by Ed Solomonson & Mark O'Neill

BearManor Media


826pp/$49.95/November 2009

TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book
Cover by Mark O'Neill

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

I discovered the television show M*A*S*H on February 24, 1976 when the episode "The Interview" first aired. It was an atypical episode of the show, filmed in black and white without a laugh track and heavily ad libbed. The staff at the hospital was participating in a news interview with Clete Roberts, a journalist playing a version of himself. The episode hooked me and I became a devout M*A*S*H fan, watching new episodes as they appeared and older episodes when they were re-run in those distant days before video tapes and streaming video. Ed Solomonson and Mark O'Neill are also fans of the show and published TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book, several decades after the show's record-holding finale aired.

At its most basic, Solomonson and O'Neill's book provides the cast, air dates, and a synopsis of each episode, information which is readily available on-line at IMDB and other websites. However, their books goes beyond that basic information, providing a value that can't be found on those websites. Each episode also includes an outline of the scene headings and the images used during the closing credits and frequently have quotes about the episode by Larry Gelbart or someone else involved in the production of that episode. They also include a listing of any PA announcements that were made (and the name of the speaker) and often include trivia about the episodes.

The end of each season gives the authors a place to provide basic analysis of the season, with repeated listings of personal information revealed about each character throughout that season (noting contradictions), a listing of pop culture heard or referenced throughout the season (noting anachronisms), and, when appropriate the pranks Hawkeye, Trapper, and BJ played on Frank Burns prior to Larry Linville's departure from the show. Perhaps the one piece of analysis they failed to offer (and which would have been impossible) is a calendar showing which episodes took place when (Some of Henry's episodes are set in 1951, but the episode "A War For All Seasons" runs from January 1, 1951 through December 31, 1951 and shows Colonel Potter as the CO throughout the entire episode, despite his first episode being set in September of 1952).

The authors also include several interviews with actors and writers who worked on the show. Focusing more on the support actors like Enid Kent, who appeared as a nurse in at least fourteen episodes of the show or Richard Lee-Sung, who often appeared as a local Korean man, these interview provide a different view of the show than previously published interviews with the actors who starred in the show. All of the interviews note the openness of the main cast towards the guest stars and day players, however.

The brevity for each entry means that the appropriate episode can be read during the opening credits or commercial break to give the viewer/reader a bit of extra background and appreciation for any given episode. Of course, the authors also note the difference in the opening music and visuals as it changed from the first through the last episode. Reading the book without access to the television show, whether in re-runs, on DVD, or streaming on though Hulu, can cause some frustration as the entries only really hint at the talent on and behind the screen.

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