The perfect comic relief, the perfect holiday gift!
's ninth season, tears flow almost as freely as the blood and laughter, affording the decorated ensemble (Alan Alda, Harry Morgan. Loretta Swit, and David Ogden Stiers were all nominated for Emmys) ample dramatic license. Margaret (Swit) cries while reflecting on a patient to whom she became emotionally attached in "Letters." B.J. (Mike Farrell) tears up when Hawkeye (Alda) and company surprise him with a wedding-anniversary home movie of his wife in "Oh, How We Danced." And Winchester (Stiers) reveals that he's "human like the rest of us" in three of his finest half-hours (each was nominated for an Emmy). In "The Life You Save," he becomes obsessed with death after discovering a sniper's bullet grazed his head. In the moving Christmas episode, "Death Takes a Holiday," he struggles to uphold a family tradition of making an anonymous charitable gesture. In "No Laughing Matter," he is reunited with the colonel who exiled him to the 4077th, but will groveling and brass-kissing get him reassigned to Tokyo?
In its early years, M*A*S*H primarily prescribed laughter, with measured doses of sensitivity and compassion, to combat the tragedies and absurdities of war. By the ninth season, the good doctors of the 4077th were no longer content to be cut-ups, and this television institution began to overdose on self-righteousness. In the episode "Depressing News," Hawkeye builds a "monument" out of 500,000 tongue depressors mistakenly delivered to the camp. "We wouldn't have this supply if they didn't think there'd be a demand," he laments. "My God, hasn't this elimination tournament gone on long enough?" When, after much fanfare, he destroys his creation for the benefit of a confused Stars and Stripes reporter, he spells it out: "Senseless destruction; get the picture?" While there are no groundbreaking episodes on the order of "Point of View" (from season 7), season 9 finds cast and crew working at peak efficiency. --Donald Liebenson