I don’t think many of my friends will believe that I enjoy the weekly portrayal of life in Afghanistan in the Canadian program, “Combat Hospital”. It does not have the witty repartee nor the discussion of social values that characterized one of my all time favourites, “M*A*S*H”. And it does not have one of favourite actors of my youth, Mike Farrell. But beyond those… it does have value. There are certain similarities in plot and setting for the two shows, but otherwise they are very different. I don’t consider there to be much comparison. I’ve read some critiques of the “Combat Hospital” and I’m not sure I agree with them, either. The program is good and it does make me think.
I do find that the issues that are raised are often important and telling. One thing that should be remembered when comparing the program to other shows: when “M*A*S*H” premiered, it was set in a war that had been over for almost 20 years. Many of the issues that were so wonderfully portrayed and represented had nonetheless been developing in the minds of authors and producers for nearly two decades. “Combat Hospital” does not have that luxury. Although it is set in the Afghanistan of 2006, many of the issues are current: and if nothing else the invasion/war is still an active conflict.
Consider, for instance, the episode that aired last week (July 26th), guest starring Christina Cox. I thought it interesting that in the description of the episode, one of the online guides said: “Meanwhile love is in the air when nurse Suzzy Chao develops a crush on Bobby and a Canadian Officer falls for Pedersen.” They (curiously) fail to mention that the “Canadian Officer” is Ms. Cox and “Pederson” is also a woman. The result is a series of very intense scenes where one woman hits on another and they discuss the attraction. I thought it was well acted, and quite blunt in the portrayal. I also thought it interesting that in all my searching of sites on the Internet, I could not find a picture that had the two women in one shot.
I will admit that I had a hard time with it, however. Not because I disagreed with any part of it: but because of friends I had in the past who could not be so free with their expressions. I had several friends in the American army who had to be careful because, if anyone knew their orientation, they could be fired. At this moment, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy of the U.S. Army with respect to gay and lesbian soldiers remains in effect: although there are only 49 days to go. It will be officially repealed on September 20th. (I’m not sure what that means for gay and lesbian soldiers in the mean time, but at least it means that hope is in sight.)
Of course, one of the most ironic things about this show is that it is produced by a Canadian company: I believe it is from the Global television network. It is then sold for American distribution to ABC, and to others for Internet distribution. I saw it when it was broadcast last week, and wanted to review some of the footage, so I turned to Hulu. I found the program and tried to play it: and received the by-now-familiar message that I “appear” to be outside the U.S. and therefore cannot watch it. Even though it originated on this side of the border.