Discuss: Watching M*A*S*H in Order


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 is: Watching M*A*S*H in order.

Season 1, Season 2, Season 3…

For a few months now, I’ve been considering rewatching M*A*S*H in original broadcast order, starting with the series premiere and ending with the series finale. When I finished writing my Episode Spotlight reviews, I decided to take a break from the show. After nearly five years watching and reviewing at least one episode a week, I was a little sick of M*A*S*H. Writing those reviews had become a chore, something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. It felt like work and watching television should never feel like work.

I’ve never watched M*A*S*H from start to finish before. When I first began watching the show on cable channel FX in the late 1990s, I watched whichever episodes were on TV. I have watched individual seasons in order.

But is there a good reason to watch M*A*S*H in order rather than picking and chose which episodes to watch?

With very few exceptions, like the two-part episodes and the handful of “sequel” episodes, there are no connections between episodes of M*A*S*H. Every episode is self-contained. For the most part, that means you can watch any episode of M*A*S*H from any season and not have to worry about being confused because you missed an earlier episode.

What you will see if you watch M*A*S*H in order is how the show and the characters changed over time. M*A*S*H is at its most sitcom-y during the first three seasons. By the last few seasons, episodes are more dramatic. The earlier seasons feature more music and more extras in the background. You’ll also notice the cast aging. Notably, Alan Alda’s hair gets grayer and grayer with the passage of time.

One reason I’m leaning toward starting at the beginning is the simple fact that I won’t have to think about which episode to watch next. I won’t have to pick an episode at random or decide whether I feel like watching an episode from the early years or the middle years or the later years. I’ll watch the next episode and the next episode and the next episode until I’ve watched them all.

Have you watched all 251 episodes in original broadcast order, either on DVD or streaming? Or do you prefer to watch specific episodes or random episodes or whichever episodes are on cable?

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

5 Replies to “Discuss: Watching M*A*S*H in Order”

  1. I’m doing this currently. Never done it before. On season two now. Watching the characters grow will be interesting!

  2. I first started watching MASH on TV so it just feels more natural to watch the episodes in order.

    When I first got my DVD Box set in 2017, I watched each episode from start to finish in order.

    Recently, I’ve also watched seasons 1 to 5 in order on DVD, and watching season 6 on TV. Season 3 is so great – one great/meaningful episode after another.

    Sure, there are scenes or episodes that aren’t the strongest so I may skip them.

    However, as there are 251 episodes in total, there are times I forget certain episodes and I’ll watch them to remind myself.

    There are some stand out classic episodes (‘Movie Time’ and ‘Bulletin Board’ comes to mind) that are so much fun and I’ll watch them specifically.

  3. Every 3-5 years I’ll get that M*A*S*H itch and then go through the entire series again. When I do, it’s always in broadcast order.

    It always ends up bringing out the same feelings each time too, and it’s really kind of interesting. The first three seasons are just so great to watch. Season 4 as great as a season as it is, is always just completed marred for me because of the lack of Henry and Trapper. Maybe that impact would be a bit lessened if I took a decent break in between 3 and 4, but but going through it all straight, it’s really tough.

    By season 5, I’ve gotten used to BJ and Potter again, and while I still miss Trapper and Henry, the show is less tainted, but then season 5 what they do with Frank is just so terrible, that it kind it’s a dark stain on the season. Season 5 also starts the slow absence of Radar as Gary Burghoff started missing more and more episodes.

    Then in Season 6 more change, but this one at least is less impactful then previously because Frank had turned so terrible in Season 5, and Winchester is so awesome. Season 6 is also great. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long because Season 7 starts the decline in quality, and then Season 8 onwards is just so terrible.

    Watching the show in broadcast order in a short period of time (~1-2 months) really makes the decline in quality and change in tone stand out. I’m really just considering never going past season 7 on future watches, and just thinking of “The Party” as the series finale.

    1. I agree with everything you said. The first three seasons are television gold! The writing and the ensemble of actors is fantastic. Episodes like “Big Mac” and “Trial of Henry Blake” are unbelieveable. I didn’t like the addition of BJ and even worse Winchester, that is when the decline started. I mostly stick to the first three seasons unless i”m watching a mash marathon on tv.

  4. Since M*A*S*H has never been big on cohesion, I have seen little specific benefit to viewing any particular season of the series in any specific order. The seasons should, in my opinion, be viewed in their given order (particularly because of the many cast changes) but, for the most part, there is no stream of continuity that precludes a specific order.

    Exceptions, of course, do exist for specific storylines. In particular, the departure of Radar should, of course, be shown before Period of Adjustment. Also, the introduction of new characters (Potter, Hunnicutt, Winchester) should be viewed at the beginning of their respective seasons.

    Having said this, the writers have had only the most tenuous view of continuity and order has little (if any) impact on the enjoyment of the series.

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