Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the M*A*S*H finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” It would be the most viewed television program ever to that point, and would gain critical success. The two-and-a-half hour finale ended the Korean War and allowed fans to say goodbye to their favorite characters. The last half hour of the finale is emotionally charged as each member of the 4077th is given a send-off one by one. The build up to the finale was just as big. TV Guide had a cover story, as did Newsweek. Many local newspapers also had features bidding the season farewell to M*A*S*H after eleven seasons. 20th Century Fox Television sent out a four page press release with details of the finale along with press photos, and this week’s post features that press release and one of the press photos.
The press release announced the finale of M*A*S*H would air February 28, 1983 on CBS. The release discusses the success of the series including the numerous awards the show won including 14 Emmy awards. The release goes on to say that M*A*S*H had an audience of up to 224 million viewers per week (a number that, I assume, is world-wide). Some technical details of the episode are included in the release such as a list of the writers, the cast members, and a brief summary. The release also discusses the history of M*A*S*H and mentions all of the cast members who came and went over the shows eleven year run. Then, the release discusses a few of the challenges that threatened production including the wildfire that destroyed the outdoor sets at the Ranch and David Ogden Stiers coming down with hepatitis. The release concludes with a hint that M*A*S*H may continue with in some form with a few cast members. Of courses, we know now that was AfterMASH. This release would have been widely distributed and used to help promote the finale.
Then there is the photo. There was likely several of these sent out with various screenshots from the episode. Newspapers and magazines would have used these photo collages to select a photo or two for their articles. Looking at this one, we see Potter and Klinger discussing something outside of the O.R, Hawkeye celebrating after driving the tank out of the compound, the rest of the 4077th looking on in horror as Hawkeye drove the tank out of the compound, and an image of Hawkeye, Col. Potter, BJ, and Charles waving goodbye to Margaret. Of course, the photo release itself doesn’t give any context for these photos, but we’ve all seen the finale (although if you haven’t, I probably should have included a spoiler alert!).
As I reflect on “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” I can’t help but think that it is one of the best written television finales. It has that blend of comedy and drama that M*A*S*H is known for. The last half hour is the highlight of the episode. Watching everyone say goodbye to each character was well scripted because it allowed us, the audience, to say goodbye to each of them as well. The final scene with Hawkeye leaving in the helicopter and seeing BJ’s “Goodbye” written out in rocks on the helicopter pad is one of the best visuals of the series. It gets me every time because it perfectly sums up how I feel watching the finale and saying goodbye to M*A*S*H.