It’s hard to put into words just how much of a sensation the “MAS*H” series finale truly was, but the show’s writers recalled a few things that paint a pretty vivid picture of their show’s impact. The final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” aired on February 28, 1983. It drew roughly 3/4 of the entire television viewing audience.
For reference, 106 million people watched “MAS*H” come to an end. No other scripted television show in history has outdone those viewership numbers. Compare that to the paltry 19 million drawn in by the series finale of Game of Thrones, and you have an idea of how big the event really was.
Granted, modern television with paid streaming services and the sheer number of options is an entirely different animal. But still, the “MAS*H” finale did Super Bowl numbers before the Super Bowl was even doing those types of numbers.
In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter published an article reflecting on the history of “MAS*H” and sharing all of the best stories the cast and crew had to offer.
The ‘M*A*S*H’ Finale in Los Angeles
One of the writers and producers on “M*A*S*H,” David Pollock, remembers what he was doing the night of the finale.
“That night we had a special showing for the staff on the lot, earlier than when it aired on TV,” he told THR in 2018. “Afterward, we drove to our favorite restaurant in Westwood. On the way, we noticed there were no cars on the street. Everyone was home watching.”
Can you imagine how surreal that must have been? The streets of Los Angeles were literally empty because of something Pollock helped create.
Same Story in New York
Burt Metcalfe, another one of the “M*A*S*H” writers, recalled what that night was like on the other side of the country.
“In New York, the only people making money that night was pizza delivery,” he told THR. “According to the utility commission, when the show ended, there was an enormous drop in the water pressure because people were flushing their toilets at the same time. The sheer weight of it totally surprised us.”
Metcalfe’s story illustrates something that would likely never happen today. Now, we can pause our TVs all we want and come back to the program after taking care of our business. In 1983, however, this was not an option. And it’s mindblowing that a show like “M*A*S*H” could have such an impact on public utilities.