M*A*S*H Writer Opens Up About How Classic TV Once Brought ‘Country Together’

by Madison Miller
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TV has changed in obvious ways since its creation in the 1920s. However, what’s even more challenging to gauge is how television has changed us since its creation.

From news to politics to sitcoms to dramas, different television has had different effects on us.

“M*A*S*H” writer Larry Gelbart spoke in an interview with Television Academy Foundation on how he thinks TV has changed people.

Larry Gelbart Talks TV

In Gelbart’s opinion, TV has changed, but not for the better.

“I think our problem is … we’re not discerning, we think it’s our obligation to watch it all the time,” Gelbart said.

In fact, he also said that the “talent pool is not that deep” in reference to the quantity of content we’re making now. He states that “nothing can be wonderful all the time.”

Gelbart seems to believe that classic television had more to offer people. This meaning more than just entertainment, but something to solidify people as a collective unit.

“When it unites us, as it has in the past, I think it serves a tremendous function, turning the country into a family,” Gelbart said.

Beyond just the significance of sitcoms and other classic television on American entertainment, certain television moments really brought people together. Whether in a surface level way, such as with “M*A*S*H,” for example. The finale is the most-watched series finale ever. It drew about 105.9 million people to their screens to watch the same thing at the same time.

It can go even deeper than that. Families sat to watch important moments in American history together through their TV. This can be anything from the Kennedy funeral, the launch of Challenger, the Olympics, or even the aftermath of 9/11.

“It’s changed the political process, it’s changed religion, it’s changed how we procreate, it’s changed schooling … some things are better, but again, most things are not,” Gelbart said.

When asked about how things are going to continue to change, Gelbart said it’s going to likely continue being about “the bottom line.” At the end of the day, making TV is about profit more than entertainment.

“I’m not going to be watching in the next Millenium unless there’s television after death and that wouldn’t surprise me. So my only hope is cremation I think.”

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