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The Character Everyone Forgets Leslie Nielsen Played In MASH

Leslie Nielsen was a singular comedic talent. The actor may have gotten his start as a largely serious actor in films like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "Forbidden Planet," but the world saw he was a master of deadpan comedy once he delivered every line impeccably in 1980's "Airplane!," which went on to become one of the most rewatchable comedies ever. He rode that success into an entirely different comedic franchise with "The Naked Gun" series, and he played the President of the United States in several "Scary Movie" installments. The actor may be gone, but it will be a long time until people forget his movies.

Nielsen's comedic work provides a masterclass on how to deliver hilarious lines with the utmost seriousness. There are plenty of budding actors and comedians who can learn by reviewing his work, but you shouldn't just seek out his projects that made it to the big screen. He had many performances on some much-beloved sitcoms like "The Golden Girls" and "Herman's Head." He also appeared arguably the most prolific TV comedy of all time — "M*A*S*H." Nielsen's time in the Korean War may have been limited to a single episode, but he made it count, popping up as an eccentric army commander.

Leslie Nielsen played Col. Buzz Brighton on MASH Season 1

"M*A*S*H" excelled at telling stories that were ultimately anti-war during a time when the United States actively engaged in combat with Vietnamese forces. It achieved this by showing the genuine human toll war had on people and shifting the focus on a group of doctors who wanted to find a way to attain peace without bloodshed. Such themes were on full display in the Season 1 episode, "The Ringbanger."

This episode depicts Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) discovering there's a colonel out there by the name of Buzz Brighton (Nielsen). This officer is responsible for many more casualties than all of the other commanders in the war effort, and he's barely gained any ground in the process. So Hawkeye and Trapper come up with a plan to have Buzz sent back home so that someone more competent can take his place, saving lives in the process. They do this by trying to convince Buzz he's insane. This involves switching his tent to think he misremembered where it was and handing him glasses of milk that they insist he told them to get. 

The gaslighting aspect comes across a bit differently these days, but that's not even the part of the episode that's aged the worst. The plot also involves Hawkeye and Trapper lying to Buzz and saying Frank Burns (Larry Linville) is gay. Buzz reacts negatively to this information, and it's a shame such homophobia made its way into the episode. Still, the anti-militaristic themes are prevalent as always, and Nielsen proves years before he landed the part in "Airplane!" that he always had fantastic comedic timing.