M*A*S*H: The Hawkeye Show?

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Capes (Optional)
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M*A*S*H: The Hawkeye Show?

Postby Capes (Optional) » Sun Jan 04, 2015 9:59 pm

The Hawkeye Show?

Based on the movie, which was based on the book, M*A*S*H is the long running television program detailing the lives of the heroes of the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. After three seasons, two of the main cast left the show. Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John, grew tired of playing second to Alan Alda, as Hawkeye Pierce, who had become the central figure of the show. McLean Stevenson, who played Henry Blake, followed him. Over the coming years other actors would leave and be replaced, but none as abruptly as these two.

It is understandable that any television program, particularly one which runs for any extended period of time, develops a central character which stands in front of the rest no matter how the writers try due to popularity and demand from the viewers. In many cases these central characters even start as secondary character simply there to provide comic relief or further depth to the main characters with the interactions.

Dark Shadows never really gained its stride until Barnabus Collins (Jonathan Frid) joined the cast, and then things tended to revolve around him. To a lesser degree, Star Trek became more about Spock (Leonard Nimoy) than Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and to some degree the same could be said for Data (Brent Spiner) on Star Trek: The Next Generation and for Seven of Nine (Jerri Ryan) on Star Trek: Voyager, although the latter was essentially done by design as a ratings boost.

Consider Happy Days and Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) was no competition for the characterizations of ‘The Fonz’. Family Matters had a solid boost in popularity with the addition of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) in episode 12 of season 1, unfortunately drawing attention from the rest of the cast and, arguably, the central character of Laura Winslow (Kellie Shanygne Williams). Even a newer show, How I Met Your Mother, had the danger of having their primary character of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) overshadowed by womanizing Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). In this case, though, the writing was kept relatively even among all the main characters… for the most part.

So did Wayne Rogers and MacLean Stevenson have a solid argument against the uneven scripting? It is very possible considering the appeal of Hawkeye Pierce, but how can this be easily quantified and was it even corrected after their departure? Or was this simply a situation where a specific character gravitated to the centre naturally due to writing and fan expectations. With M*A*S*H there could be one easy ‘tell’ for each episode. As the final credits roll, still photos are displayed under the words and the final image displayed appears to be the central character of the episode - possibly. This is strictly an assumption I am making at this point, therefore we will take time to tabulate each final image from each episode to have a very rough and unscientific calculation to consider. Any image showing more than one character is considered a group shot, even if one is clearly central.
(Please note that all episodes are listed in broadcast order)

Season 1

Looking at the closing images for the episodes of season one, the series would appear to be holding to the group dynamic with only one character singled out in a final shot, for Henry Blake. There are many minimal group shots of two or three people, and two which feature Hawkeye primarily even if he does share the screen with someone else.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season1endchart.jpg]Season 1 - closing image analysis[/photo]

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season1endchart.jpg]Season 1 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 2

The second season moved towards more personal, single character images for the final frame but still maintained mostly group shots. Despite this, specific characters begin to gain ground in getting the final position in the closing credits, in this case Radar has the highest count with Hawkeye in second place. There is also one featured image for Kim, a minor character.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season2endchart.jpg]Season 2 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 3

The third moved away from group shots only having one for the year but also featured two minor characters for the final image. Trapper and Burns had three images each, but Radar managed to grace half of all the episode final images. There is even one final shot given to a non-human character, Private Charles Lamb.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season3endchart.jpg]Season 3 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 4

The fourth season still had two group images and one featuring with an unnamed baby. Hawkeye was given six images while Radar still lead the way with ten in the final shot.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season4endchart.jpg]Season 4 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 5

Klinger and Radar share the dominant position the final episode images of season five while group shots still find their place for three episodes, the same number of images of Frank Burns.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season5endchart.jpg]Season 5 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 6

The final images for season six were more evenly distributed with six given to Hawkeye, four each to Margaret Houlihan and Father Mulcahy. There were still five images of groups.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season6endchart.jpg]Season 6 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 7

For season seven Hawkeye leads the way with eleven images. Three images each were given to Potter and Winchester with two each for Klinger and Mulcahy.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season7endchart.jpg]Season 7 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 8

Hawkeye maintains his high final image count in season eight with fourteen, spreading the remaining images evenly among many of the other members of the cast.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season8endchart.jpg]Season 8 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 9

Hawkeye dominates the numbers for the final images in season nine with eleven, more than half of all the episodes. BJ has a distant second place with three images.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season9endchart.jpg]Season 9 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 10

Hawkeye holds eight images for season ten, twice that of Charles Winchester.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season10endchart.jpg]Season 10 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Season 11

For the eleventh and final season, the lion's share of images were of Hawkeye with thirteen of the sixteen given to him.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.season11endchart.jpg]Season 11 - closing image analysis[/photo]

Complete Series Overview

So, how are the final numbers? Hawkeye may not have had the majority of the final credit images early in the series, but he made up for it by the end of the series with seventy-three of the 251 episodes. Group images held second place with forty-five, and Radar in third with thirty-seven.

[photo=http://capesoptional.com/4images/data/media/50/mash.1972.seasonsendchart.jpg]Series - closing image analysis[/photo]

What does all this tell us? Is the final image representative of main story of each episode? In many cases it is, but the final image is certainly not definitive in this respect. In fact, in many cases other characters were singled out for the parting photo. As the series progressed it is certain that the final image was given to Hawkeye (Alan Alda). Reviewing the evolution of the series, Hawkeye tended to gravitate towards the centre regardless of the situation. In every group setting there will almost always be one central figure and, even of not originally intended, Hawkeye became this figure. He is the character most viewers will relate to in one way or the other.

Ignoring all of this, there are important factors which has been missed. During the entire run of the series, Alan Alda received first billing for each episode and he gained the position of creative consultant for the majority of the series, and even became the series producer. Perhaps the final card is not simply to highlight the prominent character of the episode but to simply book-end the opening credits giving Alan Alda an unofficial final credit as well. Since he also wrote and directed quite a few of the episodes, perhaps honour is well deserved. I think that Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson may have done themselves a disservice by leaving the show so early. Their performance in the series was certainly notable, but it became overshadowed by great works of those to follow.

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Alister Hooke
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Re: M*A*S*H: The Hawkeye Show?

Postby Alister Hooke » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:06 pm

Interesting article, Michael. Enjoyed reading this. I used to tune in to the show now and again. Hawkeye was always a likeable character but it was Radar and Klinger who brought the mayhem and the quirkiness. I think those two departing actors may have simply taken the royal hump and done themselves a big disservice as you suggest. Your article also made me think about Gotham and how the Penguin has so quickly come to the forefront as a character and taken on such a central role, outshining Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock in the process. However, Jim Gordon still gets the largest piece of the pie in terms of actual screen time, as is rightly so. It's just that whenever the Penguin is on screen he electrifies and so it feels like he has the lion's share. Hawkeye may or may not have actually had the most screen time, but he lit up the screen with some rapier wit whenever he was on view and perhaps put a few other characters in the shade by virtue of his natural charisma. In which case, you may have touched on an example of professional jealousy :/ , which may be worse in the acting profession given the egos involved.
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Michael Regan
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Re: M*A*S*H: The Hawkeye Show?

Postby Michael Regan » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:16 pm

Great comparison there Alister, I had not thought of that scenerio with Gotham.

Perhaps one day I'll actually review the individual episodes of MASH in detail to see how things measure up by story, screen-time, etc. I hope my off-beat approach was enjoyed by all even if it was totally unscientific.

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