MASH [1970]

Genre: Comedy, War, Drama
Unlike the good doctors of the 4077 (otherwise known as "this hellhole" and "sewer"), M*A*S*H shows little signs of fatigue in its eighth season. Familiar characters reveal new sides of themselves and the series itself performs some radical surgery on sitcom convention. The most pivotal personnel change is the departure of Gary Burghoff, the only ensemble member to have appeared in the original film, as Radar. His splendid two-part send-off sets the stage for one of the season's best episodes, the Emmy-nominated "Period of Adjustment," in which Klinger (Jamie Farr) must begin to make the role of company clerk his own, and family man B.J. Honeycutt (Mike Farrell) is devastated when a letter from home relates how his baby daughter called a visiting Radar "Daddy." Pompous Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) gets his "Of course I care" episode when he tends to a classical pianist who has lost the use of his hands in "Morale Victory." Harry Morgan, as Colonel Henry Potter, was honored with an Emmy, most likely for the emotional episode "Old Soldiers," in which he receives word that the last of his World War I band of brothers has passed on. Loretta Switt was also saluted by the Academy for her work this season. Among her best episodes is "Are You Now, Margaret?" in which she is accused of being a communist sympathizer. Two episodes truly distinguish themselves: "Life Time," which unfolds in real time as the doctors race against the clock to perform an emergency procedure that requires a graft from a dying soldier; and "Dreams," writer-director Alan Alda's Emmy-nominated, love-it-or-hate it episode that visits the nightmares of the sleep-deprived doctors. M*A*S*H continues to walk the scalpel's edge between hilarious comedy ("Too Many Cooks," "April Fools") and powerful drama ("Heal Thyself, in which a visiting doctor suddenly suffers a break down, and "Guerilla My Dreams," which climaxes with a tense standoff between the doctors, who have saved the life of a wounded female Korean guerilla, and the North Korean officer hellbent on executing her. As with past M*A*S*H sets, viewers have the preferred option of viewing the episodes without the intrusive laugh track. But we're putting whoever's in command on report for yet again not managing to stitch together any kind of cast commentary, interviews, or archival goodies. --Donald Liebenson

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