Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – M*A*S*H Memories

M*A*S*H aired for eleven years between 1972 and 1983. It was a show about war, bravery, absurdity, and kindness. It made audiences laugh one minute and cry the next. M*A*S*H is a show that I grew to love, but not at first. As a adolescent M*A*S*H didn’t appeal to me. The fact that it originated in the 70’s was enough for me to hate it. The only 70’s sitcoms I could stomach were The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. So, whenever M*A*S*H came on (which was all the time in syndication), I’d listen to the theme song and then turn the channel. I had no interest in a war-time medical dramedy.

Late one night around 1994, I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning in bed and out of frustration I got up and turned on my TV. It was after midnight and that meant that as an eleven year old my options were limited on content I would enjoy. I channel surfed through all the stations twice before settling on M*A*S*H in hopes that it would bore me to sleep. That was the night I learned that I was wrong about M*A*S*H.

I expected a boring 70’s TV show but instead found a very funny and touching TV show about a medical unit trying to survive during The Korean War. It was very funny and the characters were fantastic. I was immediately charmed by Hawkeye and found Klinger to be hysterical. I watched two episodes that night, then set my VCR to record as many M*A*S*H episodes that I could find in the TV Guide. My love of M*A*S*H started that sleepless night and continues to this day.

For the next several years, M*A*S*H became a show I watched daily. I bought a copy of the movie and picked up the books. I got my fair share of strange looks while reading M*A*S*H Goes to Maine in the sixth grade, but I didn’t care. M*A*S*H was the show that everybody was missing out on as far as I was concerned. I started participating in M*A*S*H websites and forums around this time and y can even find my name still preserved on the Best Care Anywhere’s M*A*S*H Fans from the United States.

Eleven seasons of M*A*S*H had produced 256 episodes, so it was pretty rare for me to see an episode more than once. Each day brought new adventures with Hawkeye, Klinger, BJ and the gang, but one episode alluded me: the series finale Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen. The internet spoke as if Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen was the greatest episode in television history. It was watched by over 100 million viewers, and still holds a record for ratings and share. I knew from the internet hype, that I needed to see it, but the episodes in syndication aired in thirty minute blocks, so the odds of seeing a two-hour long finale was pretty small. I still had hope thought that one day, I’d get a chance to see how it all ended for the 4077.

That day came in the unlikeliest of places, a campground in Texas. My family did a lot of camping and fishing when I was growing up, and one long weekend my dad decided to change things up. He decided to skip putting together our tent and suffering through the Texas heat, and instead rented a cabin. The cabin was complete with a TV and VCR, so I was in heaven. That was what I called camping!

While checking in, I noticed a small wall of VHS tapes in the clubhouse. You could rent these tapes for a dollar a night, but finding something that wasn’t made for four-year olds was difficult. Being a movie nut, I enjoyed the challenge set before me. I had no problem standing in this lobby and reading every single title until I found something worth renting. As I browsed the titles, a familiar font caught my eye:

There were five or six M*A*S*H tapes, but one of them really stood out… my holy grail.

Finally, after years of waiting, I had found a way to see the finale. I ran over to my dad and begged him for a dollar. A few minutes later, the guy working the desk came and unlocked the cabinet housing the tapes and handed me my prize. I was in heaven and my dad was annoyed. I’m pretty sure he thought I was taking that dollar to buy candy or play an arcade, not rent a movie on our camping trip.

My dad didn’t care about M*A*S*H, so I knew I’d have to wait till everyone went to bed to watch it. That day was one of the longest of my life. I couldn’t wait to watch it. I hiked, fished, and rode around on the boat, but the only thing on my mind was M*A*S*H. Sometime around midnight, I finally got my chance.

Two hours later, I ejected the tape with tears in my eyes and finally understood why everyone loved the finale. It was different, epic, and perfect.

In 2002, the first season of M*A*S*H was released on DVD. Every six months or so after that another season was released. I bought the first four seasons and watched the show in order for the first time. Then life got in the way, I got behind on my DVD collecting, and M*A*S*H became just a fond memory for me.

Five years ago, I purchased the M*A*S*H Martini and Medicine Collection on DVD. I decided to start watching at season five and continue my watch through in order. I got halfway through season seven, when I stopped watching and shortly there after, I lost my job and was forced to sell my collection. Completing my M*A*S*H watch through would have to come at a later date.

In January of 2015, M*A*S*H was finally added to Netflix, unfortunately for me it was only the first five seasons. In July, the rest of the seasons were added and I saw my opportunity to finally complete M*A*S*H. It took several months, but in January of 2016 I sat down and watched Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen for just the second time. It was still as fantastic as the first.

M*A*S*H is a brilliant show and one of my all-time favorites. It took me fourteen years to watch the entire series in order, which was actually longer than it would have taken me to watch it as it aired back during its original run. I felt a little depressed finally completing the show. I’ve been watching M*A*S*H for over twenty years, and I guess its sort of bitter sweet. I’m glad I got to share all the moments with the 4077, but I’m a little bummed there are no more new ones for me to discover. I guess there are always reruns.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Along with Are You Being Served? this show was introduced to me by my Dad watching re-runs when I was a kid. It’s one of those shows that is so good that you can watch any episode from any season and enjoy it with out missing a beat. SCRUBS reminds me a lot of MASH; both medical related shows and both are comedies that transcended the genre with some amazing dramatic episodes.

    I to read all the MASH books, being from Maine reading MASH Goes to Maine was a must.

    I have never watch any episodes of AfterMASH but would be interested if I could find them.

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