The staggering viewership of MASH’s finale is an impressive achievement, and in an age of streaming, the sitcom’s viewership record will likely never be replicated. MASH features a unique blend of drama and comedy, showing the experiences of the medical professionals serving at 4077th “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” during the Korean War. The wartime sitcom was able to maintain its popularity throughout its run, but MASH’s finale “Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen” has gone down not only as one of the show’s biggest achievements, but as one of TV’s most significant broadcasts.
Providing a sendoff to Hawkeye Pierce after the Korean War, “Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen” drew a staggering 106 million viewers in 1983, a record that not only eclipsed other broadcasts up to that point, but one that hasn’t occurred again since. Given that the modern era of television is dominated by streaming and asynchronous viewing, it’s unlikely that MASH’s finale viewership record will ever be replicated again, much less beaten. Because of this, the viewership of “Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen” not only remains a major broadcast TV record, but a reminder of how much the TV landscape has evolved.
MASH’s Finale Viewership Is Virtually Impossible In The Modern Era
It seems shocking that MASH’s 40-year-old “Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen” record has remained untouched, but that is largely because drawing that kind of viewership is nearly impossible during the modern streaming era. Though it might be hard to imagine for some, MASH first aired there were only three major TV networks to choose from and ideas of cable TV were still in their infancy. Because of this, options for entertainment in the 1970s and early 1980s were greatly reduced compared to today. Coupled with MASH’s insane popularity, this paved the way for “Goodbye, Farewell, And Amen” to dominate TV viewership.
The modern era of television is almost the complete opposite of what it was like in the late-20th century, thanks to streaming. Because of both the increased flexibility and options afforded to audiences by streaming networks, the TV landscape and viewership has become more fractured. Now that a person can watch their favorite shows anywhere and anytime, the idea of so many people watching the same episode of TV at the same time is unthinkable. Since streaming platforms have created so many options, the days of monolithic TV viewership are gone, meaning an audience like the one drawn by MASH series finale will likely never happen again.
The Rise Of Streaming Is Making Traditional Viewership Obsolete
Since the rise of streaming as the main form of viewership has increased entertainment options, traditional measures of viewership have less meaning in the modern era. Traditional TV broadcasting revolved around set programming and schedules, with first day viewership being the major determiner of success. However, streaming platforms allow for more flexibility in terms of where and when to watch. Because of this, first day viewership is not as important of a measurement, so the streaming era of entertainment must rely on other methods of determining a show’s success. This makes traditional TV viewership all but obsolete in determining performance, meaning MASH’s finale record couldn’t happen today.
MASH’s Broad Appeal Is Difficult To Replicate Today
Although the structure of traditional broadcast TV is largely responsible for the performance of the MASH series finale, it was also aided by the broad appeal of the show, which would be difficult to recreate today. MASH is a pioneer of the dramedy, and its skillful combination of wartime drama and hilarious satire meant it had something for everyone. Those who enjoyed wartime stories and those who preferred sitcoms could enjoy what MASH had to offer.
The sitcom’s Korean War premise also contributed greatly to its appeal, both as an event many viewers lived through and as a vehicle for social commentary. The universal themes and tone of MASH made it culturally relatable, which only boosted its popularity. Most modern shows would struggle to duplicate the feats achieved by MASH for these reasons. Therefore, it’s almost impossible for a show to touch so many people like MASH did. MASH and its finale record remain a unique achievement that’s hard to imagine happening again for any TV show. And even if a show did somehow acquire a similar level of fame, streaming would hold it back from matching MASH’s viewership.