Remembering TV Shows of the 70’s: M*A*S*H

When we think back on the shows, movies and books that we liked as kids, very often they don’t hold up terribly well to a second viewing as an adult. Things that were funny or exciting are often much less so to modern eyes. In many cases, the best we can hope for is a pleasant sense of nostalgia, but far too often, we end up cringing and wondering what had appealed to us in the first place. Occasionally, though, we can look back on something we enjoyed and find that it is pretty much as we remembered.

For me, M*A*S*H falls into that latter category.

Not too long ago, my elder son and I sat down and started watching  M*A*S*H. I’m not sure how we decided to watch it, but I know I had mentioned it to him a couple of times and when we found it online (on the now-defunct Shomi), we put on the first episode and then the second, then the third… It quickly became something that we could both enjoy and then discuss with each other.

I am not going to claim M*A*S*H was a prefect show. In fact, I know a number of people who vilify it for two things in particular: the way so many characters are cheating on their spouses back home, and for the character of Oliver Harmon “Spearchucker” Jones.

In terms of the cheating, well, as a kid, I din’t really catch all the implications of that. As an adult, I recognise that these characters were far from home, lonely and afraid, living a pretty hellish existence. I can accept that they would seek comfort with one another much easier than I accept so many characters in modern TV and cinema cheating, primarily out of boredom or dissatisfaction with their lives.

The topic of Spearchucker is a bit trickier. Again, as a kid, I din’t understand the racist overtones of the name. As an adult, I cringe a bit at it, even knowing as I do that he earned the nickname by being proficient as a javelin-thrower (and also football). I see it as a bit of an ironic name, especially given that there is no over racism directed at him within the series. Viewers, however, will point out that he only appeared in 6 episodes and take that as being racially-motivated. Larry Gelbart, who was a writer-producer, stated that the decision to remove him was related to the fact that they couldn’t provide enough substantial material for the number of characters they had, and the fact that they didn’t want to engage in “empty tokenism,” as is was widely believed at the time that there had, in fact, been no black surgeons serving in MASH units in the Korean War. Jones was also not the only recurring character to be dropped from the show.

More troubling to me was the use of certain actors (Mako, Soon Tek Oh) to play multiple characters, as though we might not notice. I’m not sure I’d believe that there was a shortage of Asian actors at the time… Then again, they also famously re-used Harry Morgan, who first appeared as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele before being cast as Col Potter.

There is occasionally some criticism of Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, but her character grew and developed over the series, possibly more than any other. She went from being defined by her affair with Frank Burns to being an integral part of both the show and the MASH unit, as a strong, independent and very capable character.

There are so many great episodes of this show and countless scenes that I can still picture perfectly, decades after seeing them. The show was funny and serious at turns, often giving my young mind a great deal to think about and it often provoked discussion in my home. Was it right for Father Mulcahy to ask God to let one soldier die quickly to save another? Was Hawkeye cowardly for his steadfast refusal to use a gun? Was BJ Hunnicutt a boring stick-in-the-mud, or was he an important moral centre of the show who helped with Hawkeye’s growth as a character?

Something that I miss about TV was growing up is that there were limited channels and only two TVs in the house. We had to come to an agreement on what to watch and then we watched it as a family. As a result, we had a shared experience with these shows and could discuss them as a family. When the final episode of M*A*S*H played, it was a family event. Fortunately, I am now able to have a similar experience with my son as we make our way through the series.

Now I just have to get him to watch the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman….

This Week’s Reads February 22

Some good issues came out this week which I rather enjoyed. I also found myself picking up some older books as well. We seem to be finally moving in on some revelations regarding Rebirth, so the next several weeks should be pretty good.

What I picked up:

  • Detective Comics #951
  • Teen Titans #5
  • Wonder Woman #
  • Action Comics #974
  • Deathstroke: Rebirth
  • Deathstroke #1
  • Justice League of America #1
  • Flash #17
  • Supergirl: Being Super #2

Spoilers Follow

I continue to be somewhat confused by the mission statement of  the Justice League of America. Batman reiterated yet again that this team is meant to “show people we are like them” and let them know that “they can be heroes.” Well, the thing there is that the average person isn’t a super-powered alien like Lobo. They also don’t generally shrink to microscopic levels or possess sonic powers, so I am not sure how Batman intends to show those without powers that they are the same as those with them.

I’m probably going to drop Teen Titans and Flash now. Teen Titans hasn’t really grabbed me with the storyline and I still find Damian Wayne to be more annoying than interesting. The fact that he leads a team of other heroes who seem to be anywhere from 3 to 10 years older than him is more of a stretch than I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for.

Supergirl: Being Super has been a pretty good read, though it doesn’t really feature any super-heroics. It’s more of a look at the life of Kara as she deals with teenaged drama and the loss of a friend. I am actually enjoying it more than I expected to. It’s holding my interest better than the regular Supergirl series did.

Detective Comics let me know how out-of-touch I was with the continuity of New-52, as it involves the League of Shadows, which Batman considers to be a myth… I wasn’t aware that he in this continuity he had no experience with them.  It was good seeing the return of Shiva and I look forward to her interactions with Orphan. I have to say though, that I am not thrilled with Batman of late. We never see Bruce Wayne anymore, so it seems that Batman has no use for that side of his life anymore. Beyond that, I’m not sure what Batman is supposed to be great at anymore.

It used to be that Batman was portrayed as being basically peak-human in most areas, and he was considered “the World’s Greatest Detective.” I’m not sure if that holds up anymore. Batman is very athletic and acrobatic, But Nightwing in a better acrobat. Nightwing is also often considered to be a better, more-charismatic leader. Batman is a great fighter, but Orphan is (by his own admission) better. He’s good with tech (his various toys) but most of them are not really his invention anymore. Batwing is better with tech and both Red Robin and Batgirl are better with computers. His main claim to fame– as a detective– is also questionable, as Red Robin has been implied to either be a better detective, or at least possessing the potential to be greater. As a result, the only thing that Batman now seems to be the best at is brooding and being a jerk.

Action Comics was a fun read, focusing on the mysterious Clark doppleganger taking Lois on a date. This is very much the classic Clark Kent with his blue suit and “gee whiz” expressions. I couldn’t help but think of Christopher Reeve during this issue, at least at the beginning. Things do take a darker turn, however and we discover that this Clark is a bit… off. While I find the stoy interesting, I hope they don’t drag it out oo long, because I really want to know what’s going on.

Wonder Woman, again, is one of my favourites as it continues to alternate issues in the past and the present. This issue, set in the present, sees the return of one of Wonder Woman’s oldest foes, while Diana herself is in a mental-care facility talking to a snake that lives in her arm… Yeah. I love the art and the story is keeping me engaged as we work toward revealing secrets about Diana’s origins and the truth about Themyscira.

Pick of the Week

While technically not from this week, I only just started reading Deathstroke. I was familiar with the character primarily through Teen Titans– both the comic and the cartoon– but I didn’t have extensive knowledge of him.  The story has ample flashbacks, giving some background, but without totally rehashing his origin. It seems to me that it’s a bit of a different take on the character, because I tend to think of him as a villain, while the new series has him as more of an anti-hero. I’m enjoying it so far, but I am not sure how long-time fans of the character feel about it. I’ll be picking up the other issues a few at a time in order to get caught up.

Looking ahead, I’m still hoping for some revelations about the whole Rebirth storyline, but is seems that we will start getting some answers in March.  I think it will be rather difficult to satisfy readers given the status that Watchmen has in the comic community. I am sure that virtually anything they do will be hated by a fairly large segment of the audience.For myself, however, I think I’ll enjoy it. I don’t hold Watchmen up as an example of comic perfection, so I am pretty willing to see the characters used in this storyline.

Whatever happens, I’ll still be reading.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear other views on what I’ve read and anything that I should be reading.

DC Super Sons and This Week’s Reads February 15

This week saw the release of Super Sons from DC, which follows the adventures of Damian Wayne and John Kent, the sons of Batman and Superman. I had been looking forward to it, because I was hoping that it would be a light, fun read.

The titles I picked up this week:

  • Batwoman #1
  • Nightwing #15
  • Aquaman #17
  • Super Sons #1
  • Superman #17
  • Justice League #15
  • Raven #6
  • Trinity #6
  • Batman #17

Spoilers follow

Batwoman

I enjoyed Batwoman enough in her Detective appearances that I decided to give her own title a shot. While the issue is pretty much a recap of her career to date, it doesn’t really go into too much detail as it shows her origin story. It alludes to events that only those who are already familiar with the character might be aware of. Still, it gives new readers enough information to jump on board and i rather like the art. 7/10

Nightwing

I have to say, I am disappointed in Nightwing the character, not the title. I am actually enjoying the current story and am glad that he is back in Blüdhaven, but I am not sure about his decisions as it regards romance. I guess I am living in the past, but I always liked him with Batgirl. Given that they are both headlining their own series, you know it is impossible for them to maintain a relationship, but I was hoping they would find a way. I have nothing against Defacer, but I don’t see her as a great fit for him. Plus, she is a little too free with his secret identity. Overall, I liked the issue, but I think Dick needs to to reconsider his romantic options. 7/10

Aquaman

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Aquaman could be a great title, but it’s also a tricky one. There is so much potential for exploring Atlantis and Arthur’s role as king, but there is also the need to keep him involved with the outside world, which results in both sides of the story getting less attention than they probably should. The current storyline sees Aquaman squaring off against Warhead, a cyborg designed to “control things technopathically” on the battlefield. He’s not what I would expect for an Aquaman foe, but at least he’s a break from Black Manta… 6/10

Super Sons

Super Sons is a title that I have been looking forward to since it was announced. As a kid, I remember reading the adventures of the sons of Superman and Batman. At the time, their kids were shown to been late teens and were basically Superman Jr and Batman Jr, wearing the same outfits as their fathers. Batman Jr was pretty much identical to his dad, as I recall, but Superman Jr had exactly half of his father’s powers; he was half as strong, half as fast and half as invulnerable (bullets hurt him, but not enough to puncture his skin).

This new take on their offspring follows the adventures of Damian Wayne as Robin and Jon Kent as Superboy. The two interact pretty well, and Jon manages to keep Damian from being too annoying. In fact, I don’t think I wished for him to die even once in this issue.

My concern, though, is that the kids are going to make it pretty much impossible (from the standpoint of logic) for Batman and Superman to maintain their secret identities. After all, this issue sees the duo encountering Lex Luthor, whom I imagine will wonder at the similarity of both Clark Kent and Superman having young sons the same age, who look remarkably similar.

Still, this was a decent first issue and I think it could be a fun series going forward. 7/10

Superman

We get another helping of young Jon Kent in this issue, as Jon and his neighbour Kathy have an adventure tracking down Kathy’s grandfather and his missing cow, encountering a stange, shadowy figure along the way. Again, my issue is with the whole secret identity thing, as Kathy is aware of Jon’s abilities and should really have little difficulty figuring out that his dad is Superman. It’s a bit of a throw-away issue, but not a bad one. 6/10

Justice League

I wasn’t going to pick up this week’s Justice League, but decided to give it one or two more issues. I am glad I did, because I think this was my favourite issue of the current run. This new story arc sees the League encountering a new enemy, the Timeless, who want to detonate temporal bombs at key points in history, preventing the rise of metahumans in the DC universe. The Timeless themselves are only moderately interesting, but what catches one’s attention is a young woman that the Timeless are pursuing, one who can remember everything from DC’s history “from the Crisis to the Flashpoint to what’s happening now,” and she doesn’t seem thrilled that things keep changing.

It’s an interesting issue with art that I generally found to be quite good. I especially enjoyed a sequence that found Batman and Superman in the Infinity Corporation Building. While all of the regular humans– including Batman– were staggering about, barely staying on their feet as the building moved though time and space, Superman simply stood there, unaffected. There was not a word of dialogue to reference this. It was purely visual and I thought it was quite clever. 8/10

Raven

The final issue of the miniseries. Not much to say about it. It was ok, but I really don’t get this version of the character. I am more familiar with how she appeared in the cartoon and the comics of the 90’s. This almost feels like a new character. One that doesn’t interest me that much. 5/10

Trinity

Wrapping up the first story arc (actually, I have to admit that I don’t know if this is an ongoing series or a limited one. Huh.), this issue is ok, but nothing special. I enjoy seeing the “big three” working together and building ties of friendship that have been missing since the New 52 began, but I have to say that the series has been losing my interst a bit as it goes along. I’ll stick with it for a bit, but it’s likely to be dropped soon if it doesn’t pick up. 6/10

Batman

Continuing the “I am Bane” storyline, this issue sees Bane laying the foundation for his revenge on Batman, while Alfred undertakes his own mission to help restore the shattered mind of Gotham Girl.

Now that Bane is in Gotham, I’m expecting Batman to go back to finishing every sentence with “break his damn back!”

Another very average issue. 6/10

 

The most pleasant surprise this week was Justice League. I’m glad I picked it up. Coming in at a close number two is Super Sons. Overall, a decent bit of reading this week, but I really wish they’d get around to the main Rebirth storyline. Fortunately, that seems to be coming up shortly.

Comments? Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you below.

Craig

The Santa Clarita Diet

I’d heard about Neflix’s series, The Santa Clarita Diet and was intrigued, but not really enough to watch it. I’ve always liked Drew Barrymore, but that alone wasn’t enough to make me watch. Then about a week ago, I saw one of the ads:


Having seen Hal and Joanne on my TV for so many years, this really made me laugh and was enough for me to try the show, despite already having enough content in my queue that I’ll likely never finish everything. So what did I think? Well…

The first episode almost made me vomit. Really. I’m not normally squeemish, so I am not sure why I reacted the way I did, but something about Drew Barrymore spray-painting an entire bathroom with greenish vomit made my throat tighten more than I would have expected.

By the end of the episode, I really wasn’t sure if I would continue. I had been hoping for a smart, witty dark comedy and wasn’t sure that I was getting it. I was faintly disappointed, but after considering it a bit, I decided I would at least try a second episode,  which then turned into a third.

While I wouldn’t have said that I actively liked it at that point, there was enough there to keep me watching. The teenaged daughter and her potential love interest– both of whom I expected to dislike– were actually fun characters. As each new episode played (and I ended up watching several in a row…) I grew to like it more and more.

Certainly the show wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it turned out to be something better. My initial thought– that it was more weird than funny– was probably related more to the show not meeting my preconceived notion of what it would be, because it is funny, often extremely so. Humour is subjective, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as it progressed, I started to really appreciate the clever dialogue and the way the characters were developing.

There is enough blood and guts in the show that fans of The Walking Dead might feel at home here, but there is quite a bit more. Each episode builds upon what came before, as Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) try to keep their lives from spiraling out of control. There is a subplot that comes in the latter half of the series, involving a potential cure for Sheila’s zombiehood, but the main focus is the attempt of this family to maintain a normal life despite undeath and murder.

While this isn’t a show that everyone can appreciate, I for one am already waiting for Season Two…

 

This Week’s Reads February 8

Continuing with my short reviews of my weekly reads, I’ll give some quick thoughts on this weeks titles. I picked up the following:

  • Flash #16
  • Titans #8
  • Wonder Woman #16
  • Detective #950
  • Action #973
  • Superwoman #7
  • Justice League America Rebirth #1

While I am only giving quick reviews, be aware that some spoilers follow.

Flash

Growing up, I liked the Flash, but never really loved him the way I did other heroes. That continues today. While I am enjoying his series more than I really expected to, it’s also one that I could do without. One of my problems with Flash is similar to what I previously wrote about Aquaman: he doesn’t seem to have enough villains in his rogues gallery. This week he again faces off against Captain Cold and the Rogues, who are trying to pull one last big caper. As can be expected, it doesn’t quite go the way they hope when Heat Wave breaks away from their original plan, inadvertently leading Flash to his teammates.

Flash’s power is troublesome in that he is so fast, there is really nothing that should challenge him. As a result, he either needs to do something dumb to put himself at a disadvantage, or– as seen here– he should defeat multiple foes in the space of one or two panels.

At the moment, I am mainly following the title for any threads related to the bigger Rebirth storyline, but there haven’t really been any. Overall, the title is ok and worth reading, but only just. 6/10

Titans

Like Flash, I started reading Titans to follow the overall Rebirth storyline, given that Wally West (the original) is seemingly goingt o be a central character in that plot. I hadn’t expected to like it as much as I do. I am enjoying the interaction between characters and there have been a number of moments involving Wally that were surprisingly emotional.

The book still seems to be laying the foundation for what is to come next, but slowly seems to be finding it’s footing. This issue follows Mal and Karen Duncan as they visit Meta Solutions to decide what to do about Karen’s recently manifested powers. While there, Mal recognises Mammoth, who is responsible for Mal’s PTSD and his decision to have Meta Solutions remove his powers.  7.5/10

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is still one of the titles that I am enjoying the most, although of the two stories it is alternating between– this week’s Godwatch and last issue’s The Truth– I find the latter to be more interesting.

In a flashback to Diana’s early days as Wonder Woman, we are given some insight into Veronica Cale’s motivations as she is caught up in the schemes of the twins Phobos and Deimos, who are seeking the location of Themyscira. A solid issue. 8/10

Detective Comics

I was initially a little annoyed that this issue was $3.99, before realising it is an over-sized special issue containing 3 separate stories. The first, which is the longest and the best, focuses on Orphan. While it is mainly a character piece with very little action, it serves to give us some insight into her thoughts and motivations as well as pointing toward problems for the bat-family on the horizon. Orphan is a character that I don;t really have might knowledge about, beyond the basics, but this issue helps to remedy that.

The second story, focusing on Azrael and Batwing is again mainly some insight into the characters and some background on the order of St-Dumas, while setting up future conflict. Nothing special here. I am not terribly enamoured of Batwing, but I would like to see more of Azrael and learn about this version of him, having been mainly familiar with his pre-New 52 incarnation.

The final story– also the shortest– is some interaction between Tim Drake’s Red Robin and Batman, which basically recaps some of Batman’s recent actions and has Tim guessing (correctly) at future steps Batman will be taking in preparation for whatever is coming in the greater Rebirth storyline. While brief, this story served mainly to make me miss Tim and the interaction between Batman and Robin (a real Robin, not the improving-but-still-annoying Damian). 8/10

Action Comics

The best comic that I read this week, this issue starts to address the mystery of the second Clark Kent, but it doesn’t provide any answers. Instead, it serves up more questions. Superman, like the originally Wally West, is seemingly at the centre of whatever is happening in Rebirth. This issue also touches briefly on the events occurring in Superwoman and hints at upcoming conflicts with Hank Henshaw.

I am enjoying the return of the real Superman quite a bit and am genuinely interested in the Clark Kent storyline. The Superman books, with their focus on Clark, Lois and their son serves as a counterpoint to the Batman books, which sem to have forgotten that Bruce Wayne exists. 8.5/10

Superwoman

This was likely my last issue. I am not terribly interested in this particular iteration of Lana Lang and I actually found this story arc to be fairly boring, aside from the ghost-Lois Lane, he mystery of whom I would like to see resolved. 5/10

Justice League of America

I picked this up purely by accident. I must have clicked on it in Comixology without realizing it until it was downloading. That said, I enjoyed it.

This first issue focuses on Batman building his own Justice League, although it is a little unclear whether or not the official JL is aware of it. Batman’s motivation in doing so is to create a team of  “mortals, not gods” who can inspire others to heroic deeds. What seems a bit odd is that after explaining this mission statement to Black Canary, they go to recruit Lobo. I can only imagine the conversation that followed.

Black Canary: “Ok, so we’re going to be a group of ‘mortals’ that are more relatable to the average person. I’m on board with that. Who is our next recruit?”

Batman: “Lobo.”

Black Canary: “The biker from outer space with godlike strength and endurance, plus a healing factor that makes him basically immortal?”

Batman”… Yes.”

Black Canary: “Ok, then…”

The new JLA also includes a reformed Killer Frost, the Atom (Ryan Choi), Vixen and the Ray. This version of the Ray is now gay. While there is no problem with that, I am finding it is becoming a bit of a cliché. It used to be that super teams had a checklist comprising strong guy, fast guy, smart guy, martial artist. Now the list seems to be strong person, fast person, smart person, martial artist, black character, gay character, Asian character. Again, there is no real problem with that, but when it is handled poorly, it just feels forced.

Batman himself is a bit of an issue for me. In much the same way as we’ve been introduced to the concept of multiple Jokers, I feel there must be multiple Batmans. In the various books, he is alternately starting to trust his teammates and even accepting the “new” Superman, or creating a new team because “we don’t need gods” (which sounds awfully disdainful and a little Lex Luthor-ish). He’s becoming more open with the bat-family, while seeming to be more mistrustful. And don’t get me started on the Batman who has been revealed to be suicidal and finishes every sentence with “break his damn back.”

I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with this title, but I’ll give it a few issues. 7/10

So that’s all I have picked up this week. I’d love to pick up a few other titles, if only the budget permitted it.

I’d love to hear what others are reading and their thoughts on current storylines.

Craig