M*A*S*H: A party, a disco, and some fooling around

In keeping with my tradition of missing the point entirely, I’m going to focus on an irrelevant aspect of this film, namely its relationship with the TV series.

I knew the TV series was on a lot as a kid. I didn’t watch it much, since it didn’t seem to be terribly interesting, and I still haven’t watched it because I’m lame. But nonetheless it was a pretty successful show. I’ve seen a lot of media with TV/movie crossovers, mostly animated. Usually the TV show comes first, and the movie is either a thicker slice of the same pie (when it doesn’t have episode-to-episode continuity, like Star Trek or Kim Possible) or a prequel/sequel/remix (when the series has continuity, like Firefly or The Vision of Escaflowne). So it’s interesting to see “that movie that that TV series was based on”. The only other example of migration in this direction I can think of is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Buffy movie was awful.

So along these lines, I’m surprised because the film M*A*S*H might as well have been a TV show. It doesn’t have a plot as such. It has a bunch of vignette miniplots. In today’s brutal television world, it could easily have been the first few episodes of a series without too much plot-massaging. It’d have the Frank & Hotlips episode, the Painless episode, the Tokyo golf episode, and the football episode. But I guess you couldn’t put the OT scenes in a TV series in the 70s, and I guess here you get the difference making the film moderately edgy and the series mostly fluff. The clowning around in the movie isn’t just pranksterism: it’s presented fairly convincing as the only escape the hospital staff have from the futility of their work, patching people up to go out and get damaged again. They slip this message in between practical jokes and wacky antics, so this isn’t exactly a “horrors of war” film. But the operating theater scenes are amply squickful and effective.

Addendum: it’s come to my attention that there are more successful TV shows based on moves than I’d realized. For completeness, I note Stargate SG-1, Highlander, and Lilo and Stitch as among the more noteworthy.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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