The final episode of 'M-A-S-H' Monday night was seen by 125 million people, making it the most-watched entertainment in TV history, said Nielsen figures released Wednesday. The show earned a 60.3 rating and an audience share of 77.
In San Francisco alone, 86 percent of all the people with television sets watched CBS Monday night as the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital folded its tents and ended television's longest running war.
'M-A-S-H' unseated the 'Who Shot J.R.' episode of 'Dallas' which was watched, all or in part, by 82 million people. 'J.R' had racked up a rating of 53.4 and an audience share of 76.
Previous highs in audience share included 'Roots,' 54.1 and 71, and the last Superbowl, 49.5 and 68.
Around the nation, millions of viewers gathered at special 'M-A-S-H-bashes' or in their homes to see the heavily hyped finale. Heroic efforts were needed in Barstow, Calif., to bring the 'M-A-S-H' finale to its fans.
Shortly before the show was slated to begin, the Warner Amex Cable Co. -- the only source of the program for 8,600 subscribers -- suffered a power failure.
The cable company's switchboard soon was flooded by calls from outraged viewers ready to riot before they would be denied the farewell episode of their favorite show.
But general manager Walter Kostrzewski and his chief technician, John Garland, were ready. They persuaded one outraged subscriber, Bill Johnson, to lend them the UHF antenna on the roof of his house.
Kostrzewski and Garland picked it up, drove it eight miles to the top of Elephant Mountain and hand-held it in driving rain and gale force winds until an over-the-air signal was assured before lashing it down for the duration.
Halfway through the show, power was restored, but Kostrzewski and Garland dared not leave their post lest it fail again.
Thus -- not by cable, but by antenna -- did Barstow subscribers get to say goodbye to Hawkeye, B.J., Hotlips and the rest of the 'M-A-S-H' crew.
Cast members and executives watched the finale at the 20th Century Fox theater on the Hollywood lot where the series has been shot for the past decade, then retired to their favorite Moroccan restaurant where they dined and threw hot towels, served after the entree, at each other.
'Some of us cried a little bit during the movie,' said Loretta Swit, who portrayed Maj. Margaret 'Hotlips' Houlihan for the series. 'I shed a tear or two myself but then we all went to dinner and ended up with our traditional towel-throwing.'
But for all the frivolity, a somber mood prevailed. Supervising producer John Rappaport may have summed it up best.
'There was silence after the movie ended,' he said. 'Dead silence -- the applause of the numb ... I know I'll see Loretta and Jamie (Farr) and all the others, but I get a catch in my throat with I think it was the last time I will ever see Hotlips Houlihan and Corporal Klinger.'