Rewatching M*A*S*H

A friend said he’d recently rewatched all of M*A*S*H, including the two spinoffs–AfterMASH and W*A*L*T*E*R. For some reason, that intrigued me, so I decided to do the same. So far, I’m 2.5 episodes in, so it’ll be a while.

Overall, the show still holds up quite well, once you adjust your head back to the 70s mindset. The laughtrack is annoying, but I quickly rediscovered the knack out to tune it out.

The video quality on Paramount+, where the show is now available for streaming, is amazingly good. I strongly suspect digital shenanigans to clean up the images.

The video quality is so good it’s downright distracting watching it on the 55-inch TV in the living room. Instead, it’s better enjoyed on my iPad, to re-create the experience of watching it on a 1970s TV.

Another way you have to adjust your brain is for the behavior of the doctors toward women. Their 1970s’ charming behavior looks like today’s sexual harassment.

Also, race: There’s a Black doctor in the pilot episode–to my knowledge he never reappears–nicknamed “Spearchucker.” At least in the books, the gag is that the character is both a brilliant surgeon AND a former star college football player, so clearly the name is intended to ridicule racism, rather than embrace it. Still, it does not go over well today, and the character does not put in another appearance in the series that I can recall, though he’s mentioned at least once.

I feel like talking about gender, race, and video quality are not very interesting, but that’s all I have to say at the moment.

I recall stopping watching the show a couple of years after Frank Burns and other original stars left and were replaced, and the show began to get critical acclaim. I felt like it had gotten holier-than-thou.

Also, I remember the generation younger than mine did not care for the show. They said the characters talked about how war is hell, but they always seemed to be having a great time, like summer camp for grownups. That criticism has a lot of merit. I remember one episode even had a singalong.

Al Bundy as a coke dealer, and other appearances of then-famous and before-they-were-famous actors on “Miami Vice.”

“Miami Vice” guests included Julia Roberts and Chris Rock; babyface Ben Stiller playing a small-time conman, Fast Eddie Felcher; and Steve Buscemi already fully formed as Steve Buscemi. And musicians took acting turns too, including Little Richard, Leonard Cohen, Phil Collins, James Brown, Miles Davis, Gene Simmons (even more grotesque not wearing the makeup than wearing it) and Frank Zappa.

Thread

Today I learned that “HIll Street Blues” star Daniel J. Travanti appeared in an episode of “Lost in Space.”

Here’s Travanti in costume on “Lost in Space:”

And Travanti’s “Hll Street” co-star, Veronica Hamel, was a model in the last cigarette commercial that aired on TV in the US, for Virginia Slims, in 1971.

Here’s the commercial.

There’s so much going on in that commercial, and so much of it is wrong, and it’s wonderful. Veronica Hamel is dressed in full hippie regalia and she’s smoking. Literally and figuratively.

The underappreciated genius of â€śJustified”

Lisa Levy at Crimereads.com appreciates the brilliant TV series “Justified” is a hillbilly/hip-hop/21st Century Western that wanders all over the place but always comes back to the central conflict between lawman Raylan Givens and criminal Boyd Crowder.

The credits music of the show fuses gangsta hip-hop and bluegrass, and that’s the esthetic of the show too. Boyd and Raylan don’t rap “but they are subject to the hyperbole of hip-hop battles where rappers try to best each other with words,” says Levy. The dialogue on this show is sharper than the gunfights.

Justified is

a convoluted and absorbing story of cops and robbers, or more specifically, of US Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (played with an aw-shucks charm by the preternaturally handsome Timothy Olyphant) returning to work in the eastern district of Kentucky, which includes his hometown in Harlan County. The show successfully traffics in Western tropes: time and again the outlaws go up against the lawman, a morally ambiguous character who enjoys his work a little too much. Justified is deeply rooted in Harlan, the coal-driven and decimated section of Kentucky, which is itself a symbol of a disappearing way of life: the hardscrabble work of coal mining. Much is made of the fact that Raylan dug coal before joining the marshal service, as going down in the mine is a rite of passage in Harlan. We are also often reminded that Raylan and the men he’s trying to catch, chief among them Boyd Crowder (a sensational Walton Goggins), dug coal together. Going down into the mines together in Justified is like massaging blubber side-by-side on the Pequod in Moby-Dick: it’s more than just work, it’s a way of life.

The show is as much about Harlan County as about any individual character, about the decline of mining and the rise of criminal activity in its place — though the county was always somewhat lawless.

Justified is based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, and it retains some of the best aspects of Leonard’s crime writing: vivid storytelling, likable and sympathetic characters, and, most distinctively, a dry and pronounced sense of humor that permeates even the show’s considerable violence…..

Raylan Givens is an old-school gunslinging lawman who literally wears a white cowboy hat. He enjoys his work too much, particularly shooting people.

And the women of the show are as smart and deadly as the men.

Time for a re-watch!