By Ken Tucker
January 08, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Alan Alda and the M*A*S*H gang hold up well on the DVD release of the series’ first season (24 episodes, no frills, spread out over three discs). ”Written and developed for television by Larry Gelbart,” reads the pilot episode’s credit, and Gelbart — an ace comedy writer who’d worked for Sid Caesar — keeps the gags coming in a way the film never did.

Instead of Robert Altman’s sneering contempt for the military, Gelbart and company gave humanity to even minor characters, and as for the charge that the series was racist, well, Altman obviously didn’t catch moments such as when, in the fifth episode, ”The Moose,” Alda’s Hawkeye berates a sergeant for using the word gook. War may be hell, but TV’s ”M*A*S*H” was often heavenly.

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