HTF REVIEW: M*A*S*H Season 3

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by John_Berger, Feb 28, 2003.

  1. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    M*A*S*H, Season 3
    24 Episodes over 3 DVDs
    Full-frame (1.33:1)
    Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    [​IMG]

    M*A*S*H, the classic drama/comedy loosely based on real-life MASH unit 8055 during the Korean War, stands as one of the few series that is as popular today as it was when it was still originally shown. First aired in 1972, M*A*S*H has consistently been one of the most popular TV shows in recent decades. For the past few months, many people have been eagerly waiting for Fox to release the third season of M*A*S*H on DVD. The wait is over. Was it worth it?

    Completely Remastered

    As one who has watched M*A*S*H religiously since childhood, I can very clearly remember how the show used to look. The prints that were used for syndication in the 1980s and early 1990s were of none-too-great quality.

    Not too many years ago, Fox completely remastered the entire series in preparation for a large presence on the FX network as well as being released on home video. The differences that they used in their advertising between the pre-mastered and re-mastered versions were astounding. Most of the effort on remastering was for the video quality, although the audio was definitely cleaned up as well. The quality of the remastering comes across very clearly on the DVDs.

    The video quality of the DVDs is quite good. Even on the 13” TV in my computer room, the image is sharper than it ever has been. I watch M*A*S*H (which is shown daily on not one, but two TV stations that I get) any time that I can and I have done so for years. I can say with a clear conscience that the video quality is better than I’ve ever seen it; however, it is not without its flaws.

    I noticed instances where the brightness seemed to fade in and out, similar to the results of Macrovision encoding except that this was happening right on my PC and it was only happening during specific scenes.

    Additionally, there were other scenes, including the very powerful scene of Radar’s tragic announcement in the final scene of “Abyssinia, Henry”, where the film grain and other visual abnormalities were very prevalent. Considering that this particular scene is one of the most powerful of the entire series, I was disappointed to see that visually it was not given better treatment. The instances of dust and other film damage during such scenes were very noticeable.

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    Overall, the color quality of these remastered episodes is phenomenal. Pierce’s deep red robe and McIntyre’s bright yellow robe come out in striking brilliance. The gorgeous colors can be seen throughout episodes like “Springtime” where the bright blue skies are nothing less than brilliant, genuine eye candy.

    I remember seeing a thread here on HTF asking about the audio for the season 3 DVDs. Here’s the scoop: the audio contains four different formats, all of which are in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0:
    - English with laugh track
    - English without the laugh track
    - Spanish
    - French

    As with seasons 1 and 2, the audio is nothing spectacular, particularly since the audio tracks are monaural. I would have liked to have the audio remastered to at least a stereo format if, for anything, environment. There are several instances throughout the series of aircraft flying overhead and artillery fire that would sound great in stereo or surround.

    What makes the DVD set better than watching the series on FX is that these episodes are uncut. The annoying “must cut scenes to add more commercials” butcher jobs on the currently syndicated TV episodes – suddenly-broken laugh tracks being the most tell-tale sign – are gone with each episode lasting roughly 26 minutes. If you have the syndicated episodes memorized like my wife and I do, you will probably catch yourself saying, as I did, “Hey, I never saw that scene!” several times while watching these episodes. Surprisingly, I actually saw episodes in the season 3 DVD set that I’ve never seen in syndication. Go figure.

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    What’s Included

    As with previous seasons, there are no special features, behind-the-scenes featurettes, or anything like that. There are also no commentaries or any kind of insight from those who worked on M*A*S*H. This is a very sad oversight on Fox’s part. I would love to hear some of the thoughts and ideas from those involved with M*A*S*H; unfortunately, Fox appears to be totally disinterested even though many who worked on the set have offered to do commentaries at no charge.

    The included 8-page booklet starts with a description of the series, which for the most part I would expect just about any M*A*S*H fan to already know, but it’s nice reading. The vast majority of the booklet is dedicated to all of the episodes that are in the set.

    Included is also a flyer stating that the third season is due out in July 2003. That’s too long to wait, in my opinion. I realize that Fox is releasing many of their other series to DVD, but at their current rate of two seasons per year, the series won’t be finished until roughly 2008. That is way too long.

    This Silver Lining Too Has A Grey Cloud

    It is with great regret, a huge amount of frustration, and desire to knock heads together that I announce that Fox has continued with one of the most annoying and infuriating concepts of any DVD manufacturer.

    For whatever reason, Fox is once again aggravating its consumer base with what it started with the season one set – there is no function for playing all episodes continuously. Each episode needs to be selected and started individually from its own individual menu. This means that for every episode, you need to make two separate selections.

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    This is a major inconvenience, particularly for those like me who enjoy having a DVD playing in the background while doing something else. To have to individually select each episode is ridiculous. Even my Monty Python series DVDs have a function on the main menu to play all of the episodes, one right after the other.

    The fact that each episode has its own menu is a further annoyance. You have to actually make two selections to start each episode, and you then have to select “Home” after each episode to get back to the main menu so that you can select the next menu to start the next episode.

    This is a completely unnecessary burden on the viewer and it absolutely needs to be addressed in future releases.

    The five-month wait between each season is an added frustration, particularly since it’s clear that Fox is not doing anything to really enhance the DVD releases with any kind of extras. If Paramount can release TNG and DS9 every two months with loads of extras, Dolby Digital 5.1, and so forth, I see no reason why Fox, even with the other series that it is releasing, can’t accelerate the M*A*S*H releases. If they’re going to make us wait five months, they could at least integrate a “Play All Episodes” option, which is probably the easiest thing to implement of all of the additions that M*A*S*H DVD fans want.

    Conclusion

    Even with the need to select each episode individually and the total lack of any extras, the unedited, beautifully remastered prints and the low price ($39.98 MSRP) more than make up for the shortcomings.

    If you are a M*A*S*H fan, you have no reason to not buy this set.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Thank Alan Alda for getting the films to be restored.

    The negatives were not being taken care of, which resulted in the color starting to fade. Alda was horrified by how they weren't taking care of the show in archiving.

    There's more to this probably.
     
  3. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review John. I have season 1 & 2 and will be picking this one up as soon as cash allows. Although I will have a hard time watching Abyssinia, Henry as that marks an important end of an era in MASH. I wish they would release them faster as well, but look at how long The Simpsons is taking to come out.
     
  4. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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  5. BrianP

    BrianP Supporting Actor

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    I have currently watched two out of the three discs and agree the biggest frustration with the set is not having a play all feature. Can't understand how that feature wasn't included. Obviously it's no fun having to navigate through the menus trying to watch all 8 episodes in an evening.

    And I don't think every season set needs extras. But it would be nice if Fox could make at least one disc loaded with bonus material for the series. Maybe they could add it with the last set of the series and also sell it separately for those that may not buy the entire series. Otherwise I love the sets and look forward to season 4.
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    John,

    Appreciate you posting these reviews of M*A*S*H.

    You had approached me about doing them, and I was
    more than happy to see you do it.

    I suppose the one screenshot here sort of answers
    my question, but is this the season that ends with
    the departure of McLean Stevenson?

    There is a famous story about that ending. The
    cast had no idea how the show was going to end.
    When Radar walks into the tent and makes the major
    announcement, the reactions across the faces of the
    cast are VERY real. They had no idea what they were
    about to be told.
     
  7. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Yes, Ron...that's the season and episode in question. And yes, that's the way it happened. It was discussed all over again during last year's MASH cast reunion. Drat that these releases have no supplements...such a discussion as that would be a perfect companion to that episode.

    I wholeheartly agree about the fustration of the lack of a "Play All" feature. Other Fox releases in the TV/DVD category suffer from this lack as well. Paramount, too. Also MGM's few TV/DVD releases. But notable is Columbia, which leaves the "Play All" feature off of their "adult" releases, but includes it on kids releases like DragonTales and JayJay the Jetplane.

    Do the guys producing these discs never sit down and have a "marathon", or even just watch 2 or 3 shows back-to-back? You don't have to be an HT nut, or a DVD collector, or a giant TV fan, to want to settle down and watch an entire TV/DVD disc in one sitting.

    I suppose this is why we also get the complaints that the episodes' chapter stops don't always land right after the opening credits for the second chapter stop. Since the disc producers never watch more than one at a time, they never get tired of seeing the same opening credit sequence time after time! They must figure noone else does, either.

    In fact, they probably think there's no reason to skip the actual opening credits: since most shows have a prolog portion of the story prior to the credits (MASH doesn't, but Trek, SG-1, Mad About You, and many others do), the people responsible for these DVDs figure that if the "teaser" is different for every episode, that the viewer will want to watch it AND the credits together every time.

    Not.


    Okay, getting off of my soapbox now. [​IMG]
     
  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    You'd figure the bitching alone would have gotten back to them [​IMG]
     
  9. Burke Strickland

    Burke Strickland Second Unit

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    Thank you for a well written review of the 3rd season of MASH on DVD. I've now bought and watched the first three seasons of MASH on DVD, and have generally been very pleased to have my favorite TV show of all time coming out, albeit slowly, in uncut, complete-season sets. I had forgotten how many of my fave' episodes were originally from season three. (The farewell episode for Henry Blake was, of course, the highlight of the season and therefore, the set.) And with the anticipated arrival of Col. Potter, and the episodes leading up to that with Major Burns "in charge", I'm also really looking forward to season four. Those episodes usually get chopped to pieces for more commercials during late night reruns.

    Having to negotiate the menus to start each episode may be a minor annoyance when you want to view more than one episode at a sitting. (I typically view four in sequence.) But if they do include a "play all" option, I hope that will be in addition to, rather than a replacement for, the option to select the individual episodes. (One would assume so, but ...) :>)

    And frankly, I'm much more interested in having the complete uncut episodes in sequence (as they have been providing) than having a lot of "extras". But it would be nice to get all the reunion footage and any "making of" / "behind the scenes" features on a disc somewhere along the line. However, if there are any self indulgent "bloopers" and "outtakes" scraped up from the cutting room floor, they can keep those in the vault as far as I'm concerned.

    I gather from the review comments on the "restored" video for the third season that I should NOT be seeing a lot of video "noise" (looks like "snow flurries") through almost half of disc one and intermittently on the other two discs. (The "snow" effect almost obscures the image all the way through on a couple of episodes on disc one. But I still watched them anyway.) While most of the comments in the review hold true regarding the video qualities as I've observed them, this "snow storm" effect makes me wonder if I have a defective set. Has anyone else observed this?
     
  10. James L White

    James L White Supporting Actor

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  11. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  12. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review! I've now watched most of Season 3 and got the first two seasons as they came out. Extras would be nice, and yes a play-all option would be great, but I'm even more annoyed at that damn stupid cover art.

    But over all, I am extremely happy to be able to finally see some of my favorite MASH episodes sans the goose-the-invisible-audience track! For me it's quite a revelation, it's like seeing a completely different show.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review. I still haven't watched Season 2, but Season 3 is on the way.
     
  14. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  15. Eugene Esterly

    Eugene Esterly Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review of M*A*S*H Season 3. M*A*S*H Season 3 is on my wish at Amazon.com & DVD Aficionado. I will pick up M*A*S*H Season 3 once a used copy is avaliable on the Internet in my price range.
     
  16. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Back on the subject of the missing "Play All" feature for a moment, I just posted here about Columbia's upcoming Charlie's Angels releases (both the Complete First Season and The Best Of). These two items WILL have a Play All feature! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Thanks, Columbia!
     
  17. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    I’m watching Disc One of this season and I’m on “O.R.”. This episode has only one English track. It has no laugh track like the others. I’m wondering why? I can imagine that maybe it was originally aired without a laugh track but why?
     
  18. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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  19. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    I thought that they wanted a serious tone for this episode and the reason they left out the laugh track but there were still a lot of jokes in this episode that might seem also awkward and insensitive. I mean if they were gearing toward a serious tone, they might as well left out the jokes. It’s just a thought.
     
  20. Coressel

    Coressel Supporting Actor

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