The classic television show M*A*S*H was first based off of a film of the same name. The film itself was a smashing success, but when the attempt at making a sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, was a terrible disaster, creators decided to opt for a television series instead. The original premise was based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker entitled Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.

Since the film adaptation was met with such glowing reviews, and the creators knew they could do so much more with the original story, the first episode of the television series aired on September 17th, 1972. Today, it still remains one of the most popular television shows to ever grace America.

This show ended mostly, because the show had run its course. The writing staff was struggling to come up with new stories to tell, and their primary source of inspiration (reminiscences of actual MASH personnel) was starting to dry up — they were getting to the point of having to tell MASH vets who were submitting personal accounts that could be used in the show that the writers had already told a story like that.

Also the cast was tired of as much as 11 years of the same show. Loretta Swit, while she loved the experience and working with her co-stars, had to sacrifice other roles (she would have played Christine Cagney on Cagney and Lacey instead of Sharon Gless except that M*A*S*H wouldn’t let her out of her contract once the show’s pilot was picked up), and the rest of the cast was concerned about typecasting. That being said, there did seem to be some debate about whether to pack it in, and according to a story I’d heard, it was left up to a vote of the cast: Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, and David Odgen Stiers voted to end the show with the 11th season, while Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr and William Christopher voted to keep going. The vote going to “call it a series” won out, but Morgan, Farr and Christopher were compensated with a continuation spin-off, AfterM*A*S*H.

Make no mistake, M*A*S*H was going out on a high note, with the final episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” still reigning as the most-watched scripted television broadcast of all time (with only the Apollo 11 moon landing, Nixon’s resignation and a handful of recent Super Bowls boasting higher viewership), a record that in this fragmented day of media viewership will probably never be rivalled.


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