M*A*S*H

This is another NBC chestnut, and arguably the saddest sitcom or the funniest drama ever to air on network television. The lyrics of the original version of the theme song (“Suicide Is Painless”), as heard in the Robert Altman film, were written by Altman’s 15-year-old son Mike, which explains the song’s original sin of rhyming “painless” with “changes.”

On the show, the theme song changed a number of times – sometimes subtly, sometimes not – over the course of eleven seasons. One of the most notable adjustments came a few seasons in, when the overtly slapstick, vaguely scatological horns at the end (bum-ba-bum-bum BA!) were excised in favor of letting the final minor stand alone, which felt like a concession on the network’s part to the show’s darker side. (M*A*S*H is not currently available to stream on Netflix, so I’m having trouble parsing out when exactly this change occurred, but I want to say season 4.)

“Suicide Is Painless,” written by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman.

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