February 25, 2006

The End of MASH

To this day, Reuters reports, the single largest audience for a television program in the US - and by extension an audience vastly larger than any episode of any other medical program - was the finale of the CBS series M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 and featured what would become an ensemble cast led by Alan Alda. Alda played an increasingly pacifist surgeon stuck in Korea during that war. The set was a mobile army surgical hospital or "MASH" unit.

On learning last week that the very last MASH unit - set up in Pakistan - was to be decommissioned by the Army and given to Pakistan, Steve Gorman at Reuters thought to call Alan Alda for his reaction, which was:

"You had a group of people under a tremendous amount of pressure, and it wasn't just the pressure of a difficult job," he said. "Their lives were being threatened, they were trying to save the lives of other people, they couldn't get out, and they couldn't avoid one another's idiosyncrasies."

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