“That Is Old-School Legit”: MASH Bomb Joke Is Actually Realistic, Says Ex-Navy Special Ops Tech
2024/03/07

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An unexploded bomb scene from an episode of MASH gets high marks for realism from an ordnance expert. Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce, and the rest of the gang from the 4077th, first came to prime-time TV in 1972, and immediately delivered ratings gold. MASH's memorable characters would remain fixtures on America's screens until the show's farewell episode aired in 1983, drawing a massive 105 million viewers according to Nielsen data.

Not only was MASH a classic show that brought the comedy and tragedy of war home to viewers, it was also surprisingly realistic, at least according to one expert.

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In a video for Insider, real life special ops bomb tech Jay Ly breaks down a scene from MASH season 1 in which Hawkeye and Trapper John must defuse a dud bomb that has stuck itself in the ground in the middle of the camp, giving the scene high marks for its depiction of how such devices actually worked, and how soldiers might go about trying to deal with one.

MASH Season 1's Army-Navy Game Episode Encapsulated The Show's Mixture Of Drama & Absurdity

MASH season 1, episode 20 "The Army-Navy Game" sees the 4077th coming together to listen to a broadcast of the annual football game between Army and Navy, but having their fun interrupted when a barrage breaks out, leaving an unexploded bomb in the middle of the camp.

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Hawkeye and Trapper John are enlisted to defuse the bomb (as Ly points out in his remarks, it's perhaps strange that two doctors are tasked with this dangerous duty), but the manual they're reading from is useless, and they accidentally set the device off. Fortunately, instead of high explosives, it's loaded with propaganda leaflets.

"The Army-Navy Game" featured an alternate arrangement of the famous MASH theme song, one of just three episodes to do so.

When it comes to dramatic situations, nothing could be more tense than a pair of untrained individuals trying to defuse a bomb.

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But MASH mined the situation for comedy as well as drama, while taking satirical digs at military incompetence (the bomb was actually dropped by the CIA). Mixing gripping drama with absurd comedy was indeed the show's MO for much of its run, though by the time of the classic MASH final episode, it was criticized for too often descending into the mawkish, while losing its comedic edge. When MASH clicked, it executed its particular blend of the tragic and the comic as well as anything on TV, and at least according to one expert, it did so with a fair amount of realism.

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