What is it?
Clauss, Jed. M*A*S*H: The First 5 Years, 1972 – 1977. Mattituck, NY: Aeonian Press, Inc., 1977.
Why should M*A*S*H fans care?
This is a contemporary M*A*S*H book published before the series ended, which makes it more interesting than the flood of books published after the finale.
As a M*A*S*H fan, what part(s) should I read?
All of it! It is a quick read since it is an episode guide.
A worthy episode and award guide for the first five seasons of M*A*S*H. The book is a relic of 1977. Although it is incomplete, I enjoy having it in the collection. The author mentions a revised edition coming in 1983 with all 11 seasons, but I cannot find evidence it was ever published.
Last month, I reviewed a book from 1975 called “All About M*A*S*H.” I liked this book because it was contemporary to the time M*A*S*H aired. For this month, I grabbed the book that was next to it on my shelf! Another book from the 1970s and published while M*A*S*H was airing. M*A*S*H: The First 5 Years, 1972 – 1977 is primarily a published episode guide. Today, with the internet and sites like IMDb, we don’t think about how difficult it was to find out what episodes of a series had aired and find summaries of them. If you missed the episode when it first aired, you had to wait until reruns to hope to see it again!
In 1977, Jed Caluss put together what the title page calls “a show by show arrangement” for the first five years of M*A*S*H. For each season, we see a list of the regular cast, the producers, then a list of each episode. For each episode, he provided the episode title, a brief description, guest cast members, the writer(s), and the director. Clauss likely got this information from summaries that were sent out to television stations at the end of each season. Later on, syndication kits included all of this information and more for stations that purchased M*A*S*H to air locally. What I find fascinating is that this is one of the earliest episode guides that I have ever seen. There were a flurry of M*A*S*H books after the series ended in 1983, but this is one of the rare, mid-run books.
The middle of the book contains black and white photos of each cast member (minus Major Winchester since he didn’t appear until season six). Then, at the back of the book, there is a list of awards the series and cast won each year. Again, this was likely taken from press material provided by 20th Century Fox Television or CBS, but it is one of the earliest lists I have seen. And it is pretty accurate! I have a copy of a later syndication kit, and there are some errors in the episode descriptions (I will write a post about those at some point the future). In my review, I didn’t find any glaring errors, but I didn’t go through it with a fine tooth comb and compare it to the end credits or IMDb.
This copy is the be third edition, published in 1983. That is telling as the book was popular enough to be reprinted at least twice. In the updated Preface, Clauss says that “We herewith present again, the viewers guide to the first five years of M*A*S*H. Next, the entire run…” I have done some research, and I cannot find any evidence that an updated edition of this book was ever published with all 11 seasons. Mostly likely, since the final printing was in 1983, it was overshadowed by the other books about M*A*S*H that were published. Nevertheless, this is a great relic of the series as it demonstrates that fans wanted to learn more about their favorite show even though it would continue for another six seasons.