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1983: CBS Airs the Final, Record-Setting Episode of 'M*A*S*H'
February 28, 2020  | By David Bianculli  | 2 comments
 
If the Dictionary of Teleliteracy were organized by popularity, not by alphabet, the finale of M*A*S*H would [be] at the front of the list: its expanded concluding episode, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," which aired on this day in 1983, attracted 77 percent of all TV viewers that night, and earned a Nielsen rating of more than 60. ...

Even more so than the "Who Shot J.R.?" furor over Dallas, the ending of M*A*S*H upped the ante for the perceived value of entertainment as news; an advance copy of the final script was obtained and leaked to The National Enquirer, which treated it like the taloid equivalent of the Pentagon Papers. This left the more legitimate media grappling with a rather sticky question: whether 'tis nobler to ignore the plot details divulged by a usually unreliable source, or to acknowledge them — and so by acknowledging, repeat them. Most newspapers came down on the "this is news, regardless of the source" side, and reprinted the major details, including the central plot surprise that Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce would suffer a nervous breakdown. It was the uncredited precedent for the now-common practice of major media outlets trolling national (and, later, TV) tabloids for high-profile news, innuendo, and rumors.

Other, more direct achievements by M*A*S*H included its tasteful and somewhat daring use of a laugh track (when the action took place inside the operating room, there were no laughs to be heard), its status as one of the most successful and artistic TV series ever to be spun off from a movie (its own sequel, TV's After-MASH, was deservedly a flop), and, of course, the M*A*S*H finale's claim as the most-viewed TV episode of all time. ... [As for] its record as the most popular TV show in history? Expect it to last forever.

—Excerpted from Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses and Events

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Mark Isenberg
The reruns have held up on all kinds of cable networks including Sundance which runs marathons on weekends but the laughtrack was wrong. Diane Sawyer hosted the finale back in the day on CBS.
Feb 28, 2019   |  Reply
 
 
Mark Isenberg
Mash was that good thanks to the writers and Larry Gelbart who supervised a lot of the episodes. The Finale was hyped and it really was not the best ending but it worked out well for its syndicated lifespan.There is a rush to syndication on better shows now that won't hold up aside from Big Bang Theory and few producers have learned not to exploit it.Profits still rule especially for the cable networks like TNT and its Law and Order franchise.
Feb 28, 2018   |  Reply
 
 
 
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