Discuss: Recommend One Season of M*A*S*H to a New Viewer

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.

HannibalMO suggested today’s topic: Recommend one season of M*A*S*H to a new viewer.

Start With Season 1? Jump to Season 4?

Imagine you know someone who has never seen a single episode of M*A*S*H. They want to watch the show but don’t have a lot of time so they ask you, the biggest M*A*S*H fanatic they know, to recommend one season and just one season for them to watch. Which season do you tell them to watch? Do you insist they start with Season 1, hoping they’ll become addicted and find the time to keep watching? That’s the obvious answer.

However, what if you know they’re serious about only watching one season? If you tell them to watch Season 1, they’ll never see so many wonderful episodes from future seasons. They’ll never see any episodes with B.J. or Colonel Potter or Charles.

Personally, I find this topic particularly difficult to ponder because I can’t wrap my head around someone refusing to watch more than one season of M*A*S*H. I’m always going to tell people to start with the series premiere. To me, that’s the only way to watch M*A*S*H. It’s the only way to watch any television show. You start at the beginning.

Also, I don’t have a favorite season of M*A*S*H. I’ve never been able to pick one. Maybe other fans do have a clear favorite and that’s the season they’d recommend. Maybe you think Season 4 is the best season of M*A*S*H, with the highest ratio of great episodes to poor episodes. If so, you probably feel very comfortable telling someone to start with that season. That’s just not me.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

9 Comments

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    If I was the ‘new to M*A*S*H’ person I would start with Season 1 pilot, but that is just me — I never start a TV series in the middle if I can help it.

    If I was asked for a recommendation I would therefore recommend Season 1. However if I they insisted on seeing only the ‘best’ of the show I would encourage them to watch the last half of Season 3 and first half of Season 4 (I realize I am cheating a bit on your question here). By taking that approach they would hit the series at its peak and they would know all the major characters except Winchester.

  • 007 says:

    If it had to be a single season, then yeah it would really have to be season 1, or possibly season 4 as the start of a new era. Either way they’d never be able to get Trapper, Henry, Potter, BJ, & Winchester all in by only watching one season.

    That being said, I did have a buddy in this exact scenario. He had never seen a single episode but had an interest from me talking about it. I wasn’t sure how into the show he’d get, so I actually made 3 lists of episodes of varying lengths.

    List one was short, and just had the transition episodes and the finale so that he got every major character. I recommended against this list unless he really only wanted the briefest taste of the show, but wanted to know who ever character was.

    Pilot
    Abyssnia Henry
    Welcome to Korea
    Change of Command
    Margaret’s Marriage
    Fade In, Fade Out
    Goodbye Radar 1&2
    GFA

    List 2 was longer and included every episode that I considered “important” such as really good episodes, memorable episodes, big events happening, etc. I won’t post the whole thing here but this is the one I recommended to him if he wasn’t going to do the whole series, and was something like 80 episodes long.

    List 3 was way long and was basically just cutting out crappy, boring, or filler episodes, mainly from the last 3-4 seasons. This list was probably over 200 episodes long.

    He ended up deciding to watch the whole thing from the start, but I believe has only made it to the middle of season 2 so far. He enjoys it, but just isn’t as into it as people who grew up with it

  • BeccaLeo1972 says:

    I like to start a show in its first season to get a feel for the ground work that became the following years. Season 1 of Mash is essential to understand where it all came from with comedy/touches of drama and the characters. I’d recommend Season 1 then encourage select episodes of the following years if they really did not want to view entire seasons after the first.

  • dhla says:

    Season 2. The first episode is essentially a second pilot. You still get 3 of the 4 Gelbart seasons, without the uneven episodes of the first season.

  • Ferret Face says:

    If someone told me that they, for whatever reason, only wanted to watch one season of the show, I’d probably go with season 4. That season, and seasons 7 and 9 are my favorites of the series. Seasons 7 and 9 have the benefit of having Charles, my favorite character. On the other hand, I do think that seasons 7 and 9 have a handful of episodes that are weaker than most season 4 episodes.

    If someone told me they wanted to get into the whole series, but wasn’t sure where to start, I’d first recommend season 1, for the reasons other have said. I would caution them that, while I think it’s a very good season as a whole, it was still finding its voice, and may not be the best representation of the series as a whole. I’d also offer a list of what I felt were the better episodes of the series (including certain adding an asterisk to those episodes I felt were absolutely must-watch episodes, in case they weren’t as into the other episodes as I’d hope they’d be).

    However, if they’re a bit put off by the idea of watching a season where it’s still trying to find its voice, and were hoping to get a better grip on the series as a whole… My initial thought would probably be season 4, because that season has such a great mixture of comedy and drama, and has quite a few really good experimental episodes IMO. Not to mention the fact that I think “Welcome to Korea” could make a pretty good faux-pilot episode in a way. However, I’d probably dismiss the idea pretty quickly, for the simple reason that things like the Henry Blake Memorial bar would ruin the impact of Henry’s death when they went back and watched that episode (though that would be a moot point if they told me they already knew about it, in which case I’d definitely recommend that season). So I’d probably go with either season 2 or 3. Both have some pretty classic episodes, which really sell the sharp writing of the series IMO.

  • BDOR says:

    Probably Season 3, because that’s when I consider the show to finally be hitting its stride and finding its voice: after a couple of struggling seasons, Season 3 is when the show solidified in terms of the writing and its characters, and is what I consider the first “great” season of the show, so yeah, I’d probably recommend that one.

  • Larry P. says:

    If the hope was that they’d watch a strong season of M*A*S*H and then continue on, I’d start them with the second season. Starts off with basically another pilot, but with the benefit of having the “first season kinks” already worked out. Not that I don’t love season one, I have several favorite episodes in that year, but I consider season two to be the start of M*A*S*H’s stride.

    However, if they were dead-set on watching one season and one season ONLY, that’s quite a bit tougher. I’d say either season three or season four; I consider those two years to be the zenith of M*A*S*H’s entire run. But picking just one to show somebody? I think I’d have to give the edge to the fourth season; those first two episodes certainly make references to previous characters/events, but they still somehow work as introductory episodes – it’s like you’re meeting everyone along with BJ and Potter.

    So, season two or season four are my picks, depending on the exact scenario.

  • UglyJohn says:

    Season 2. By then the cast was in the zone and the show had mellowed just a little bit from sophomoric campus humor into something more interesting.

  • Lounge Lizard At War says:

    Season 2. Some of the best episodes in my opinion. First seasons are a great reference point but as stated earlier, they are generally uneven. By the second and third seasons the characters have fleshed out and the writing is more fluid and defined. If you can hook them with a good season they will continue watching and go back on their own. Seasons 2 and 3 had some of the best dialogue and one-liners.

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