‘M*A*S*H’: Advertising Space on Show’s Finale Cost an Arm and a Leg

by John Jamison
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It’s easy to forget just how accessible entertainment is these days. On a fateful February day in 1983, more than 105 million people popped corn, cracked open a beverage, and squeezed into couches to watch the culmination of “M*A*S*H”—at the same moment.

Why? Because there was no DVR, no CBS deal with a streaming platform to let fans watch the episode at their convenience later that night. There were no options. Because of that, advertisers knew that nobody would be caught dead anywhere but locked to their TV screen during the “M*A*S*H” finale. Well, those advertisers had themselves a field day.

According to Yahoo! Entertainment, a New York Times Article from 1983 gave a $450,000 figure for a 30-second commercial spot during the two-and-a-half-hour episode. That’s roughly 1.3 million in today’s dollars. These are essentially Super Bowl-level numbers we’re talkin’. These days, ad spots for the big game have $1.3 million dwarfed, but at the time, “M*A*S*H” was right on pace. In 1985, the average cost for a 30-second Super Bowl ad was roughly $500,000.

Even the viewership numbers were bigger than a typical Super Bowl. As Alan Alda recalled for TV Guide, “the next day, the papers said that so many people had flushed their toilets at the same moment during the commercials that the New York City water supply was seriously in trouble.”

The actor behind Hawkeye Pierce, Alan Alda, even called an iconic moment between his character and Loretta Switt’s “Hot Lips” Houlihan “the most expensive kiss ever.”

“So between that and nearly shutting down the New York City water supply, we made our mark on history,” Alda continued.

The Infamous ‘M*A*S*H’ Time Capsule and Its Dissapointing Fate

While the hype for the “M*A*S*H” finale built to a fever pitch among the public, the hit series’ cast found itself sick with nostalgia as the last days of filming came to a close. Taking inspiration from the second-to-last episode of the show, Cpl. Klinger actor Jamie Farr decided to make a real time capsule.

The actors put mementos from their years on the show into the capsule. Some wrote heartfelt notes. Unfortunately, the contents of the letters will never be known. Why? We’ll let Jamie Farr explain himself.

They needed a safe, stable place to bury the capsule.

“We thought, how about right by the commissary? They’re not going to touch that. So midnight, we came; somebody dug a big hole. We had a big ceremony. We had champagne. The whole thing was photographed. It was incredible,” said Farr, per Yahoo!.

Yes. This story is headed where you think it’s headed.

“Shortly after we left the show and left the lot, they did do some renovating, and the first place they dug up was exactly where we buried this thing!” Farr continued. “The [construction worker who found it] didn’t know what it was, so he just threw it away. That was the end of that story.”

Outsider.com