Depending on your age, you may have grown up with MASH playing re-runs on your television, like me. For those that have never seen MASH or don’t know the basics of the show, it is a half-hour comedic drama that follows the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, an army medical unit deployed during the Korean war. The unit consists of a contingent of doctors and nurses and army personnel that must self-entertain while in a foreign land.
Though the Korean war happened in the 1950s and the military sitcom aired in the 1970s, MASH has plenty of examples of how to handle today’s problems. A prime example is the COVID-19 pandemic, a 2020 problem with solutions provided by a television show of yesteryear. One fan, Frank Vaccariello, took the time to create a supercut, titled MASH and the Coronavirus, to highlight how the 4077th would deal with our current situation. Through five clips, Vaccariello provides a five-minute short episode of MASH coping with COVID-19. Some reactions and solutions are easier than others.
The first clip is titled “Washing Your Hands” and comes from Season 6’s episode “Fade Out, Fade In.” While prepping for surgery, Major Charles Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) is prodded and made fun of for taking his time scrubbing up his hands and his arms. He very proudly announces that he takes his time to make sure whatever he is doing is done well. Greater advice could not be found for washing your hands – Remember: you need a minimum of 20-seconds and full skin coverage for a proper hand washing!
The second clip, “Social Distancing”, pulls from the first season of MASH, from the episode “Cowboy”. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) is the subject of a death threat with multiple attempts that are disguised as accidents or just bad luck. Corporal Walter ‘Radar’ O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) refuses to step foot into the same room as him, mostly because he has “a thing for living”. When Radar needs some paperwork signed, he gets creative with a telescoping pole to deliver the papers to Henry without having to enter the office. While social distancing to this degree may be a bit much for our current climate, we can’t disagree with Radar’s method. Though, with living in the future compared to Radar, we have technology on our side; might we suggest accepting digital signatures?
Clip three is “Don’t Touch Your Face”, returning to the operating room with Major Winchester in Season 6’s “War of Nerves”. The major adamantly denies having touched his nose, though he is repeatedly and loudly accused by Major Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan (Loretta Swit). Winchester absolutely refuses to admit that he may have touched his face because he does not want to return to the sink to spend another seven and a half minutes (he did say previously that he was thorough!) washing and prepping for surgery. In the end, though, he relents. The moral? It is better to be safe than sorry and wash often, even if you don’t think you have a reason to reach for the soap. Also, mask or not, don’t touch your face!
“Working from Home” is the fourth clip, from MASH‘s fifth season episode, “Hepatitis”. Working from home is impossible while deployed, but this clip helps to reinforce the idea of working remotely. Father Francis Mulcahy (William Christopher) gets sick and must be isolated, which makes it impossible for him to hear confessions. Captain Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce (Alan Alda) helps the Father brainstorm ideas to allow him to remain isolated while also working. If at all possible, do your job from isolation! Solutions may be able to be found, even if unconventional.
The final clip is “Toilet Paper Hoarding”. This final MASH segment is a collection of scenes from the second season’s episode, “Crisis” wherein the lack of toilet paper is but one, albeit major, issue. The entire unit gets creative with their replacement provisions, from clipping paper from magazines to “breaking in to the fortune cookies”. This most basic necessity provides some cheap laughs, but fictitious television is nothing like reality here. Hoarding of this precious commodity in case it becomes scarce is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has, unfortunately, played out. We hope that you haven’t had the need to resort to ordering Chinese takeout for some fortune paper!
Watch MASH and the Coronavirus
Watch Vaccariello’s fan cut below and relive funny moments of MASH that are totally relevant and relatable today. How are you coping with the pandemic? If you are working, are you able to work from home or be socially distant? What are some of your creative solutions to problems you now face?
IF you would like to see full episodes of MASH, it can currently be streamed on Hulu.