Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Worth 1,000 Words: Hot Lips’ dream sequence from ‘M*A*S*H’


By Steve Crum
Arguably, THE best series in television history is M*A*S*H. From Sept. 17, 1972-Feb. 28, 1983, its superbly written stories were played out by an ensemble cast par excellence. Set at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in South Korea during the Korean War, stories dealt with the violence and insanity of war as well as military doctors and nurses, saving lives while coping through both zaniness and compassion. No matter how wild and ribald the jokes, these folks truly cared.
Several TV series have tried to duplicate at least portions of the M*A*S*H chemistry with varying success. HOUSE, another doctor series, mostly succeeds. It is definitely from the M*A*S*H mold, though set in current day.
The finale episode of M*A*S*H, aired Feb. 28, 1983, holds the record as the most watched TV episode in U.S. TV history (105.97 million viewers). The TV series was adapted from Robert Altman’s 1979 film of the same title. Frankly, in 1971, when I heard that there would be a TV series based on the classic dark comedy movie, I immediately prejudged it to bomb big time. However, from the first episode I knew this was something special, both entertaining and important to watch. I never missed an episode.
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Can you guess the M*A*S*H episode in the CBS publicity photo at the top of this piece? If you are a true M*A*S*H fan, you should know it immediately. It is one of seven dream sequences depicted in the award winning Dreams episode, aired Feb. 18, 1980, the 22nd episode of the eighth season. Directed and co-written by Alan Alda (shown here portraying Maj. Hawkeye Pierce), the story deals with surreal dreams, actually nightmares, experienced while each cast member tries to sleep between dealing with wounded and dying soldiers. The episode won The Humanitas Prize, and was nominated for a Writers’ Guild of America award in the dramatic category, a first for a comedy series. In this, the Margaret Houlihan dream, Loretta Swit’s Major Houlihan dreams of a wedding that segues into wounded soldiers and her blood-spattered wedding gown.
The CBS caption on the photo’s reverse merely states: SUBJECTS: ALAN ALDA, LORETTA SWIT...PROGRAM: M*A*S*H...ON AIR: MONDAY, AUG. 4, 9:00-9:30, ET. It was obviously promoting the airing of a summer rerun. The date of photo press release is 7/11/80. [from Steve Crum’s showbiz memorabilia collection]
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