaining 79 episodes will take another year and a half to review and then there’s AfterMASH to tackle. I have a handful of projects I’m either slowly trying to complete or eager to start but very little time to work on them. There’s music to analyze , books to review, outtakes to dissect, and so much more. I no longer make any promises about producing new content here at MASH4077TV.com because I can’t keep them. I’ve spent 17 years working on my website about M*A*S*H and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.