How The Finale of 'M*A*S*H' Impacted the 1980s


This article, along with others of the best (and worst) of the decade that defined pop culture, is featured in Newsweek's Special Edition: The 1980s

Lasting a full eight years longer than the war it was based on, M*A*S*H was one of the most beloved shows in American history. M*A*S*H followed the lives of Korean War Army doctors, all while playing the delicate game of balancing comedy with emotional stakes. The show's long history and devoted following signified that M*A*S*H's long-awaited finale would be highly anticipated—less of an episode of television than a full-blown cultural event.

Sensing the anticipation, CBS took the finale's lead-up seriously, asking that advertisers pay $450,000 to place a 30-second commercial during the finale. This seemingly obscene price would turn out to be well thought out, given M*A*S*H's final episode drew 105.97 million viewers, a record for viewership of any televised event that would stand until 2010's Super Bowl. The episode itself was highly psychological, analyzing how the war had taken its toll on the once-puckish Captain Hawkeye. But it is perhaps best remembered for its final image: the word "Goodbye" spelled out in stone, a message from farewell-averse Captain B.J. Hunnicutt to an airborne Hawkeye, and from a beloved series to the world.

This article was excerpted fromNewsweek Special Edition: The 1980s. For more on the biggest moments of the iconic decade pick up a copy today.

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