For my birthday this year, my husband, who is full of awesome, managed to find me something just as cool as what I got last year. Behold!
I've made it almost to the end of season three, and I have to tell you, I LOVE this show. I loved M.A.S.H. as a kid, but as adult I have a whole new appreciation for the writing and character development involved here.
Would you like some examples? Of course you would!
Major Frank Burns is the sort-of-villain for the first few seasons. And I say sort-of because Frank is the poster child for the Bumbling/Wormy Villain. He's cowardly, greedy and not very bright.
HOWEVER, the writers do something interesting with Frank. They write him as pitiful enough so that you feel sorry for him on a regular basis, while still keeping him so awful that you never pity him for longer than a few minutes.
After watching many episodes, I've decided that the way they do this is by never giving Frank any genuine moments of human connection. Even his infatuation with Margaret Houlihan is shown to be shallow and selfish. Everyone else in the show has times of sympathy, bravery, or understanding. Frank doesn't. This makes him a tad one-dimensional, but also allows for a villain who's nicely balanced between pathetic and dangerous.
Margaret is the head nurse at the M.A.S.H unit, and aside from Pierce (below), she turns out to be the most complex character in the whole series. She has her faults, not the least of which is her creepy affection for Frank Burns in the first half of the series. (They really are quite disturbing together. *shudders*)
Margaret is "regular army", strict, hard-nosed, and devoted to regulations. But she's also devoted to nursing. She cares about her patients, and can even admit that she's wrong if she has to.
Margaret goes through more actual changes than any other person in the series. She starts out with Frank Burns, but eventually tires of his selfishness and marries someone else. The marriage doesn't work out, but over time, Margaret becomes more open, happier, and gentler with those under her command. Her development arc takes time, over all eleven seasons, but it's believable, and excellently done.
Benjamin Franklin Pierce
Captain Pierce is far and away the star of the series, and it's most complex character. He's a classic Super-Competent, the chief surgeon of the unit and the best doctor around.
Pierce hates the army, his job, and the war in general. His hobbies are insubordination, chasing nurses, and fixing his gin still. But he cares very deeply about people. He's the series's champion for women, children, enlisted men and any wounded people that come in, regardless of race, creed, or what side of the war they are on.
Interestingly enough, Pierce is the person who has the most mental breakdowns over the course of the series. The war gets to him, more than anyone else. He has bouts of insomnia, sleepwalking, and even does a brief stint at a mental hospitable in the last episode.
He doesn't have as many changes in his life as Margaret, but Pierce's intense personality and deeply human flaws provide the perfect foil for the inhuman war that the show is set in.
What do you think? And if you could learn characterization from any series, which would it be?