We really loved M*A*S*H

Published 1:40 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

I am in the perhaps unhealthy habit of reading my email before my feet hit the floor. It is both a way to get my brain engaged, and an excuse to remain snuggled under the covers for a few more minutes before fully confronting the reality that lies ahead.

And every morning, I have an email from a fella named Jeff Crilley that contains the day’s top stories, news tips, possible sources, and totally random trivia.

Friday, he mentioned the danger of soccer; a recently approved pain medication that is destined to replace OxyContin and considered more dangerous; and listed the Top 10 Pot Smoking Cities, based on the number of marijuana dispensaries per capita (Denver, Colorado Springs, Seattle, San Bernardino, Auorora, Santa Ana, Irvine, San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, in that order).

But it was the pop trivia got me. Among the things Mr. Crilley reminded us was that yesterday marked the 31th anniversary of the final episode of M*A*S*H.

Can you even believe it?

The finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” became the most-watched television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers.

God only knows how many hours I’ve spent watching reruns. When we were in college, it was not uncommon for my path and my roommate’s not to cross all day. Each of us knew not to worry about the other unless we didn’t show at 10:30 p.m. That’s when the NBC affiliate ran a M*A*S*H re-run, and we were almost always there to watch. Miss M*A*S*H, and you’d best be calling to say where you were.

It was just one of the things that made two very different young women leave Tuscaloosa as life-long friends. The slightly acerbic humor appealed to both of us. We loved Hawkeye, quoted Radar (“Ah, Bach ….”) and rarely missed an episode, usually at opposite ends of the sofa with a Diet Coke (mine), a Mountain Dew (hers) and a pizza or a bag of chips between us. M*A*S*H is as much a part of my memories of Tuscaloosa as Denny Chimes, Tutwiler dorms, and football.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized my all-time favorite sitcom – which alternately made us laugh and cry – was as much an allegory about the Vietnam War, still under way when the series began in 1972, as it was a depiction of the Korean conflict.

I rarely watch TV these days, but if I stumble upon these reruns, I’ll stop and watch. Seeing Hawkeye, Houlihan, Klinger, Fathey Mulcahy, Col. Blake, Frank Burns, Radar, B.J. Hunnicutt, Col. Potter, or Charles is like bumping into a bunch of old college friends.

Those were the days.