Most-Watched TV Programs

On this date in 1983, the series finale of the television show “MASH” aired in the United States.

Here are some things you may not have known about the most-watched scripted television episode in American history.

The final episode of the series was called “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” The comedy/drama ran for 11 seasons, eight years longer than the Korean War in which it was set.

The 2 1/2-hour episode begins with Hawkeye Pierce suffering from a nervous breakdown. During the episode he recovers and rejoins the 4077th as the news of a ceasefire reaches the camp. The rest of the episode deals with the characters saying goodbye to one another. It ends with Pierce on a helicopter seeing that his tentmate and fellow surgeon B.J. Hunnicutt, who had trouble saying farewell, had arranged a number of large number of stones to read “GOODBYE.”

Because of the overwhelming interest in the episode, CBS was able change $450,000 for a 30-second commercial block, which was more expensive than time during the Super Bowl that year.

Almost 106 million people watched the episode, making it the most-watched television program in American television history.

The episode would have had even higher ratings, if not for a power outage in the San Francisco area which prevented many viewers from seeing the finale. It ran again three weeks later on the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area.

Eight Super Bowls have since eclipsed the “MASH” finale in terms of viewership, although it retains the record for scripted programming.

Determining a global record isn’t easy. Some countries don’t have reliable estimates for viewership.

The most-reliable numbers indicate that the global record for the most-watched television event was the first moon landing in 1969. It’s estimated that 530 million people saw Neil Armstrong walk on the lunar surface. The 2006 FIFA World Cup Final audience was estimated to be about 260 million viewers. Over the course of two weeks, it is estimated that up to 5 billion people, about 70 percent of the world’s population, watched some part of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Our question: What show had the longest run of seasons as the No. 1 show in the U.S.?


Today is Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday, marking the last day before the start of Lent.

It’s unofficially International Pancake Day, which is related to Shrove Tuesday celebrations; National Science Day; and National Chocolate Souffle Day.

It’s the birthday of gagster Bugsy Siegel, who was born in 1906; actor Zero Mostel, who was born in 1915; and race car driver Mario Andretti, who is 77.

This week in 1983, the top song in the U.S. was “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.

The No. 1 movie was “Tootsie,” while the novel “Space” by James Michener topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


Now for our weekly question: What series had the second-most-watched finale in the U.S.?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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