On February 28, 1983, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” — the 256th and final episode of M*A*S*H in the series’ 11th season — aired to a viewership of 105.97 million and a total audience reckoned at 121.6 million, both records. Only one other event, Super Bowl XLIV, has surpassed it in terms of total viewership, although not in ratings or share.
Mortality is steadily whittling away at the show’s cast and crew. McLean Stevenson and Larry Linville are long gone. Harry Morgan died in 2011, Wayne Rogers in 2015, William Christopher in 2016 and David Ogden Stiers in 2018. Producer and writer Gene Reynolds died at 96 earlier this month.
An old W.C. Fields line comes in handy at times like these: “The ranks are thinning.”
It has been a very long time since I gave a damn about any television show, but M*A*S*H was very important to me when I was younger. I’ve always wanted to be a member of a team like that, not a solo performer — part of a band or of an ensemble. There have been glimpses here and there, and these have been the best of times.
A link from 2018; make that “37.”
So, what was M*A*S*H’s secret? The dramedy about the trials and tribulations of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean War was really a love story. In building the landmark series, its cast and crew forged a bond of love and respect that lives to this day: a love for truth in storytelling, a love for the audience they were entertaining and a love for each other.
Someone once asked Harry Morgan (who played Col. Sherman Potter from seasons four through 11 and who died in 2011) if working on M*A*S*H had made him a better actor. He responded that it had made him a better person.