The Fox and Hulu deal promised viewers that all 11 seasons of M*A*S*H would be available to stream on Hulu. One year later, the seminal sitcom classic is available for a new generation to discover. In this golden age of TV, do you really need another show to watch, though? If that show’s M*A*S*H, then you most certainly do. Set in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, the comedy is daring in its depiction of the horrors of war. But it’s just as astute at capturing the day-to-day lives of a group of doctors, nurses, and Army personnel with a whole lot of time on their hands.
Alan Alda’s Hawkeye remains one of the greatest TV leads of all-time. He is at once a patient and a caring doctor, a wise-cracking womanizer, and a man who becomes increasingly war-weary. The promise of his performance alone should be enough to make you sign up for a 256-episode marathon. Just in case it’s not though, here are six more reasons why you should be excited about M*A*S*H streaming on Hulu.
1. It Paved the Way For Comedies Without Laugh Tracks
The Office, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — it’s hard to imagine these shows existing without M*A*S*H. While the show features a laugh-track, series creator Larry Gelbart convinced CBS to omit the canned laughter from scenes set in the operating room. By doing so, the doctors and nurses could crack jokes during the high-stress surgery scenes, while still maintaining the gravity of the situation.
2. The Social Commentary Is Still Relevant
Yes, it premiered in the ’70s, but M*A*S*H‘s social commentary still feels relevant today. The series tackled issues as diverse as war-time deaths, mental health, unstable working conditions, and women fighting for respect in a male-dominated field. Admittedly, some of the later episodes are too focused on making a point, but at its best, M*A*S*H is a show with a message about the cost of war.
3. It’s Hilarious
M*A*S*H is praised for expertly mixing drama and comedy together. However, the fact that it remains one of TV’s funniest comedies should not be overlooked. From Klinger’s cross-dressing Section 8 antics to Radar’s uncanny ability to anticipate his commanders’ needs, M*A*S*H is full of eccentric characters and enduring one-liners.
4. The Very Special Episodes
Each season, M*A*S*H delivered at least one episode that played with the show’s standard mix of camp shenanigans and medical cases. These half-hours dare to challenge viewers’ expectations. In one instance, an episode is told from the point-of-view of a soldier with a throat injury. Another outing delves into the dreams and nightmares of the sleeping doctors and nurses. This level of experimentation was still new for television at the time, and the episodes it produced are definitely a must-see for TV fans.
5. The Cast
Alda’s Hawkeye is the series’ heart and soul, but he is surrounded by an ever-evolving cast of characters played by brilliant actors. In the early years, he has Wayne Rogers’ Trapper John by his side as a comedic partner and pal. Larry Linville’s priggish Major Frank Burns served as his foil. Later, they’re replaced by family man B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) and the high society surgeon Major Winchester, played by David Ogden Stiers. Another standout is the show’s female lead, Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. Depending on the occasion, she could be a fierce leader or a true romantic. And she’s always just as bitingly funny as her male co-workers.
6. The Finale
M*A*S*H‘s series finale is the most watched in the history of television. Given how fragmented viewership is these days, it’s likely to retain that crown forever. The two-and-a-half hour send-off is a heartbreaking, bittersweet farewell that is best experienced after you’ve spent 11 seasons with Hawkeye, Margaret, Radar, and the rest of the gang.
There’s no denying marathoning M*A*S*H is a major commitment, but it is also an essential one for TV fans and comedy junkies of all ages.
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