Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

M*A*S*H - Show Time Vs. Real Time
March 7, 2009 7:23 AM   Subscribe

M*A*S*H - Show Time Vs. Real Time
Everyone knows the old joke about M*A*S*H; the show ran 8 years longer than the actual Korean War. This blog aims to track the observable passing of time on the show (day/night periods) and compare that to the actual length of the real-life Korean War. Follow the journey as my partner and I slog our way through 11 seasons of the show on DVD.

I will, for the most part, avoid assumptions. In other words, I will only say two days have passed when there is an observable day period, followed by scenes set at night, followed by another day period. In episodes where a character is writing a letter, a plot set up that happens frequently in the show (there are two such episodes during the first season alone), I will only count how much time is observed to have passed in the period of time that the letter is being written by the character. In other words, the 'flashbacks' to what is being written about in the letter will not be included in the day count, only because such flashbacks usually detail the happenings of various characters over several undefined periods of time. This should ensure that the day count remains observable and should be more accurate.

The only assumption I am making is that the 4077 has been operating for at least a month before the pilot episode. This is based on the view that established character relationships, like Hawkeye and Trapper's friendship and everyone's mutual dislike of Frank and Hot Lips, is well established by the pilot episode, so obviously some time has passed, and a month feels about right, especially given that in the pilot Hawkeye and Trapper aren't sure what to make of Henry and don't yet know Margaret's nickname of 'Hot Lips'. Therefore it is being assumed that the first episode takes place on July 25, 1950.

Each post will account for a seasons worth of day counts (so this blog shouldn't run for more than 13 posts, including the initial introductory post and then probably a conclusion). So join me over the course of the next few months as I work my way through 11 seasons of M*A*S*H, and then compare that to how much time passed in the real life Korean War.
posted by Effigy2000 (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

This sounds like a fun project. I'm glad you're doing it instead of me though :)
I'll be interested to see how it turns out.
posted by amethysts at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2009


Finally. I filled out a 437 stroke R2 requisition form for this project months ago. In triplicate.
posted by steef at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2009


I've was wondering about this very thing not long ago. Godspeed!
posted by JHarris at 5:22 PM on March 7, 2009


Sounds interesting. I think you might get thrown off though because I believe there is an episode that goes through all 4 seasons twice, so that's going to be two years in one episode.
posted by lilkeith07 at 8:07 PM on March 7, 2009


I'm with amethysts -- looking forward to reading it, but glad I'm not doing the gruntwork. So... thanks!
posted by carnival of animals at 11:03 PM on March 7, 2009


My pleasure folks! Season 2 has proven to be more difficult to work out the passage of time for than season 1 (I'm writing more notes per episode than I did before) but the gruntwork isn't annoying at all. We both love M*A*S*H so watching an episode or three during dinner after work isn't a chore at all. Infact if anything, this project has made watching the show as a couple more fun. She's always spotting stuff I somehow missed (Her: "Hey babe, Hawk just said a week and a half has passed" Me: "He did! Cool, thanks sexy!") so yeah, it's now a real couple-y thing for us to do.

lilkeith07: "Sounds interesting. I think you might get thrown off though because I believe there is an episode that goes through all 4 seasons twice, so that's going to be two years in one episode."

Hmmm. Another challenge! Can't say I remember this one though, so when we get to Season 5 (I assume?) I'll probably have some fun with that one!
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:46 AM on March 8, 2009


I'm glad I stumbled across this. I absolutely love the show and interesting fan efforts like this in general.
posted by Science! at 12:26 AM on March 10, 2009


Sounds fun, and in regard to the episode that goes through the seasons, it can pretty much be considered to have taken place simultaneously over the previous episodes, between the action. There may well be specific time markers in the dialogue that I do not recall, but I do remember watching it and having absolutely no trouble resolving it sequentially with the rest of the episodes.
posted by Mizu at 3:33 AM on March 10, 2009


I turned my 12 year old onto MASH last year. They were running a marathon on some station against the superbowl, and given he is something of a military history freak, immediately fell in love. He worked and saved his own money to buy the entire DVD set, and watched every one in order. Every night before bed, we will usually stick on one or two episodes to relax. He went out for Halloween as Hawkeye Pierce (even made me go buy him a medical bag at an army surplus store). While a lot of the world is wondering what Paris Hilton is up to these days, we are still debating Henry/Potter, and Trapper/BJ.

I really look forward to reading your updates, but given what total MASH dorks the kid and I are we might end up calling you on a thing here or there.

His nickname in 6th grade is Hawkeye.
posted by timsteil at 6:21 AM on March 10, 2009


But M*A*S*H was really about the Vietnam War.
posted by orthogonality at 9:06 AM on March 11, 2009


We were watching M*A*S*H just the other night, wondering how long Hawkeye was stationed in Korea. I've always had a suspicion that there were four or five Christmases during the 3 year war. I'm glad someone is finally going to get to the bottom of this and tighten up the time line. Keep up the good work, soldier and keep us posted.
posted by birdwatcher at 9:21 AM on March 11, 2009


There's an episode late in the series' that should make this interesting. The show begins in the beginning of 1951 and ends in October, 1951- when Bobby Thompson hits the home run that wins the pennant for the Giants.

McClean Stvenson: funny.
Harry Morgan: not funny.

Wayne Rogers: funny, genuine, believable.
Mike Farrell: not funny, "what happened to this show?"
posted by Zambrano at 7:59 PM on March 19, 2009


Zambrano: "There's an episode late in the series' that should make this interesting. The show begins in the beginning of 1951 and ends in October, 1951- when Bobby Thompson hits the home run that wins the pennant for the Giants."

Originally I was aiming to work out the rough date that each episode was set on, since I assumed at the beginning that the show would be roughly chronological. But I soon worked out that the writers of the show decided probably as early as season two to throw continuity and chronology out the window as it suited them. Which is why I decided to stop estimating the date and just focus purely on counting how many observable days can be seen in an episode.

The only time I bother mentioning the date nowadays is when I do my end-of-season day count (for example, at the end of season two I said the date was January 25th 1951. This is not to say that this is the actual date at the end of season two, but merely to give you an idea of how much time would have passed by now in the real war were the series chronological in it's episode run, based on how many days have been seen or noted to have passed in an episode.

That episode will still be interesting though, if only to see if Potter somehow ends up in the camp at the beginning of 1951, when a recent episode of MASH I saw in season 2 said that it was late 1952, and Henry was still in charge.

Zambrano: "McClean Stvenson: funny.
Harry Morgan: not funny.

Wayne Rogers: funny, genuine, believable.
Mike Farrell: not funny, "what happened to this show?"
"

Potter and B.J are actually my two favorite characters, not including everyone's favorite of Hawkeye. And funnily, Henry and Trapper kind of annoys me. I think Trapper's a bully, or would have been, had Hawkeye and age and the place he was in not been around to temper him. And Henry, though lovable, was way too bumbling to be taken seriously as a CO.

But they all had their place, and the show is just plain great, I think we can all agree.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2009


« Older A track a week until they run out. ...   |   Bad Art... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.