The Never-Never Land of Corporate TV

Not that M*A*S*H* was all that libratory in many ways, but compared to today…? 

Tom Dorsey

“M*A*S*H” started out as a sitcom, and the early chapters were the funniest by far. The show initially stayed away from the controversial dramatic plots that developed in later years when it almost bordered on being preachy sometimes.

The series was based on the best-selling novel and movie about the Korean War, but that war soon became a stand-in for the war in Vietnam.

The strongest anti-war scripts arrived long after the United States had left Korea. But the protest against the Vietnam War was still at a fever pitch when “M*A*S*H” first appeared, and not just with college kids and war protesters but with a majority of people who wanted the fighting to end and the soldiers to come home.

If the polls are right, that’s the same way most people feel today about the war in Iraq. But there’s nothing even remotely like “M*A*S*H” on television today.

Some critics say that’s because Vietnam was a much larger involvement of American forces with a lot more casualties. Young men were drafted to fight there against their will as opposed to the volunteer army that’s in Iraq now. There also seemed to be more bitterness and anger about Vietnam.

But that still doesn’t answer why there’s nothing like “M*A*S*H” on television today. Maybe it’s because the TV networks were much braver in the ’70s.

Besides “M*A*S*H,” programs such as “All in the Family” were using humor to explore all kinds of social controversies and uttering politically incorrect words and phrases you couldn’t probably get on network television today. Shows such as “Maude” took on abortion and were in men’s faces about equal rights.

Where are those kinds of shows now? They’re not even on cable, unless you count programs such as “The Daily Show.” Instead, the comedies we see are mostly about romantic relationships. Nobody watching them would even know there was a war on or that the nation was deeply divided over many issues.

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