‘M*A*S*H’: How A Fire on Set Made Show’s Finale Longer, Feature an Expanded Story

After an expansive 11 seasons, “MAS*H” eventually had to come to an end.

The series was on from 1972 to 1983 and helped viewers get to know beloved characters like Hawkeye Pierce, Margaret, and Radar. The sitcom with dark comedy lasted over 10 years and continues to be popular today.

How did the show get wrapped up?

Fire on Set of Show

Originally, the “M*A*S*H” series finale was supposed to be around an hour and a half. However, an on-set fire had forced writers to add more to the final storyline.

“If we hadn’t had the fire that burned up the set, we never would have gone into a two-and-a-half-hour,” William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy, said, according to MeTV.

The show ended up running closer to two and a half hours long instead. It had become more like a movie than a TV show. However, it was able to offer more closure to the series.

“They gave us two hours and then when there was a fire at the Fox Ranch where the exterior set was … a lot of the sets had been damaged. We knew that our only choice was to incorporate that into the story,” Executive Producer Burt Metcalfe said.

The writers make the fire into an incendiary bomb attack that results in a forest fire in the script. The unit relocates to a new location. B.J. is there as the replacement surgeon.

There was an outdoor set for the show in Calabasas, Los Angeles County, California. This is where the exterior and tent scenes were shot. Then Fox Studios in Century City was used for indoor scenes.

There were well over 105 million viewers watching the series finale when it aired, according to Statista. It broke the record for the highest percentage of homes with television sets watching a TV series.

It is the most-watched finale of any television series.

‘M*A*S*H’ Series Finale

The final episode of the series was called “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” and it aired on February 28, 1983.

It is actually considered a television film since it was a two-hour-long episode on CBS. It was written by eight different collaborators, one of which was the show’s main character, Alan Alda.

The episode shows the final days of the Korean War as the ceasefire happens. The unit at 4077th MASH takes down the camp and throws a party. The characters have an emotional goodbye and talk about all their plans after the war.

Klinger says that he wants to marry Soon-Lee, a local Korean refuge, and the next day Mulcahy officiates their wedding. Before that, Hawkeye Pierce is undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital after suffering from a nervous breakdown while operating.

He is forced to remember the time when he had to tell a woman to keep her child quiet during a pick-up of refugees. The group had been spotted by enemy forces. He recalls telling her to keep the “chicken” quiet, but the chicken was a replacement he had created in his head. In reality, she had to smother her own baby to death.

The final episode is meant to say goodbye, but also paint an important picture of the impact the war has had on everyone. Before Hawkeye is airlifted away, B.J. leaves him a note made of rocks that spells “goodbye.” The smile on Hawkeye’s face is the last thing everyone sees.

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