Fire and David Ogden Stiers caused a four-week delay on M*A*S*H's finale

Calamity couldn't stop television history.

"Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" is one of the most famous television broadcasts of all time. The final episode of M*A*S*H shattered pre-existing television records, drawing a reported 105.97 million total viewers. This meant the finale eclipsed the single-episode ratings record that was previously set by Dallas' resolution to the "Who Shot J.R.?" saga. 

For twenty-seven years, "Goodbye, Farwell, and Amen" was the most-watched television broadcast in American TV history. To this day, it is still the most-watched single episode in the entirety of American television. 

While we can all now see the episode for the unparalleled success that it is, the production was fraught with near-disaster from the beginning. According to the Thousand Oaks Star newspaper, two separate instances of incredible misfortune threatened to end the finale before it started.

The first catastrophe struck when a fire broke out on the M*A*S*H set.

"Plans were to preserve the set at the Smithsonian Institution, but the Oct. 9 fire burned it down, destroying the operating room, mess hall and "swamp," the quarters for Hawkeye, B.J. and Winchester."

Obviously, the show couldn't go on without its set, which was painstakingly reassembled at CBS's expense. Luckily for the network, advertisers were willing to pay premium prices to air commercials during the series' long-anticipated final episode. CBS was able to more than recoup the cost of reconstruction.

While the network could rush the set's restoration, not even a television behemoth like CBS could hurry up a health setback. 

"The final show suffered delays while the set was rebuilt and David Ogden Stiers (Maj. Winchester) recovered from hepatitis, which sidelined him for four weeks."

While the behind-the-scenes goings-on were made public, the network took great lengths to ensure the episode's storyline was kept under wraps. 

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3 Comments

WGH 1 month ago
Assuming he had infectious hepatitis, better known as hep A, he would have been quarantined for a period of time. And people get pretty sick with hep a. Doesn't surprise me that his illness delayed filming
cperrynaples 2 months ago
A clarification here: Normally Super Bowls top everything, but GF&A's audience was so big that it wasn't until 2010 that they caught up! This Sunday's game was proably the biggest of all time!
Runeshaper 2 months ago
WOW! That must have been very stressful. Glad they got everything done to make the finale superb (-:
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