To Hell in a Wheelbarrow

I’ve been watching M*A*S*H on freeview TV for months now. Brilliant. As a thought-experiment I tried to imagine a similar programme, made now, set in a military A&E somewhere in Afghanistan, for argument’s sake, or Iraq. It would star surgeons who were anti-war, critical of their country’s politicians and the military. One surgeon, more conservative, would be the butt of their jokes. A male nurse would pretend to be a transvestite to try and get thrown out of the army.

It just wouldn’t happen. Too controversial. Too political. Too unpatriotic. Too disrespectful. Too expensive.

And, the executives would ask, who would want to watch it when they could be watching ballroom dancing, baking or celebrity gardeners digging up other people’s gardens?


2 thoughts on “To Hell in a Wheelbarrow

  1. Bit of a jaundiced view methinks. I think the Afghan war in particular has made most people much more aware of the terrible injuries inflicted upon civilians and personnel alike.
    I agree that people would not embrace it as they did then (was the war still on when they made it incidentally?). The soaps about hospitals are many at present and they are without exception sanitised – just as Mash was when it came to injuries. There are no jokes to be made from war in that sense.

  2. I don’t think MASH is that sanitised regarding injuries. It doesn’t show them graphically (surely unnecessary in good drama) but it does describe them and often refers to the age of the people who suffer them. Boys lose legs, stomachs, spleens, etc. The psychological impact of war is dealt with at length, too – the psychiatrist Sydney Freedman pops up a lot, to counsel not only the injured soldiers but the medical staff who have to treat them.

    MASH was about the Korean war but it started to be shown, I think, during the Vietnam war. I think I’m right in saying there has never been a time since WWII when a war has not been going on somewhere.

    I may be a little yellow under the eyelids where the triviality of modern TV is concerned but not, I hope where freedom of thought is concerned and the degree to which our culture allows flexibility of thought. We sometimes need to step outside the world we live in and see it from the outside, looking in. MASH proved that it is possible to make entertaining drama that succeeds in encouraging this.

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