For many fans of the M*A*S*H TV series, the opening sequence was M*A*S*H. It contained some of the most memorable scenes of the series and captured the essence of what the show was all about - the choppers carrying wounded to be met by the MASH doctors, nurses and corpsmen running to the landing pad. The sense of urgency is palpable, and the coordination is amazing. In spite of the chaos, every person on the chopper pad seems to know exactly what to do without being told.
While the basic structure of the opening sequence remained largely the same during all of the eleven seasons, there were subtle changes from season to season, mostly to accommodate changes in the main cast. Indeed, experienced M*A*S*H viewers can identify the series season simply by watching the opening sequence.
A special extended opening sequence, which few know about, was also used for the first broadcast of the Pilot episode. But this was not used in syndication and so was forgotten until it came back in the Pilot episode on the DVD set. This special sequence will be detailed later in this article.
Scenes in the opening sequenceEdit
The opening sequence of M*A*S*H comprised a montage of up to 16 scenes, overlaid with actor's credits for the main cast, all done to the instrumental accompaniment of Suicide is Painless. From season to season, one or more of these scenes would be changed, actor's credits would be added or removed, or a different arrangement of the theme music would be attempted.
The list below details the 16 scenes and also the variants which were used in later seasons.
- Scene 1: Radar, back to camera, looking at two distant choppers as the come into view over the Goat Buttes surrounding the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park).
- Scene 1B: Clipped version without Radar - used after Radar left the series.
- Scene 2: View of two choppers from the rear panning to starboard
- Scene 2B: View of two choppers, more distant and from higher up and starboard quarter
- Scene 3: Overhead view of the MASH camp. This is actually the camp set as used in the MASH film.
- Scene 4: An ambulance drives into the camp.
- Scene 5: Close up of a chopper. A casualty with blood-soaked clothes and bandages in on the starboard pannier. His arm can be seen dangling from the pannier.
- Scene 5B: Close up of a different chopper, casualty on pannier now totally wrapped in blanket, no arm dangling. Camera zooms in on M*A*S*H logo on side of chopper near end of scene. Writing in his blog, Ken Levine, one of the screenwriters said that this change was just for some variety and was not because of a complaint.
- Scene 6: The famous scene of the 5 running nurses (A since-disproven urban legend was that one of them was actress Mary Tyler Moore).
- Scene 7: Men running, seen through a camouflage net.
- Scene 8: Two choppers on approach for landing, Hawkeye and a group watching in foreground.
- Scene 9: Men including Radar (recognised by his hat) running up steps.
- Scene 10: A chopper lands.
- Scene 11: Hawkeye's group including Dish, Radar and Mulcahy (played by George Morgan) are crouching. They get up and move towards the chopper.
- Scene 12: Another chopper lands.
- Scene 13: Trapper's group moves towards a chopper (seasons 1-3 only).
- Scene 14: Close up of Hawkeye as he looks over a casualty.
- Scene 14B: B.J. runs out to a chopper seen through the glass cab (Season 4 only).
- Scene 14C: B.J. (with no mustache) seen through the chopper's glass cab looks up and says what appears to be "OK" as he tends to a casualty.
- Scene 14D: B.J. (closer up with mustache) looks over a casualty and looks up and nods.
- Scene 15: Overhead view of casualties being unloaded from choppers
- Scene 16: Two jeeps with casualties moving downslope from the chopper pad to the hospital. Hawkeye is in the first jeep, Trapper in the second.
- Scene 16B: zoomed in view so that part of the second jeep is not visible. This is done so that Trapper, who has left the series, is not in the scene.
Changes in opening sequence by seasonEdit
This table summarizes the changes in the scenes, credits and music over the seasons. For the changes in scenes, refer to the scene numbering above.
|1||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16||Alan Alda, Waynes Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff||The original instrumental theme which starts with guitar strums for most episodes.|
For 3 episodes near the end, "The Army-Navy Game", "Sticky Wicket", and "Major Fred C. Dobbs", a different, jazzier arrangement was tried, but the show reverted to the original for the last 2 episodes.
|2||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16||Alan Alda, Waynes Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff||Same original theme music|
|3||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16||Alan Alda, Waynes Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff||Same original theme music|
|4||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14B (new), 15, 16B (new)||Alan Alda, Mike Farrell (new), Harry Morgan (new), Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr (new)||Same original theme music|
|5||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14C (new), 15, 16B||Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, William Christopher(new)||Same original theme music but the arrangement has been lengthened with a few bars of guitar strums around Scene 15 to accommodate the extra credits|
|6||1, 2B (new), 3, 4, 5B (new), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14C, 15, 16B|
By far the biggest change of all, with all new chopper flight scenes.
|Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers (new), Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, William Christopher||Same lengthened theme music as in Season 5|
|7||1, 2B, 3, 4, 5B, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14D (new), 15, 16B|
Now B.J. has his mustache in Scene 14D.
|Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers (new), Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, William Christopher||Slight change in arrangement. Opening guitar strums and the lengthening at Scene 15 are still there. But the music sounds a bit more electronic, less brassy and some bars are punctuated with a bell.|
|8||1B (new), 2B, 3, 4, 5B, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14D, 15, 16B|
Radar left partway so Scene 1 is clipped to remove his image.
|Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, Also Starring Gary Burghoff as Radar||Same music as in Season 7.|
|9||1B, 2B, 3, 4, 5B, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 14D, 15, 16B||Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Jamie Farr, William Christopher||Another new arrangement. The opening bars do not sound like they come from a guitar. The sound is electronic. The bells in the Season 7/8 version are gone. There is a slightly jauntier beat.|
(work in progress)
- Although the scenes were changed to omit cast members who had left, they can still be seen in the remaining scenes where it was impractical to do any editing.
- In Hawkeye's group of crouching figures in Scene 11, Dish can be seen holding on to her hat just behind Hawkeye. Dish only appeared in 2 episodes in Season 1 but in effect was in every episode as part of the opening sequence.
- In the same group in Scene 11, Radar can be seen in his Jeep cap just behind Dish. Although Radar left in Season 8, this image of him remained until the last episode.
- Scene 11 also includes George Morgan who only appeared in the Pilot episode as the chaplain Father Mulcahy. So, like Dish and Radar, he was in every episode.
- Scene 14. There is a shadow of someone just about to appear beside Hawkeye. That shadow belongs to Dish. The extended opening sequence of the Pilot episode has Dish appearing fully here (see below).
- Scene 16B. This was the edited scene to exclude Trapper but his arm and shadow can still be seen occasionally.
- The ambulance scene (Scene 4) occasionally appears scratchy and grainy but seems to happen randomly. Sometimes it is scratchy, then in later episodes it improves, then becomes scratchy again.
- The footage of the helicopters in flight was from those shot (but not used) for the 1970 MASH film. The MASH film opening sequence also has a chopper scene carrying a blood soaked casualty with his arm dangling from the side which looks very similar.
The Pilot episode opening sequenceEdit
The opening sequence of the Pilot episode is longer and substantially different from that of the other episodes. This extended opening sequence is not usually shown during syndicated reruns but is available in the DVD set.
The sequence begins with a teaser depicting various scenes of camp life in the 4077th to the strains of a Japanese song ("My Blue Heaven") played over the PA system. There is a subtitle stating "Korea, 1950 a hundred years ago". The scenes included are:
- Hawkeye and Trapper are playing golf at the 4077th "golf links". Trapper drives a ball which lands in a minefield and causes an explosion.
- Henry Blake and Leslie Scorch in surgical gowns appear to be concentrating hard on some activity - which is later revealed to be opening a champagne bottle.
- A dozing Father Mulcahy (George Morgan) flicks insects away from his face with a sign of a cross.
- Burns and Margaret are reading but also playing footsie underneath the table.
- Spearchucker is playing football with Radar and Boone. Radar catches a ball and then shouts, "Here they come!" Spearchucker replies, "I don't hear nothing." "Wait for it," Radar says. He looks towards the hills, back to camera, and two choppers appear. The guitar music begins which signals the transition to the titles sequence proper.
The titles sequence properEdit
The titles sequence is longer and contains more scenes than in the other episodes. The musical accompaniment is also longer in order to accommodate this.
- Scene 1 is similar to that of the other episodes - Radar is watching the 2 choppers over the Goat Buttes.
- Scene 2 of two choppers is the same as the other episodes.
- Scene 3: The PA system says "Attention all personnel. Report immediately to admitting ward and operating room." Nurses run out of the nurses tent and take a left turn. This running nurses scene involves different nurses. There is Dish in the lead, with Scorch and possibly Knocko McCarthy among others.
- Scene 4:A man runs out of the Men's shower tent wrapped in a towel.
- Scene 5: Men running as seen through a camouflage net - same as Scene 7 in the other episodes.
- Scene 6: Close up of chopper, same as Scene 6 in the other episodes.
- Scene 7: Personnel running up steps. This is different from Scene 9 in the other episodes. There is Dish, Scorch and other nurses among the men.
- Scene 8: A nurse steps out of a tent with a sign saying "Off Limits to Male Personnel". Seconds later, a man emerges.
- Scene 9: Two choppers approach to land, a group including Hawkeye watches in the foreground. This is similar to Scene 8 of the other episodes but is longer. The scene extends until the first chopper touches down.
- Scene 10: Hawkeye's crouching group gets up to move to the chopper. It starts the same as Scene 11 of the other episodes, but it then cuts to a different camera angle behind and to the left of the group.
- Scene 11: Closeup of Hawkeye as he looks over a patient. Starts the same as Scene 14 of the other episodes but then the scene is extended and Dish comes fully into view behind Hawkeye.
- Scene 12: Another chopper lands. Same as Scene 12 of the other episodes.
- Scene 13: Trapper's group moves towards the chopper. Same as Scene 13 of the other episodes. Then the camera cuts to a closeup of Trapper examining a patient.
- Scene 14: Back to Hawkeye with Dish behind him. Hawkeye shouts: "This guy's got a rapid pulse...he's in shock...get him down there we'll work on him first thing...let's go!"
- Scene 15: Views of the litters being unloaded from the choppers and transferred to the jeeps. This is longer than in the other episodes.
- Scene 16: Now the ambulance drives into the camp, similar to Scene 4 in the other episodes.
- Scene 17: The jeeps proceed downslope, similar to Scene 16 in the other episodes.