M*A*S*H Season Ten: Collector's Edition

For those not already familiar with the good old 4077th, its seasons with single digits are always the best places to start any new tour of duty. Few will be disappointed by this set.

M*A*S*H Season Ten: Collector's Edition

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, Harry Morgan, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr
Length: 561
MPAA rating: N/A
UK Release Date: 2006-04-17
US Release Date: 2006-05-23

M*A*S*H was notable, and sometimes criticized, for the way it daringly balanced sitcom jokes with serious wartime issues. Its setting was the Korean War; even though the program's political criticism was always a thinly disguised attack on the fresher-in-the-memory Vietnam War. This season 10, three-DVD set finds the program toward the end of its esteemed run. And while the earlier cast, which prominently featured McLean Stevenson and Larry Linville, was much funnier, the veteran TV show still had plenty of strong humor -- right up to the end.

One feels a little guilty, now, for ever finding fault with the series, especially with the conspicuous absence of quality programming on network television these days. In retrospect, M*A*S*H's only true competition at the time was with itself, and it merely started to lose steam after a while. Shows like Seinfeld, which came along after the demise of M*A*S*H, no doubt advanced the sitcom formula; but no other comedy has come close to the social relevance this program beautifully exhibited. To call it unique is a severe understatement.

A sitcom's number one goal is always to get laughs, and M*A*S*H consistently accomplished this primary task. But it also had the nerve to mix witty dialogue into gritty dilemmas, too. One of these episodes, "Identity Crisis", finds the character Father Mulcahy in the uncomfortable position of counseling a soldier who has swapped dog tags with a friend killed in battle. He ultimately convinces the boy that such a ploy to get sent home early is morally wrong. Everybody in the unit kids Mulcahy about his spiritual calling, but this episode proves that God, or at least, the Director, made a good choice with this fine man.

The key characters in this program are Hawkeye, and pretty much anybody else he interacts with. In most cases, these encounters involve his dear and trusted "Swamp" mate, B.J. Hunnicutt. These two men are on the same moral wavelength most of the time. But an episode titled "Picture This" imagines what it might be like if this close friendship became strained. Hawkeye and Hunnicutt are at their funniest whenever they're given a dupe to spar with.

This 10th season also prominently showcases the third Swamp resident, Charles Winchester, who is a prime target for Hawkeye and Hunnicutt's barbs. In many instances, this prideful windbag must be humbled, as happens during "That's Showbiz". Within this story, he's forced to admit that an accordion-playing traveling musician is actually quite talented. But he humbles himself only after he hears her play a "more legitimate instrument and style"; a classical piano.

Along the way, there are also inventive television moments that just make your jaw drop, at times. One of these stunners is "Follies of the Living – Concerns of the Dead", where a soldier dies in the unit, yet remains visual to the viewer as a commentator on the goings-on. An equally sobering episode, "Pressure Points", is built around Col. Potter. In it, this talented surgeon is convinced his skills have dangerously diminished, and he wonders if it's time to hang up the old scalpel.

M*A*S*H also separated itself from the usual sitcom pack by being filmed on location, rather than inside a comparably stale studio. This gave it a distinctive, cinematic look. With this DVD release of the program, one has the option to watch with or without a laugh track. As funny as this series was, with or without the laugh track, it was impossible for any lone episode to remain entirely humorous from start to finish. After all, the setting is during the Korean war. Nevertheless, some of these lighter moments are priceless, such as the episode where the crew beats a bunch of visiting Marines at bowling. There is another instance where Hawkeye is asked to distribute duty pay to the unit, only to have these dollar bills eaten by a goat Corporal Clinger foolishly adopts.

Shamefully, there are no bonus features included with the package. It's criminal to give a re-release the teasing title of "Collector's Edition" yet not also include perks to make it worth collecting, such as interviews with the actors, writers, or producers. Fortunately, the quality level is so high you can almost forgive Fox for such exclusions.

Unlike Hogan's Heroes, which unbelievably made light of WW II P.O.W. camps, M*A*S*H succeeded at the high wire act of finding humor in this oftentimes dire military conflict. War is hell, it's true, but good people -- even some funny people -- fight these hellish battles. Season number 10 is not the suggested starting point for those newly exploring M*A*S*H, or even for those who desire to re-live it again. But any M*A*S*H is better than most other television comedy programs.

M*A*S*H Season Ten: Collector's Edition - Under Arrest


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.