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Behind The Scenes Stories From The Final Episode Of M*A*S*H

It’s not often that the final episode of a television series unites viewers across the country, as well as across generations. That’s exactly what the final episode of M*A*S*H managed to achieve. First airing on February 28, 1973, the last installment of the beloved series stands as the most-watched TV episode ever – 106 million people tuned in together to bid farewell. It was a fitting send-off for what many consider the most successful sitcom in history. Read on to understand just how huge of an accomplishment that was…

Photo: Flickr.com/Susanlenox

It’s Not That Incredible… Is It?

Given the splintered nature of television entertainment today, the episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” will most likely lay claim to their outstanding viewership achievement forever.

The most recent TV series to even come close to garnering as much attention was HBO’s Game of Thrones. Seething with dragons and sex, the Game of Thrones finale attracted 16.5 million viewers. That’s a mere 15 percent of the total number of people who took to their comfy couches and slouchy chairs to watch the M*A*S*H finale. Keep in mind, also, that the absence of DVR and streaming meant you had to watch episodes of your favorite TV show right then and there – or risk missing out entirely.

Photo: YouTube/chris Coutts

A Plumb Popular Moment

Incredibly, no other event in New York City history could claim to have made a million people hold off going to the bathroom. According to engineers, roughly one million people used the bathroom immediately following the final minutes of the M*A*S*H series finale.

That stampede to the john rushed 6.7 million gallons of water through the sewers of the Big Apple. According to Peter Barrett, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, “In speaking to engineers who’ve been around 30 or 40 years, they haven’t encountered anything like this before.”

Photo: YouTube/Bryan W

Super Bowls Have Nothing On Surgical Hospitals

M*A*S*H was such an influential show that millions of viewers tuned in to see the end, even though statistics show that viewership wasn’t in the same range week after week. The rating for the final six minutes of the show peaked at 121.6 million; only viewership for NFL Super Bowls comes close.

The 2010 game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints is the only Super Bowl that bests the M*A*S*H finale; however, in 1983 only 83.3 million homes had TVs, compared to 115 million homes in 2010. Considering that massive gap in televisions, that Super Bowl only outrated the M*A*S*H finale by 500,000 viewers.

Photo: YouTube/chris Coutts

Fan-Fare-Well

Fans of Game of Thrones, Lost, and other must-see TV shows know that giving a beloved program a proper ending is far from easy. Each character, each in their own way, deserves a proper send-off. These farewells must satisfy millions of people, while also tying up any loose ends in a convincing and – more importantly – moving fashion. M*A*S*H pulled it off. The finale tugged at viewers’ heartstrings, thanks to the team of eight writers who crafted a final episode for the ages.