“M*A*S*H” had been drawing in fans since it first aired in 1972.
The sitcom, with elements of dark comedy, lasted until 1983 before it was time to wrap up the stories of those at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital located in South Korea.
In many ways, a TV show is as good as its series finale. This serves as the way in which fans say goodbye to their favorite characters and storylines are wrapped up effectively. Oftentimes, sitcoms are left more open-ended with little conclusion.
“M*A*S*H,” however, has one of the most popular series finales ever aired. It’s the most-watched series finale ever.
Ad Space During the Finale
According to History 101, the show’s finale actually competed with the number of viewers for the Super Bowl.
People watch the Super Bowl for football, but many viewers also tune in to watch ads that are particularly entertaining and well-made.
With a viewing audience comparable to that of the Super Bowl for the finale, “M*A*S*H” also had incredibly high demand for its ad space. This prices absolutely skyrocketed. Normally, a 30-second ad during an episode would cost about $300,000. During the finale, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” that same ad would instead cost the business closer to $450,000 to show to viewers.
For reference, about 125 million people sat down on February 28, 1983, to watch the finale. According to The New York Times, only 91.6 million people watched the last Super Bowl using traditional broadcast television. This does not account for other ways in which people now watch through online streaming services.
The ad spot for a 30-second commercial in the Super Bowl now costs close to $5 million.
‘M*A*S*H’ and Plumbing
It’s difficult to put into words just how popular the series was, especially near the end.
“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” was actually closer to two and a half hours long. It was the first time the title of the episode appeared on the screen. It was the show’s way of saying goodbye to the viewers directly.
According to MeTV, many people rushed to the bathroom after holding it for two hours when the finale finally ended. The pressure drop from flushing millions of toilets at the same time reportedly caused a surge in the tunnels that bring water from the Catskills to New York.
Hopefully, people will pause shows now and give the plumbing a bit of a break. This story of the plumbing and the “M*A*S*H” finale has become an urban legend of sorts. It is often exaggerated in ways that are not necessarily true. Regardless, it shows how “M*A*S*H” has continued to be popular and the overall impact of the finale on society at the time.
Alan Alda and Loretta Swit are the only two actors that appear in both the first and last episodes of the show. In fact, Alda even helped direct the series finale.