M*A*S*H Writer Larry Gelbart Dies At 81


Larry Gelbart died today of cancer at age 81. Among his achievements was writing for the television version of M*A*S*H:

Set in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, TV’s “MASH” grew out of director Robert Altman’s hit 1970 movie written by Ring Lardner Jr., which was based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker (the pen name of Dr. Richard Hornberger, who had been a military surgeon in Korea).

Gelbart and his family were living in London, and he was producing the British TV show “The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine” in 1971 when producer-director Gene Reynolds called him about writing a pilot script for a TV series based on “MASH.”

In writing the pilot, Gelbart recalled in his 1998 memoir “Laughing Matters,” he knew that it “was going to have to be a whole lot more than funny. Funny was easy. How not to trivialize human suffering by trying to be comic about it, that was the challenge.”

“MASH” debuted on CBS in 1972, with Gelbart serving as executive script consultant. He and Reynolds were both executive producers of the show — and shared Emmys — when it won the award for outstanding comedy series in 1974.

Gelbart’s influence on “MASH,” Reynolds told the New York Times in 1989, was “seminal, basic and enormous.”

“Larry not only had the wit and the jokes,” Reynolds said, “he had a point of view. He not only had the ribald spirit, he had the sensibility to the premise — the wastefulness of war.”

As for the regulation-breaking surgeon Hawkeye Pierce — the lead character played by Alan Alda — Gelbart told the New York Times, “I didn’t have to think of why he was saying what he said. He was saying what I felt. I mean, he is an idealized me.”

Hawkeye, he said, “is capable — that is, at work, at what he does. He’s an idealist. He’s a romantic. Somebody who cares about himself and other people. He’s often frustrated by whatever particular system he finds himself fighting against.”

“MASH” ran for 11 years. But Gelbart’s involvement ended in 1976 after four years and 97 episodes. As he later told The Times, “After four years, I had given it my best, my worst and everything in between.”

In a statement Friday, Alda said: “Larry’s genius for writing changed my life because I got to speak his lines — lines that were so good they’ll be with us for a long, long time; but his other genius — his immense talent for being good company — is a light that’s gone out and we’re all sitting here in the dark.”

M*A*S*H was one of the greatest anti-war shows ever (as well as one of the greatest television shows of any type to ever air). If George Bush had spent more time when younger watching M*A*S*H instead of drinking, perhaps he would have thought twice about going into Iraq.

GOP Cranks Dominate Oppositon to Sunstein And Health Care Debate

Two days ago I noted that some of the rare remaining rational conservatives are speaking out against the smear campaign against Cass Sunstein which was launched by the wingnuts who have captured control of the conservative movement.  Another conservative, David Frum, has written about this today. Frum calls Sunstein the “best friend conservatives are likely ever to have inside the administration.”  He criticized the smears which have originated with Glenn Beck, noting that his show is “paranoid and hysterical” and that Beck is “none too scrupulous about facts and truth.”

Frum concludes by writing, “It’s beyond time for conservatives who know better to join us at NewMajority in emancipating ourselves from leadership by the most stupid, the most cynical, and the most truthless.”

Also at NewMajority, Tim Mak has a post showing why conservatives should support rather than oppose Sunstein noting, “Deregulators have generally favored the Sunstein nomination.”

The smear campaign against Sunstein is just one of many examples of the lunacy which now dominates the conservative movement. While it is hardly news, Politco notes this in the context of opposition to health care reform in an article entitled “GOP ‘cranks’ dominating debate.”

Joe Wilson’s outburst Wednesday night earned more than a personal rebuke from the president and a dagger-eyed gasp from the speaker of the House; it drew winces from Republicans worried that their party is becoming known less for the power of its ideals and more for the pettiness of its vitriol.

“Neither party has an exclusive on wack jobs,” says Republican media consultant Mark McKinnon. “Unfortunately, right now the Democrats generally get defined by President Obama, and Republicans, who have no clear leadership, get defined by crackpots — and then they begin to define the Republican Party in the mind of the general public.”

Turn on the TV, and you see what he means.

Here’s Orly Taitz, insisting that the commander in chief was born in Kenya. There’s a flock of angry protesters chanting “Just say no!” and carrying signs depicting a Democratic congressman with devil’s horns. Former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin warns darkly that Obama is planning “death panels” for senior citizens. Georgia Rep. Paul Broun equates the president’s plans with “Nazi” policies. Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt — last heard calling John Murtha a “coward” — tells a birther: “I agree with you, but the courts don’t.”

And then, in the midst of all the catcalls, hand-held signs and “I’m not listening” BlackBerrying, Wilson interrupts Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress by shouting, “You lie!”

No matter what the topic is, from the confirmation of Cass Sunstein to the health care debate, the Republicans are dominated by cranks and cooks as most of the serious conservatives have been driven away.

Obama on Anniversary of 9/11 Attack: “Every year on this day, we are all New Yorkers”


Barack Obama on 9/11:

Eight years ago, on an ordinary Tuesday morning, nearly 3,000 lives were lost in the deadliest attack on American soil in our history.

It was an event that forever changed the life of this city. And it was a tragedy that will be forever seared in the consciousness of our nation.

Every year on this day, we are all New Yorkers.

We pause to remember the victims, to grieve with the families and friends of those who died, and to honor the heroes of that day and each day since who have sacrificed to save lives and serve their country.

We will never forget the images of planes vanishing into buildings; of billowing smoke rolling down the streets of Manhattan; of photos hung by the families of the missing.

We will never forget the rage and aching sadness we felt.

And we will never forget the feeling that we had lost something else: a sense of safety as we went about our daily lives.

The memory of those images and that vulnerability reminds us of the real and present danger posed by violent extremists who would use terrorism against Americans at home and around the world.

As President, my greatest responsibility is the security of the American people. It is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing I think about when I go to sleep at night.

That responsibility is the heart of the policies my administration has put in place.

The full text is posted here by The New York Daily News

Keith Olbermann Demolishes Joe Wilson

Keith Olbermann demolished Joe Wilson in a Special Comment last night(video above). Transcript (via Crooks and Liars) under the fold. More on Wilson here and here.


John Stossel Going From ABC News to Fox

John Stossel is leaving ABC News and going to Fox, possibly improving both. This will definitely improve the journalistic integrity of ABC. Fox is the only “news” outlet he could go to where he will not hurt them and actually he might be a slight improvement over many of the others there.

Many other blogs have already noted many of the absurdities which have come out in previous broadcasts by Stossel. In past posts I’ve  primarily noted his ignorant descriptions of health care, which often form the basis of libertarian views on health care issues. I’ve previously posted responses to Stossel on health care here, here, here, and here.

I Drank Starbucks in 2007

The silly story of the day is the report that Joe Wilson took caffeine pills in 2007. I doubt anyone finds this more meaningful than hearing that someone drinks several cups of coffee a day. Steve M. notes that it was written by a conservative and has a theory:

So why did he write this story? Is it a false flag operation — a clumsy attempt by an ideological soul mate to change the subject from Wilson’s outburst and to make Wilson appear to be the victim of journalistic malpractice, which can then be blamed on liberals?

If so, Allahpundit, along with other conservative bloggers, is falling for it (or playing along). He writes, “We’ve reached a very, very dark point.”

(I previously wrote about Joe Wilson and heckling the president here.)