Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Failure of AfterMASH

The story of AfterMASH begins prior the 10th season of M*A*S*H.  The principal actors (Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, David Odgen Stiers, Jamie Farr, Harry Morgan and William Christopher) met to decide the fate of the show.  Alda, Swit, Farrell and Stiers wanted to end the show after its 10th season, but Farr, Morgan and Christopher wanted the show to continue.  Since Alda had become the creative force behind M*A*S*H, he decided to compromise and they did an abbreviated 11th season, with a 2.5 hour series finale.  The shows creator, Larry Gelbart, was approached by Farr, Morgan and Christopher about creating a spin-off of M*A*S*H.  Gelbart was the obvious choice since he had written M*A*S*H’s pilot episode and was the creative force behind the show for its first five seasons.  He agreed to take on the challenge.

What Gelbart envisioned was, in retrospect, ahead of its time.  A show set in a hospital, but not just any hospital, a veterans hospital in River Bend, Missouri.  Having seen all but a few episodes of AfterMASH, I can comment on its quality and its downfall.

The series began with a strong following.  All the M*A*S*H fans watched the premier, in fact, the show was the highest rated premier in the Fall of 1983, but the ratings were short lived.  While the familier characters of Colonel Potter, Father Mulcahy, and Klinger (along with his wife Soon-Lee) were present, they felt out of place.  I accept that it is impossible to replace the war atmosphere at a state-side hospital, but there were many other things the writers could have focused on such as racism, the Cold War, etc., but the show was condemned to be a situation comedy.  Unlike M*A*S*H, AfterMASH could not be a “dramedy” in only 23 minutes.  By the middle of the first season, the shows ratings had tumbled and the show’s creators began to make drastic changes.  Replacing the actress who played Mildred Potter, replacing the head of the hospital, and replacing a surgeon.  The new surgeon seemed promising, however, beging that he himself was veteran who had lost is leg in Korea while working at an Aid Station.  But, by far the worst change of all, was the treatment of Farr’s character of Klinger.  Klinger was adjusting to married life and life away from war, but the story line took him in the wrong direction.  Klinger became a fugitive and had to pretend to be crazy to avoid jail, thus Klinger was back in dresses.  A man wearing a dress to get out of a war is funny, but a man wearing a dress to avoid facing punishment for his actions is not.  The fans hated the “new” Klinger and Jamie Farr revealed in later interviews that he did as well.  The series ended with a thud during its second season.  A series finale was filmed, but it never aired.

Despite the numerous negative aspects to AfterMASH, there were a few bright spots.  One episode, “Fall Out,” was nominated for an Emmy in 1984.  The episode centered around a soldier who had been present at atomic bomb tests in Arizona.  He was diagnosed with Leukemia and the doctor on staff at the veterans hospital wanted the Army to foot the bill, but they refused citing there was no proof the atomic bomb was to blame and they denied that the atomic bomb could produce a dangerous amount of radiation.  Colonel Potter convinces the young doctor not to give up on his practice simply because he lost one battle.  In the 1950s, it was common for the Army to deny that radiation from the atomic bomb had damaging effects, and the Veterans Administration did deny claims on a regular basis.  This touch of real life/drama was what M*A*S*H was all about, and AfterMASH was able to capture that magic for one 23 minute episode.

Why is AfterMASH important? Mostly because it ushered in a number of hospital dramas.  These dramas, such as ER, were able to learn from AfterMASH’s mistakes.  The most important lesson from AfterMASh is that drama should overpower the comedy.  Another lesson learned was that a drama worked better as an one-hour show as opposed to only a half hour.  Many forget that there was another doctor drama to spin off from M*A*S*H, and that was Trapper John, M.D.  The series only took the character’s name, but did not include any of the original actors from M*A*S*H, but the show was a one-hour drama series that lasted for nine seasons.  Overall, the material was there to make AfterMASH a successful one-hour drama, and the shows creators would most likely have been able to get the air time from CBS considering the success of M*A*S*H, but they took the easy way out and created a comedy.  Because fans of M*A*S*H only wanted to see their favorite characters in Korea, the world has largely forgotten AfterMASH – but this is not such a bad thing.

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Back to the Future Shoes raise $5.7 Million

The eBay auctions for the much hyped shoes worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II, created by Nike, have ended and the sale raised $5.7 million for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Parkinson Disease research.  The shoes were highly sought after by shoe collectors and Back to the Future fans alike.  Rappers Kanye West and Tinie Tempah both purchased a pair.  Only 1,500 pairs of the shoes were created and Nike matched the purchase price for each pair sold.  Michael J. Fox promoted the shoes leading up to the auction on various television programs.  It was great to see the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Nike team up and create an awesome collectable while raising much needed research funds.

Source: Business Insider

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39 Years of M*A*S*H

Thirty-nine years ago tonight, television viewers tuned into watch the series premiere of the series M*A*S*H.  The series was based off Twentieth Century Fox’s film and Richard Hooker’s novel.  The show failed miserably in the ratings during its first season and was sure to be canceled.  The story goes that the wife of CBS’s president loved the show and it was renewed for a second season.  The show remained in the top 15 in the ratings for the next ten years.

There are very few TV series that last beyond seven years, but shows that go through cast changes tend to have more difficulty.  M*A*S*H successfully replaced three cast members, killing off one.  As a series about war, the show’s writers felt it was important to have the right mix of comedy and drama.  M*A*S*H was the first of these s0-called “dramadies” and has been called “television’s serious sitcom.”  The series has always been my favorite for this reason.  I have researched M*A*S*H units during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the series’ creators did their research, including conducting interviews with doctors and nurses and even visiting an operational M*A*S*H unit that remained in Korea.  Many of the stories presented week-after-week on M*A*S*H were true stories told in one of the interviews.  While M*A*S*H’s characters are fictional, the backdrop is very real.  This contributed to the series’ success and explains why the series is still popular today.

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Pottermore (Beta): A Full Review

I have been in Pottermore now for a week and have worked my way through the first nine chapters of Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone.  When I first heard that J. K. Rowling planned on doing Pottermore, I was unsure as to what a website could add to the books.  What I have found out, however, is that there is a lot to be added to the world of Harry Potter.  In this review, I will share screen captures, a review of the site/layout, and the experience itself.  I will not spoil any of the new information provided by Rowling or give a chapter-by-chapter run down of what you will experience.  That is for you to explore whether you are waiting for your Beta invite or the full release in October.

I will begin by saying that the website is very stable.  There was some concern as to whether or not the site was built with Adobe’s Flash technology, but it appears that Sony has chosen to go with HTML 5 or some variant.  Which means that Pottermore will work on tablets and phones without Flash.  In fact, Pottermore runs very smoothly on my iPhone!  There have been only a few occasions where the site has been down for maintenance, but that is to be expected since this is a Beta period.

In each chapter, the layout of the page remains the same.  The above image is from Chapter 9 and I will use this to explain the element on the page.  (1) This the the “main menu” for Pottermore from which you can jump to Diagon Alley, Gringotts, the Great Hall, or your Common Room.  There are also links to Spells, Potions, your Trunk, your Friends (you can link your account to Facebook), and pages that you add to your favorites along the way.  Along the top it also shows you how many House Points you have earned and how many your house has in total.  (2) This element presents all the information available in the chapter.  Character biographies, places, collected items, books, etc. are all located in this sidebar.  A little feather icon appears next to one of the menu elements if there is something new in this chapter.  (3) This is your navigation bar.  From here you can move forward to the next element, go back to the last element, or get a brief description of the chapter.  The layout of Pottermore is extremely user friendly and functional.

The adventure through the books begins at login.  After logging in with your chosen screen name, you are taken to a gateway (pictured above) which is outlined with the books and chapters.  This serves as your navigation tool through the site and the books.  From here you can continue through the book or jump to a previous chapter. This serves as the welcome page as you enter the website.

Although I said I would not spoil any of the experiences of Pottermore, I will highlight a few of the key experiences in the early chapters.  The first of which would be shopping in Diagon Alley.  Here you get to do many things including visit Gringotts to open your account (you are given 500 Galleons to begin with).  After you have opened your account, you must purchase the items on your shopping list.  This list is identical to the one Harry received in book one.  You visit each store individually and make your purchases, including your choice of pet.  The most important stop, however, is your last….choosing your wand.

Vising Ollivander’s is one of the most exciting parts of the trip to Diagon Alley.  Receiving (well paying for!) your wand is the first step to becoming a wizard.   You are asked a series of simple questions and a wand is chosen, or rather, a wand choses you!  Although this is a short and easy process, it is key to the story.

After visiting Ollivander’s, you board the Hogwarts Express and head to Hogwarts.  Upon entering the castle, you are taken to the sorting ceremony.  Before you are sorted, you are presented with a short video from Rowling explaining that this is the crucial point of the experience.  You will be a member of this house for the remainder of the books and there is no changing of houses.  You are asked a series of more complex questions and you are then added to a house.  I was sorted into Hufflepuff.  You are then taken to your Common Room and presented with an exclusive history of your house (only members of your house has access to this information from Rowling).

The Great Hall is the center for your information about Hogwarts.  Here you can find out how many points each house has, how many students are in each house, and how many students are enrolled at Hogwarts (currently there are approximately 360,000!).  What I have found interesting about this page is the equality in numbers between the houses.  One would think that the sorting hat ceremony could be easily swayed so that you could be in the house of your choice, but the numbers suggest otherwise.  In fact, the numbers are so equal (look closely at the picture above), that there is obviously some filter in place to ensure that one house does not have 20,000 more than another.  Right now the gap between the house with the most and least members is less than 1,000.  Seems almost too close to be going completely by your answers.

Throughout the chapters, the reader is presented with a great amount of information.  Character biographies, room descriptions, Rowling’s extras, etc. that there really is a lot to take in.  Rowling’s extras are the best part the chapters and include backstory on the Dursleys, background on the Hogwart’s Express, and the backstory of Professor McGonagall.  She also includes descriptions of all the woods and cores available to wand makers and their abilities.  Her additions to the story are very thorough and written in the same story as the books so that readers will feel right at home.

In addition to readings, there are hands on activities as well.  Casting spells and brewing potions are the two most challenging tasks on the site, in fact, they are damn near impossible to complete.  The site administrators have admitted there are some issues that they would like to address to make these tasks easier, but casting a spell should not require a complicated system using both the keyboard and the mouse.  Potions making should be detailed, and it works, until you get to a certain point and then I was stuck and ran out of time.

Despite these few issues, Pottermore is an exiting way to experience the world of Harry Potter.  This site will thrill fans both young and old and will provide years of entertainment.  It is important to note that what I am working with now is a Beta and may change before October, although I cannot image it would change much.  Rowling said at her press conference introducing the site that the goal of Pottermore was to bring Harry Potter to a new generation of readers by incorporating technology.  Pottermore hugely succeeds.

Keep up with the latest Pottermore news by visiting the Pottermore Insider.

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Museums: Historically Hardcore

I came across this series of posters and thought they were amazing!  They are historically accurate and highlight some of the more bad ass historical figures.  They were created by a two students, Jenny Burrows and Matt Kappler, for a school project.  You can read more about their posters and download them at their WEBSITE.  These posters have been very popular online because they were thought to have been created by the Smithsonian.  While they were not made by any museum, they are still fun!  Enjoy!

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We Remember…Never Forget

God Bless America

 

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Kevin Harvick Inc. to Shut Down

Kevin Harvick announced this week that the Nationwide Series cars fielded by KHI this year will become part of Richard Childress Racing next season.  That left many fans wondering if KHI would continue in Camping World Truck Series.  In an interview today, Harvick confirmed the truck teams will also cease to exist after this season.  The news has shocked the racing community since KHI has won 39 races and 2 championships in the last nine years.  In the interview Harvick said, “I had to tell all 140 of my employees what was going on. I told them on Wednesday. They will have a chance to get a job at RCR with the merger, but we dont know how many.”  He admits that the hardest part of telling driver of the #33 truck and long-time friend, Ron Hornaday that he would have to find another ride for the 2012 season.

Kevin and DeLana Harvick founded KHI in 2001 and began in the Truck Series.  Slowly, they built up their team and expanded into the Nationwide Series.  KHI has had success in both series, but especially in the Truck series with Hornaday.  A four time Truck series Champion, Hornaday won two of those championships with KHI in 2007 and 2009.  For the 2011 season, KHI fields the #2 Chevrolet driven by a variety of drivers, #8 Chevrolet driven by Nelson Piquet Jr., and the #33 Chevrolet driven by Hornaday.  In the Nationwide Series, the #2 Chevrolet driven by Elliot Sadler and the #33 Chevrolet driven by a variety of drivers.  Bot the #2 and #33 Nationwide cars will move to RCR for the 2012 season.

I have been to KHI two times in the past year and Kevin and DeLana put together a great program.  It is sad to see them go, but as Harvick stated, “It’s a tough model, business-wise. We’ve scrimped and scraped and got the sponsorship and things that you need, and GM has been a great supporter of everything that we’ve done. But from a business standpoint, sometimes you just have to make the decisions as to what you want to do, and for us it just didn’t make sense.”  Kevin wants to focus more on his Sprint Cup Series career.

Source: NASCAR

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