Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.
Today’s topic: Was the “letter home” used too often?
From the very beginning, M*A*S*H utilized the “letter home” format to give viewers a glimpse of life at the 4077th. In “M*A*S*H–The Pilot,” Hawkeye writes a letter to his father. The three “Dear Dad” episodes during the first two seasons focus exclusively on letters written by Hawkeye. During Season 3, Hawkeye dictates a letter (“A Full Rich Day”).
Several other episodes revolved around letters written to family members:
-During Season 4, Colonel Potter writes to his wife (“Dear Mildred”), B.J. writes to his wife (“Dear Peggy”), and Radar writes to his mother (“Dear Ma”).
-It’s not a handwritten letter, but in Season 7 Charles dictates a letter to his parents using his tape recorder (“The Winchester Tapes”).
-In Season 7, Father Mulcahy writes to his sister the sister (“Dear Sis”).
-In Season 8, Klinger writes to his Uncle Abdul (“Dear Uncle Abdul”).
The Season 3 episode “Bulletin Board” includes a brief scene in which Trapper writes to his daughter Becky. Otherwise, Trapper never writes home. Nor do Frank, Margaret, or Henry. In “Letters” during Season 9, Margaret does write a letter to Jimmy, telling him about a patient she’ll never forget.
I’m probably leaving out a few minor letters but I believe I’ve mentioned all of the significant “letter home” episodes.
(Although not letters home, Sidney writes to Sigmund Freud in “Dear Sigmund” during Season 5 and Kwang writes a letter to his superiors while spying on the 4077th in “Dear Comrade” during Season 7.)
Based on the above, you might think there are a lot of “letter home” episodes. But by my count, there are just 11. If you count Trapper’s letter in “Bulletin Board,” that’s 12. Add in “Dear Sigmund” and “Dear Comrade” and there are 14 episodes involving letters/tapes. Twelve or fourteen episodes out of 251 isn’t very many. But having three “letter home” episodes during Season 4 was a bit excessive.
Do you enjoy these episodes? Do they annoy you? Do you have trouble suspending your disbelief when the person writing the letter wasn’t involved in some of the stories they’re writing about?
Hit the comments with your thoughts.