MASH’s finale episode was such a major event that its impact on New York’s sewers was easy to measure. Back before the internet or even the widespread use of VHS, TV fans had to catch a series live if they wanted to watch the latest episode or wait for a repeat. Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s, there were few shows as popular as MASH, which was pioneering in its combination of drama and comedy. The death of MASH’s Henry Blake was one of the first times a major series killed off a popular supporting character, and it was never afraid to explore potentially uncomfortable topics in between the gags.
MASH was almost canceled before season 2 due to bad ratings, but by the time it ended in 1983, it was appointment television for many. It came to an end after eleven seasons with MASH finale “Goodbye, Farewell And Amen,” a TV movie that saw the end of the Korean War and the 4077th being sent home. It was a fittingly emotional capper after 11 years on air, and a news story about the finale’s ratings success also revealed one hilarious, unsettling real-world detail.
MASH’s Finale Saw 1 Million New Yorkers Flushing At The Same Time
A few minutes after MASH’s “Goodbye, Farewell And Amen,” many New Yorkers dried their tears before heading straight to the bathroom. In fact, according to UPI, approximately one million people in New York went to the toilet at the same time, as the city’s sewers were flooded with 6.7 million gallons of water at once. According to spokesman Peter Barrett from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection at the time, the flow rate in the water tunnels leapt by 150 million gallons at around 11:03 pm, exactly three minutes after the finale finished.
“We don’t know of any instantaneous increase in water usage that would match this,” said Barrett. This piece of trivia surrounding MASH’s finale later led to a myth that New York’s sewers actually broke in the aftermath, which has since been debunked. Still, it speaks to how captivated audiences were in 1983 that at least a million people held out on going to the restroom for fear of missing out on something.
MASH’s Finale Broke TV Viewership Records
According to Statista, around 106 million viewers tuned in to watch the MASH finale, making it the most-watched TV episode of all time. It kept that record for 25 years until Super Bowl XLIV took the crown. Still, in terms of scripted shows – particularly finale episodes – “Goodbye, Farewell And Amen” is still on top. Viewership habits have changed in such dramatic ways since 1983 that it’s a record that’s now almost impressive to top. For contrast, Game Of Thrones’ finale set records with 19.3 million people (via WSJ), making it both the most-watched episode of the series and HBO’s most-viewed show ever – but even those numbers pale compared to MASH’s ending.