TV & Showbiz

M*A*S*H, Minus the Laugh Track

I tried to watch an HBO documentary, Baghdad ER, last night. I tried. If you have a weak stomach or have trouble dealing with the sight of blood, you’ll want to skip that program…and the rest of this entry.

The program takes viewers inside the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq, where wounded soldiers are treated. Remember M*A*S*H? As much as I’d love to tell you that early on, there’s a Hawkeye playing practical jokes and the worst we see is an occasional surgical gown splattered with red food coloring worn by someone delivering the next punchline, this is not prime time television. There is no effort made to hide the reality the soldiers and the doctors who treat them deal with. Viewers are only eight shots into the documentary when they see a severed arm being deposited into a medical waste bag.

We see soldiers dealing with the loss of comrades while they themselves are being treated for their own injuries. We see chaplains trying to comfort the wounded. We see doctors trying to work off a little of the pressure on the basketball court. We see hope as some recover, and we see hope dashed every time one doesn’t. And at the end of the program, when we learn from short paragraphs displayed next to photos of patients we’ve just seen that some of them have actually gone back to the battlefield, we wonder how they can ever have summoned enough courage to risk all of that again.

I turned away from the program about four times during the hour. There are times when it’s just too much to take in, although there’s that underlying feeling one has while watching it that those of us who aren’t in the war zone, those of us who go on with our lives and worry about petty things like parking places and minor skirmishes at the office, somehow owe our soldiers the experience of seeing what it’s “really” like.

The program remains politically neutral, which is a good thing, because there’s enough to take in as it is and political bickering would only distract the audience from the real purpose: to show the real, human impact of conflict.

I recommend it if you feel you can stand it. It’s a reality check many people need to see.

1 Comment

  1. Patrick,

    Sounds like an intense show. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Unfortunately my tummy is far too sensitive to watch stuff like that. I have a tough time with the photos I see of children who have been blown up and the like. War is a hideous thing. Hopefully this show will open the eyes of more and more Americans to just how brutal this war is.


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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.