A new documentary is taking a look back at the Emmy-winning show M*A*S*H, ahead of the 50th anniversary of its debut on September 17, 1972.
M*A*S*H: When Television Changed Forever debuts Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on Reelz and promises a never-before-seen look into the Korean War-set show, the 1983 finale of which drew a record 106 million viewers.
“I like to say it’s on the Mount Rushmore of TV syndication because there are very few shows … whose popularity spanned decades,” TV executive/unofficial M*A*S*H historian Dan Harrison tells ABC Audio.
He included I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, The Simpsons and Friends on that metaphorical mountain of “timeless” shows.
The documentary features exclusive interviews from cast members including Jamie Farr, who played Cpl. Max Klinger, and Mike Farrell, who played Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt, as well as some of the others who brought the 11-season-long show to life.
“The storylines stand up,” Farr tells ABC Audio. “And I think because of the writing and the acting and directing of the series, that’s what held everybody’s interest. And you don’t find it to be getting old [today].”
Lasting four times longer than the war in which it was set, M*A*S*H also boasted a roster of guest stars including Ron Howard, Laurence Fishburne and Patrick Swayze. It also dealt with real-life issues from racism to homosexuals in the military, and broke the mold with innovative storytelling.
Harrison explains, “You watch a one-hour drama from the early ’70s, and it can feel very slow because you’re telling one story over that period. And, you know, you get to E.R. in the ’90s and it’s super fast-paced.”
He explains, “M*A*S*H almost always from the beginning started with three stories in an episode … So M*A*S*H, even though it’s a show that is 50 years old, doesn’t quite feel as old as other shows from that era.”