For 2 ½ hours on a Monday night, 125 million viewers went through a cavalcade of emotions as we said good-bye, farewell, and amen to the long running dramedy series called "M*A*S*H: A Tale of Three Doctors". For eleven seasons we watched the surgeons perform “meatball surgery” on injured and dying soldiers during the Korean War. We also laughed at the crazy antics of Hawkeye, Trapper John and B.J. Hunnicutt as they pulled pranks on the “regular army” doctors like Major Frank Burns, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III and Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan.
Good-bye, Farewell, and Amen was the name of the movie that ended the long running series and was the most watched television broadcast in television history, surpassing the[i] “WHO SHOT J.R.”[/i] episode of the television show, [I] DALLAS[/i]. It remained the most watched television episode in history from 1983 to 2010 when more people watched the Super Bowl that year, keeping in mind that there are more households with televisions in 2010 than there were in 1983. The 2010 Super Bowl was watched by more people but Good-bye, Farewell and Amen was bigger in ratings and shares and is still that way today.
Good-bye, Farewell, and Amen was written by many people but was entirely directed by Alan Alda, the man who played Captain Benjamin Franklin (Hawkeye) Pierce for eleven years. Father Mulcahey, Margaret Houlihan and Maxwell Q. Klinger were the other people who were on the show from Season 1 to Season 11. Hawkeye was played by Alan Alda, Maj. Houlihan was played by Loretta Swit, Father Mulcahey was played by two people, George Morgan in the pilot episode and William Christopher from episode 2 and on to the end.
The plot line of the final episode is too long to write about here so I will write about a couple of ironies in the episode.
One irony is that while Hawkeye Pierce was in a mental hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown, his friend and partner, BJ Hunnicutt received his discharge papers. Sadly, Hawkeye was still in the hospital on the day BJ headed for home. The irony of this is, that it had happened to him once before, in Season 3.If, like me, you are a fan of the show, you know that Hawkeye's former partner-in-crime was Trapper John McIntyre and in the episode that he left, Hawkeye was still in Japan on R&R, a military term for rest and relaxation. When Hawkeye returned from Japan, Trapper John was already gone and when he returned to the 4077th from the mental hospital, BJ was gone.
The other irony has to do with Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger, the company clerk, who spent most of the eleven seasons of the show, trying to leave the Army and the war by endeavoring to get a Section 8 discharge which basically means that one is deemed to be “crazy”, and mentally unfit to be a soldier. After trying to leave Korea for eleven years, he decided that he was going to stay in the Asian country to help his wife, a Korean national named Soon-Lee, find her parents and make sure that they are safe.
The 2 ½ hour final episode happened on this day in history, February 28, 1983 and ended an era of television programming for CBS and for America.