Wednesday, November 29, 2017

M*A*S*H Goes To Hollywood

I generally haven't bothered reviewing the M*A*S*H novels on this site, because aside from the characters, they really don't have anything to do with the show. If anything, original M*A*S*H author Richard Hooker (aka Richard Hornberger) went out of his way to disparage the show whenever he could (though I'm sure he still cashed the checks).

Anyway, my longtime pal (and new Swamp RatChris Franklin recently gifted me a copy of M*A*S*H Goes To Hollywood when he saw it at an antique store. So I thought I should at least give it a read. Hollywood is the 11th book in the series, "co-written" by Hooker and William Butterworth. I put that in quotes because supposedly after M*A*S*H Goes To Maine (1972), Hooker/Hornberger had no involvement in these books at all. In fact, it's most likely that the series wouldn't have continued at all if not for the TV series, which of course turned the M*A*S*H name into a valuable property.

I'm giving all this back story because, the short of it, I didn't enjoy this book at all. As a diehard M*A*S*H fan, I have a basic curiosity over the fact that I am reading characters called Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Hot Lips, like I've stumbled into an alternate universe. But Hollywood isn't remotely funny, and worse yet, it's smug and believes itself to be hilarious (there's a character called "Don Rhotten", har dee har har), making it painful to get through.

I've often said that even though I fully acknowledge that Robert Altman's M*A*S*H film is brilliant, I find a little unpleasant to watch because I think the characters are so sour and mean, especially compared to the TV versions. The book's characters have even less warmth than the movie ones, so for me there was nothing to, er, hook into. It was basically just a bunch of unfunny jokes for 200 pages, and then it stops.

Still, I appreciate Chris's generosity, and I was happy to have experienced the book for its own sake. Apparently the last M*A*S*H book, 1977's M*A*S*H Mania, ignores all the previous Butterworth books and presents the characters have grown into middle age, which sounds at least a little more interesting than what's on display here.

One last thing: on the book's back cover, the show is explicitly plugged, going so far as to list the then-cast of the show, despite the fact that most of them do not appear in this book.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Run Till You Fall

A little while ago, I heard about a TV movie from 1988 called Run Till You Fall, starring Jamie Farr. By itself that's not that remarkable--there were a billion TV movies in the 70s and 80s--until you learn that it was directed by none other than Mike Farrell, making this a mini-M*A*S*H reunion!

RTYF is Farrell's sole non-M*A*S*H directing credit, and I haven't been able to learn anything about it other than a one-sentence plot summary ("A small town private eye tries to win back his estranged wife and their young disabled son"). Unlike a lot of TV movies from the time, it's not available on YouTube, though you can watch a fifteen-minute chunk of it there.

Along with Farr, the cast includes Fred Savage, Shelley Fabares (Mrs. Mike Farrell), CCH Pounder, and Clyde Kusatsu, who appeared in four episodes of M*A*S*H--including the classic "The Joker is Wild", where he played an old Army buddy of...B.J. Hunnicutt!

If anyone can help me track down this movie, it would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

M*A*S*H at 45

To celebrate M*A*S*H's 45th anniversary, I welcomed film critic Zaki Hasan onto an episode of our FW Presents podcast to talk about our love of the show. Give it a listen!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Struggle is Real

And yet another reason why M*A*S*H needs to be on streaming!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

USS Enterprise NCC-4077

In 1991, David Ogden Stiers made a guest appearance on "Half A Life", a season 4 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched TNG when it originally aired, and I remembered being delighted to see Maj. Winchester again!

What I didn't know was that there was an Easter egg buried in the show, as a nod to Mr. Stiers' former TV gig. Look closely on one of the control panels in Engineering, and you'll see a familiar set of numbers:

I never knew about this gag until it was mentioned on the great Mission Log podcast, an episode-by-episode look at Star Trek in all its forms. Nice job, ST: TNG art department!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

William Christopher, 1932-2016

Dear Bill,

I hope you don't mind me calling you Bill, considering that we've never met. But every time I saw someone on the show refer to you, it was as "Bill", not "William." Plus, you seem just so darn friendly that I didn't think you'd mind.

I've never been a believer, of any stripe, but if I had been stationed at the 4077th, I think I would have sought Father Mulcahy out--just to "kick it around", as he liked to say. Father Mulcahy was always so wise, so warm, so understanding, that even though we didn't share any of the same beliefs, you infused the character with such a basic humanity that I never thought you would judge me, no matter how much I might screw up.

You were asked once what M*A*S*H was about, and you cheekily said: "It's about a chaplain in Korea." And while that wasn't strictly true, your presence on the show always offered a stark contrast to the other characters, and the show would have been severely diminished without your presence. And when Father Mulcahy got a big moment--like in "The Interview", "Mulcahy's War", "Dear Sis", or "A Holy Mess"--you knocked it out of the park. In those moments, the show was about a chaplain in Korea!

I grew up on M*A*S*H, and it was an enormous influence on the person I am today. Decades later, I'm still miffed that AfterM*A*S*H--which I watched, er, religiously--was cancelled so unceremoniously, and your character never got a proper goodbye. I like to think Father Mulcahy kept hanging out with his 4077th pals, and continued making life better for anyone who came to him for help. Like the character you so brilliantly played for over a decade, you brought a lot of joy into people's lives.

Rest in peace, William--Bill--Christopher.

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