Author Topic: 50 years ago today  (Read 978 times)

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Offline Oliver Clotheshoffe

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50 years ago today
« on: September 17, 2022, 08:15:52 PM »

On Sept. 17, 1972, the TV series “M*A*S*H” premiered, and it’s not much of a stretch to assert that it changed the course of television.

Yes, there’s been a very good movie of the same name two years earlier, but many more people saw the TV series “M*A*S*H.”

Mixing comedy with drama, the show told the stories of men and women serving during the Korean War, providing a way to process the trauma and toll that the Vietnam War, which was still being fought when the show premiered, had on the country. Often aiming to counter bigotry and promote equality in its storylines, the show does have occasions where it used what would be seen today as racist or sexist stereotypes and language.

Today, “M*A*S*H” also feels both like ancient history and entirely current, but for different reasons.

On the one hand, in an era that’s saturated with pop-culture nostalgia yet rarely looks back further than “The Sopranos” or maybe “Seinfeld,” “M*A*S*H” is often AWOL from discussions of TV history. Sure, we know it as a title and a statistic: The 106 million viewers for its 1983 finale is a number unlikely to be equaled by any TV show not involving a kickoff. But it also gets lost in the distant pre-cable mists, treated as a relic of a time with a bygone mass-market TV audience and different (sometimes cringeworthy) social attitudes.

Yet rewatched from 50 years’ distance, “M*A*S*H” is in some ways the most contemporary of its contemporaries. Its blend of madcap comedy and pitch-dark drama — the laughs amplifying the serious stakes, and vice versa — is recognizable in today’s dramedies, from “Better Things” to “Barry,” that work in the DMZ between laughter and sadness.

For 11 seasons, “M*A*S*H” held down that territory, proving that funny is not the opposite of serious.
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