When it comes time to expertly craft the ending to a beloved sitcom, the more writers the merrier.
This was the logic for “MAS*H” executives when it came time to wrap up the series after 11 seasons. All those who were responsible really understood the assignment too.
The Many Writer of the ‘M*A*S*H’ Finale
As B.J. wrote “Goodbye” in stones, viewers at home attempted to choke back tears as they had to say “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” to their favorite characters. The episode, which was two-and-a-half hours long, aired on CBS on February 28, 1983.
It lured in 105.9 million people at the time. This makes it the most-watched TV finale of all time. Only Super Bowls come close in broadcast number all these years later.
It took an army to make the emotional ending to “M*A*S*H.”
According to “TV’s MAS*H: The Ultimate Guide Book,” written by David Pollock, the series finale had the most writers of any other episode. Alan Alda, Burt Metcalfe, John Rappaport, Dan Wilcox, Thad Mumford, Elias Davis, David Pollock, and Karen Hall were the writers.
The writing duties got equally distributed for the two-and-a-half hours of TV. “[Elias Davis & I], with Alan, wrote the first half-hour of ‘Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,’” wrote Pollock.
Alan Alda TV Writing Career
Although Alan Alda is most known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the popular wartime series, he also made a name for himself in TV writing.
He has had several writing credits over the years including “Betsy’s Wedding,” “The Four Seasons,” “The Seduction of Joe Tynan,” and “Hickey,” amongst others.
He has a total of 18 writing credits on “MAS*H” over the years.
During a 2017 interview with the Harvard Business Review, Alda spoke about what it was like to balance writing, directing, and acting all at once for a project. “One of our daughters, when she was about eight, said, ‘You’re directing yourself? What do you say? You, go there.’ It’s a problem because when you’re directing you need objectivity, and it’s hard to be objective about your own performance. One of the things I would do is shoot many more takes if I was in a scene, so I’d have things to choose from in the editing room. Maybe that came off looking like I was more concerned about my own performance than other people’s, but that wasn’t why I did it,” he said at the time.
Clearly, he mastered it all pretty well.
In 1979, he got an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Comedy-Variety.”
In 1977, he also got an Emmy for directing the series and he won several Emmys for his acting throughout “M*A*S*H.”