The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: It was one of the greatest TV shows of all time

  • Say it can't be true. It can't have been 30 years since one of my very favorite TV shows of all time ended its record-breaking 11-year run.
    But it has been.
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  • Say it can't be true. It can't have been 30 years since one of my very favorite TV shows of all time ended its record-breaking 11-year run.
    But it has been. The final of 251 half-hour weekly episodes of M*A*S*H*, the technical name, but for the rest of this column it will morph into MASH, aired. And boy did it.
    It began as a feature movie in 1970, based on a 1968 book, and the movie did not star any of the future TV personalities. But when it hit the weekly airways it had some of the most likeable, detested, and otherwise memorable characters ever to hit the small screen.
    The constant throughout was Hawkeye, known to viewers only by his first name, but for the record it was Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda. Many of the other characters changed over the way to the show becoming a TV legend.
    The other constants were Radar, Klinger, Hot Lips, and Father Mulcahey. Readers who were viewers know who I mean.
    The final episode, broadcast on Feb. 28, 1983, was written by Alda, and remains the highest-rated TV episode in primetime history. The goodbye kiss between Hawkeye and Hot Lips lasted 30 seconds, and was called "the most expensive kiss ever on TV" based on commercial airtime costs. Things that tell how many viewers tune in say it was 106 million.
    MASH stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and the show was based on episodes from the Korean War. It was an anti-war show for the most part, and both repeating and one-time characters brought that out very well.
    For we diehard MASH buffs, it is still in reruns, 30 years after its finale. I believe I've seen the finale three times, but in a rather detailed scan of this week's TV Guide I didn't see it scheduled for its 30th birthday anniversary ending. Bummer.
    It almost didn't make it past its first year. Its ratings had it 46th of 84 shows, and it was scheduled to be canceled. But Babe Paley, wife of CBS chairman Bill Paley, told her husband she would like to see it remain on the air. Not surprisingly, it stayed.
    Within a few years it was camped out in the Nielsen ratings Top 10, bringing in some 33 million viewers a week, including this fan in Leavenworth. I love the reruns today, until I've seen them four times, then I reluctantly switch to another channel.
    Several MASH stars have come to the New Theater Restaurant in Kansas City in recent years for dinner theater performances. I've toyed with going, but figure chances of meeting one of them are about non-existent. But if one of them ever wants a personal tour of the National WW I Museum, I know a willing and eager guide.
    Page 2 of 2 - Back to the record-breaking final episode, there is a bit of trivia about it that is funny. For two-and-a-half hours, it caused a water crisis in New York City.
    That's because so many people were watching MASH and ran to the bathroom during commercial breaks that the water supply was adversely affected.
    As a veteran of a year in Korea 10 years after the war, the foliage and other growth in MASH did not remind me of Frozen Chosen, as we affectionately called it. That's because it was filmed on a 20th Century Fox movie lot near Hollywood.
    As far as I know the vehicles in each segment were vintage Army ones from the 1950s. The uniforms appeared to be authentic to the time also.
    Now that my juices are flowing, I'll have to keep an eye out for the next segment of reruns, which usually are in threes. Ah, that theme music. Happy anniversary, M*A*S*H.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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