February 1983: The final episode of "M*A*S*H"
If you’re a mid-1980s alum, you probably watched the final episode of M*A*S*H on campus with friends. And you weren’t alone: the Feb. 28, 1983, telecast remains the all-time highest-rated TV program. Watched by 125 million viewers, the show achieved a 60 rating and 77 share (that is, 60 percent of all potential TV households were tuned in, and 77 percent of households watching TV that night were tuned to M*A*S*H).
The next two shows on the all-time list — the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of Dallas and an episode of Roots — were in 1980 and 1977, respectively, a bygone era of big-three network dominance. Back then, a hyped show could easily get a 40 rating. Heck, even The Thorn Birds (1983) and ABC’s nuke drama The Day After (1983) got 40 ratings and 60 shares. Today, only a Super Bowl approaches those numbers, or maybe the final episode of a show like Friends.
Jon Hall ’83, then an assistant editor for The Bates Student, now a reporter and anchor for Channel 7 in Boston, covered the campus reaction to the final episode in the Student.