From M*A*S*H… to Friends


Wayne Frazier

It is pretty safe to say that M*A*S*H, Friends, Cheers and Frasier have stood the test of time. Each of these half-hour sitcoms serves up “laugh out loud” moments several times during each episode. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience some of the funniest moments in television history, pinpoint accurate comedic timing and incredible writing, I suggest you try these. These classics are a testament to what good television can be, the standouts of three consecutive decades, and appeal to doctors, students and homemakers alike for their comedic take on relationships in our society.

M*A*S*H began its run on CBS in 1972, two years after director Robert Altman released the movie “M*A*S*H” to theater-goers. Its success at the box office deemed worthy of a television adaptation. The show about a group of doctors and staff stationed in South Korea during the Korean War revolves around Mobile Army Surgical Hospital the 4077th. Doesn’t sound like the setting for a great comedy, but despite its somewhat dismal setting, the show made sure that laughs kept rolling until the series finale eleven years later. “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the two and ½ hour sendoff , holds the record for the most watched U.S. television show (125 million viewers) in history. Though some of the faces changed throughout its run, the writing became stronger. Some episodes were full of belly laughs while others tugged at the emotions as the characters went through wartime struggles. From doctor “Hawkeye” Pierce (Alan Alda) to the cross-dressing corporal Klinger (Jamie Farr) the zany antics of the army unit made us laugh every week. I recommend making this one a habit and finding the reruns, which can often be seen on TVLand or your locally syndicated stations.

Cheers was the place to go “where everybody knows your name.” The opening theme song said it all and, over time, found that the public agreed. Set in a bar in Boston, a former Red Sox baseball pitcher (Ted Danson) runs a local libations pub in the city. If the crazy regulars, mailman Cliff (John Ratzenberger), Dr. Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) or the king of the one-liners Norm (George Wendt) didn’t tickle your bourbon bone, the wait staff always kept the pace. This 28-time Emmy Award-winning sitcom kept us glued to our seats every Thursday night from 1982-1993. It was eleven years of laughter, heartfelt moments and excellent fun! “Cheers” to one of the best shows of all time.

And then came the sequel. Dr Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), a noted psychiatrist in Boston, moves back to his hometown in Seattle. Grammer continues his role after his eleven-year stint on Cheers, and the laughter follows for another eleven years on the hit spinoff Frasier. After his marriage ends, Frasier hosts his own radio talk show, takes care of his live-in dad (John Mahoney) and renews relations with his younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). This pompous and quite arrogant character searches each week to find the woman of his dreams and often fails miserably. The show is filled with sharp comedic quips and physical comedy that should not be missed. One of the most successful spin-off television shows of all time, Frasier won 37 Emmys, breaking The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s record. Frasier finally “left the building” in 2004, but it never left our hearts.

Everyone deserves to have Friends in their que on Netflix. It seems like anywhere just about any time of day, all ten seasons of one of Americas top comedies of all time is ready for your viewing pleasure. It’s the story of six mid-twenties friends who share the pains and laughter of living life in New York City and effectively “growing up together.” Whether Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is having her brother’s triplets (via artificial insemination) or Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) is in a ten-year off and on again relationship with Ross (David Schwimmer), we couldn’t wait to hang out in Central Perk coffee shop with them to see what would happen next! Amazing kudos goes out to these actors (lest we not forget the hilarious Mathew Perry or Courteney Cox) in this-perfect ensemble. Timing, physical comedy and superb writing made this no. 21 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of all time. In May 2004, around 52.5 million viewers tuned into to say goodbye to their friends.

So, why do these shows stand the test of time? Is it the writing, the comfort of seeing your favorite characters each and every week? Was it the ensemble cast that made us feel good for 30 minutes a week? Yes, yes and yes to all of the aforementioned. Though there are many great sitcoms on today, none seem to stand the test of time like these classics! So “Cheers” to “Friends,” and make sure you call on Dr “Frasier.” However, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this “M*A*S*H”-up of some of the best sitcoms in history by saying “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”!