February 28, 1983: Highly anticipated ‘M*A*S*H’ finale airs
Those that grew up in the ’70s know the massive success of M*A*S*H. The T.V. show was arguably one of the biggest things to happen to CBS. All things must come to an end, and M*A*S*H managed to go out in style, breaking more than a few viewers’ hearts along the way
Eleven seasons and a movie
Like many fans know, the show managed to shift styles over time. Originally a comedy, it slowly started to have darker tones. Because of the changes, their story lines started to become a bit stale. Fortunately, fans didn’t realize it, with steady ratings of around 23 million viewers per night.
Because of the lack of good story-lines, Alan Alda wanted to end the show on season 10. CBS, however, was hell-bent on keeping it on for as long as possible. If the channel had it their way, M*A*S*H would’ve transformed into a daily soap opera. After many negotiations, they decided to give the show one final season and a TV movie.
Something completely different
“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was a rarity for network television at the time. TV networks didn’t bother giving shows the popular TV movie treatment. For M*A*S*H, this was a great way to make an impact on the tube.
Filming for the episode was put on hold after a brush fire took down the ranch set. Producers decided to write it into the script as the area being destroyed by an incendiary bomb.
A two hour phenomenon
As expected, everyone and their mother were counting down the days until this aired. Even those that hated the series were interested in seeing how it all ended. U.S. troops stationed in Korea managed to have special viewing setups to see this momentous event. On February 28, 1983, M*A*S*H‘s finale finally hit the airwaves. With 121.6 million viewers, the finale became the biggest episode of TV, ever.
Aside from huge ratings, the show led to some awkward moments. The NYC plumbing system witnessed a major disaster when everyone used the bathroom after the show aired. With so many people flushing the toilet at once, several pipes were busted. Certain parts of California witnessed power outages during the initial airing. Local affiliates remedied this situation by re-airing the movie weeks later. With two failed spin-offs following the finale, the M*A*S*H train was officially over. You can’t say they didn’t give fans the perfect conclusion, though.