28 February

“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the final episode of M*A*S*H. Special television sets were placed in PX parking lots, auditoriums, and dayrooms of the U.S. Army in Korea so that military personnel could watch that episode, in spite of 14 hours’ time zone difference with the east coast of the U.S. The episode aired on this day in 1983, and was 2½ hours long. The episode got a Nielsen rating of 60.2 and 77 share and according to a New York Times article from 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H had 125 million viewers.

When the M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983, 83.3 million homes in the United States had televisions, compared to almost 115 million in February 2010.

“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” broke the record for the highest percentage of homes with television sets to watch a television series. Stories persist that the episode was seen by so many people that the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department reported the plumbing systems broke down in some parts of the city from so many New Yorkers waiting until the end to use the toilet. Articles copied into Alan Alda’s book The Last Days of M*A*S*H include interviews with New York City Sanitation workers citing the spike in water use on that night. According to the interviews at 11:03 pm, EST New York City public works noted the highest water usage at one given time in the City’s history. They attributed this to the fact that in the three minutes after the finale ended, around 77% of the people of New York City flushed their toilets. These stories have all since been identified as part of an urban legend dating back to the days of the Amos and Andy radio program in the 1930s.