This is basically another post in my series of how I’m feeling old. 25 years ago today, CBS broadcast the last episode of M*A*S*H: “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.” I remember watching this with my family in my mother’s room. We were not alone as this is still one of the highest-ranked television programs of all time. It’s even spawned a great urban legend about how everyone waited until the end of the show to use the toilet thus wreaking havoc with municipal sewage systems across the nation. Granted the show had not been up to par it’s last few seasons, but the finale was a classic sendoff.
M*A*S*H was one of my favorite tv shows growing up, mainly in syndication when it was shown in a two-episode block from 7-8 pm every weeknight. I probably saw every episode at some point. I’ve been watching the show on DVD lately (all of the first, third, and fourth seasons) and I’m amazed how well it holds up over time. It’s a good mix of satire and slapstick and I really like that the DVD lets me shut off the laugh track. I’m also impressed by things like camera angles and story structure that I didn’t really notice as a kid. The cast changes were also a benefit to the show. In fact, I think the show “jumped the shark” so to speak after Radar’s departure partly because it was the only time they didn’t replace a departing member of the cast with a new character.
A lot of jokes are made about how M*A*S*H lasted far longer than the Korean War. But if you consider one episode for each day of the war, 251 episodes is a lot less than three years. In fact if you watch all the episodes back to back, it would take just about five days. Of course, most episodes take place over several days, but even then each episode represents less than a week of the actual war.
The Korean War actually still hasn’t ended, which is kind of sad. I’d rather have a long tv series and a short war.
After exhausting myself the previous day, I started of 28 February 1998 rather slowly. I did some laundry even though I would be returning home in a couple of days because I wanted to have something nice to wear to the theatre. After checking my email at an internet cafe and taking care of some other housekeeping, I went to Leicester Square and purchased tickets for two shows: a 5 pm matinée of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap followed immediately by J.B. Priestely’s An Inspector Calls.
I had time in the afternoon for one museum and I narrowed it down to The Tate Gallery (which was just one museum at the time) or The British Museum. The Tate won a coin-flip, but I allowed history and prestige to reverse my decision (it was also closer to the theatre district). On the downside The British Museum was undergoing heavy renovation, a rude clerk in the shop falsely accused me of stealing, and after a while I got really tired of looking at lots of broken statues. But the British Museum has a lot going for it. I saw pieces of the Parthenon, items from the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and the well-preserved corpse of the Lindow Man. I also had to hold myself back when I saw people touching the Rosetta Stone!!!! I mean its the most awesome relic in the world and stupid people were just rubbing their grubby fingers on it.
Back in Leceister Square, I took in some busker performances. One juggler was looking for volunteers from the audience and since I’d read that public humiliation was a good way to meet people, I stepped up. Basically, his act was to tie one leg behind his back clamber up on top of a suitcase balanced on a stool and juggle. My job was to hold the suitcase and act as the ladder for his one-legged climb up, something he told the audience would be very painful for me. The act went off without a hitch, and afterwards two gals from North Carolina congratulated me on my busking debut. That was about it though. I told them I was going to see The Mousetrap, they told me they were going to see Shopping and Fucking, and that was pretty much the end of the conversation.
The Mousetrap is kind of a silly play, but since I’d seen the world’s longest-running musical in New York (The Fantasticks), I figured I had to see the world’s longest-running play period. I was at performance number 18838. An Inspector Calls was more of a social commentary than a thriller, and one of the leading women looked strikingly like my friend Krista (unfortunately this was the understudy so I have no idea who the actress is or if Krista was moonlighting). Oddly, both plays have a person pretending to be a police inspector as an important plot device.
The busking juggler in Leceister Square who gave me a supporting role (literally) in his act.