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M*A*S*H (TV Milestones)

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This book, published in the TV Milestones series is one of the few published scholarly studies about the M*A*S*H television phenomenon. The author, David Scott Diffrient is Assistant Professor of film and media studies at Colorado State University. In researching for this book, he watched every episode of M*A*S*H and also had access to Arts Library Special Collections at the UCLA which includes personal papers of Larry Gelbart, Burt Metcalfe and Gene Reynolds. He also had access to the UCLA's Film and Television Archives which includes recordings of many otherwise unavailable episodes of AfterMASH.

Diffrient studies both the context of M*A*S*H as well as the development of the show itself. He looks at the television series' ancestor, the innovative 1970 MASH film and then at the early creative decisions about what kind of show M*A*S*H was going to be. He then devotes several chapters to showing how M*A*S*H succeeded succeeded in transcending the normal TV sitcom genre, with innovative narrative strategies (like the "letter home" style) as well as the serious treatment of contemporary social themes such as gender inequality, racism and marital infidelity. In a chapter entitled "Another Day in the ROK", he studies how M*A*S*H's "somewhat problematic" depiction of the Korean people, their country and culture contributed to the cultural stereotypes Americans hold of the Koreans.

He concludes with a brief chapter looking at AfterMASH, which in his opinion, is an underrated series which is today only remembered as "one of the worst spin-offs in TV history." In fact, AfterMASH carried on where M*A*S*H left off, and covered serious social issues, especially the difficulties faced by Asian war brides as they tried to adapt and assimilate into American culture. Here the main character is Soon Lee, Klinger's Korean wife played by Rosalind Chao.

While Diffrient makes many interesting points, he does make some serious errors in his references to M*A*S*H episodes and characters which show that he is not familiar with the series. One of the most striking errors was when he considers M*A*S*H's treatment of racism and in the episode L.I.P where he says that the "attractive yet bigoted American nurse" is Ginger Bayliss! What he really meant was Regina Hoffman. What is puzzling is that these errors occured in 2008, when a few keystrokes would have brought the correct answers on the internet. These incorrect references, while jarring, do not, however undermine the points he makes,and the book is still a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the impact of M*A*S*H on American culture.

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