Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yuletide TV Day 13: M*A*S*H

Series: M*A*S*H

Episode: S9E4 "Death Takes A Holiday"

Original airdate: December 15, 1980

Santa? Yes

Other holidays mentioned: None

Availability: DVD

Unique Christmas Story:
Let me help you get in the mood for reading this post. This should do the trick:


Ok, so I guess there isn't a good version of the theme song online, but I'm going to assume you know how it goes. Just imagine that playing gently in the background while you read this.

The premise for "Death Takes a Holiday" is fairly straight forward. A solider gets wounded during what is supposed to be a Christmas ceasefire, and BJ, with Hawkeye's help, takes it upon himself to make sure the man makes it through the night.

The man's wounds are fatal, but BJ does everything in his power to make sure the man lives past midnight. Being away from his family and put in one of the most horrific places to be during a war outside the front lines, BJ puts extra value on the ability to celebrate Christmas without dealing with the trappings of war. He can't be with his own family on Christmas, but he wants to make sure that this soldiers family doesn't have to think of Christmas as the day their father died.

Everyone wants Christmas to be a happy time. That's where all the stress comes from. Everyone is rushing around to make sure everything goes according to plan. They want to plan the best party, buy the best gifts and cook the best food. BJ is every person who has ever gone out of their way to make the holidays nice for someone else.

His story is nicely paralleled by that of Major Charles Winchester, another man going to great lengths to make the holidays nice for others. The Winchesters have a tradition of anonymously donating a gift to the less fortunate each year, and it is a tradition Charles carries over to an orphanage in Korea. Most of the camp pegs him as miser when he makes a small public donation, but he is determined to carry out his plan in secret.

Both characters try to do something nice for a stranger, but while Charles (mostly) succeeds, BJ's patient doesn't look like he'll make it to midnight. A small gesture by Hawkeye, though, helps BJ achieve his goal.

It's a quiet Christmas story, one that is deftly handled without being overly sappy or dramatic, and one that makes us treasure our own celebrations.

Unique Christmas Message:
If you're under the clock this Christmas, make the clock work for you.

Surprise! This was just the tip of the sitcom iceberg.

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