Most of us, I’m sure, are aware of the highly successful, long running, critically acclaimed, Emmy Award winning television series M*A*S*H (1972-1983). Personally, I haven’t watched it for some time now, does it still hold up? I’m more fond of the earlier, funny episodes. M*A*S*H got pretty damn preachy and it was more about America’s attitude toward the Vietnam War than the Korean War (1950-1953) which was the setting of the series.
Plenty of observations have been made on how the TV series lasted almost four times as long as the actual war. During the series, there were how many Christmases celebrated? How many winters suffered? It must have been difficult trying to keep track of timeline.
M*A*S*H tried to remember its own past, which was pretty rare for the sit-coms from back in the day. Most treated each episode as its own thing. Never mind that Chuck Cunningham disappeared after one season. Hawkeye at least mentioned Trapper, Henry, Frank, and Radar after they had left the series from time to time.
Anyway, now and again errors would creep in to the series. Especially fun were the pop culture references to events and items that hadn’t happened or didn’t exist in the early 1950s.
A favorite of mine that I caught years ago featured my favorite comic book series from when I was a kid. It was Marvel’s The Mighty Avengers.
(I can’t tell you how cool it is that film technology has gotten to the point where it’s possible to put my favorite superheroes so believably on screen. As a kid, I had hoped The Avengers would get into the movies. Back then it was just a beautiful dream, now its science fact. Like blowing up the moon.)
So, here’s what I noticed on an episode of M*A*S*H:
It was season four and episode 18 titled ‘Der Tag’. In it, the early series’ main foil Maj. Frank Burns was separated from his love Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (the show’s other foil), which was leading him to act even more of a nudge than he normally was, so Col. Potter asked BJ and Hawkeye to make nice. They do and the show goes from there. Do I have to give you the whole story?
So in the opening scene, it’s the middle of the night and Frank is on the phone with Margaret. The phone is located in Radar’s office and we see Radar sleeping on his cot in the corner. With him are his ever-trusty Teddy bear and a comic book laying across his chest.
Hang on! Did I say comic book?
Well, here’s where it gets curious. The viewer actually sees two different comic books. As the scene shifts from Frank to Radar, the comic book changes. In the first shot, we see The Avengers number 72 splayed across Radar’s chest. In subsequent shots, the book changed to number 60. The covers are very different from each other. It’s hard for me to figure out how the producers didn’t notice the mistake.
But that isn’t the only mistake! The biggest error was the fact that The Avengers comic book series didn’t exist when the Korean War was being fought. The Avengers hit the newsstands in 1963, ten years AFTER the end of the Korean War.
Couldn’t the producers have found an issue of Action Comics or Detective Comics or, even, an issue of Archie? Something from that time period. Nostalgia Zone has plenty of Golden Age Comics in stock, but then again NZ wasn’t around in 1976 when the episode in question aired.
Anachronisms, such as that not yet existent comic book, abounded in M*A*S*H. In fact, there was another one involving another comic book that didn’t exist in the 1950s. There are a couple websites out there that noticed the error I’ve written about and so many more. Check them out here and here.
Oh, well, it was only a television show. I shouldn’t get my knickers in a twist.
Jim ‘Dr. Dim’ Fitzsimons