Monday, May 18, 2015
Couchbound/Continued #369 - M*A*S*H: Season 1, Episode 23, "For Auld Lang Syne."
Running eleven years, much longer than the war that inspired the novel that inspired the movie that inspired the television series, MASH is probably one of the best examples of the sitcom that most telephiles remember fondly to this day. It can also be infuriatingly dull and predictable. We forgive that though, thanks to the suave charm of Alan Alda's Hawkeye and how comically easy it is to hate perpetual heel Frank Burns (at least in those early seasons).
This particular episode is doomed from the start. Everyone and their mother knows that the rumored ceasefire is a wash, if for no other reason than there's more show to be had. There are moments of overly-saccharine honesty from pretty much everyone... and even a lot of prevarication... but overall it just feels like a filler episode because there is no possible way that Trapper is wrong and the whole thing is a wash.
It just feels anticlimactic to watch Hawkeye run through his string of nurses, giving each the brush-off (or vice versa) like the womanizing cad he is, claiming to be married when he's anything but so as to remain single... and it's really rather boring to see Frank and Hoolihan commiserate over his very real marriage and the fact that they would necessarily be over.
Honestly, there isn't a tender moment for any of them... except, maybe, for a brief second between Radar and Henry. While they never really play it up too much in the rest of the show, having Radar being more the overly competent and underappreciated aide-de-camp than anything else, in this one scene over his going away scrapbook, Gary Burghoff emotes a softness that is really rather heartbreaking, especially when Blake quickly backs off the whole father/son angle when he realizes how series Radar takes the bond.
And that's the paradox of MASH, I think. There are these wonderfully heartbreaking moments peppered through the series that keep you coming back despite the rote writing and lack of proper character arc. There are tiny messages of humanity sprinkled throughout the series. Often enough, they come through in the artsy episodes, but every once in a while, one of the 9-to-5 jobbers like this one can really kick you in the gut. Making fun of Burns and Hotlips and watching Hawkeye crash and burn is a dime-a-dozen affair, but Radar and Henry having a moment? Kinda priceless.
Until later, Potatoes~