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October 9, 2015

Alan Alda's Take on the Super Bowl Besting 'M*A*S*H' Record

by Allison Waldman, posted Feb 9th 2010 11:41AM
MASH_hawkeye_trapper_cbsYou gotta love the feisty attitude of former 'M*A*S*H' stars Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers about Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast being a record-breaker. Alda was gracious about the 'M*A*S*H' finale being topped by the Super Bowl broadcast. The New Orleans Saints victory over the Indianapolis Colts had more total viewers than the 1983 'M*A*S*H' finale. But Alda and Rogers both added a shot of vinegar to their honey coated responses.

Alda said in a statement to the L.A. Times, "If they broke our record, I'm happy for New Orleans and I hope it gives even more to cheer about to a city I love." However, he did wonder about how Nielsen measured the audience. It's a good question and one many people ask.

Twenty-seven years ago when the finale of 'M*A*S*H' aired, there were less channels and more over the air viewership, i.e. non-cable, non-satellite and non-digital. Are today's numbers skewed because there's more outlets? You'd think so.

Still, Alda makes a good point about the emotional pull for New Orleans. A lot of people wanted the Saints to win in light of the post-Katrina horror that city suffered. Drew Brees leading the football team to a come from behind victory is the ultimate feel-good, underdog success story. The Saints were a perennial loser. There was a time when some fans wore paper bags on their heads and called their team the Ain'ts, as in, the ain't very good.

Anyway, CBS and Nielsen report that 106.5 million viewers tuned in, which is just a tick more than the 'M*A*S*H' finale's 106 million. Alda's co-star on 'M*A*S*H', Wayne Rogers, commented on the implications of such a big number. Even though Rogers' character Trapper John wasn't in the finale, from Wayne's perspective, 'M*A*S*H' is a bigger success. "That Super Bowl is never going to earn what 'M*A*S*H' earned... because there's no reruns."

Um, no. The NFL Network and NFL Films will rerun Super Bowl 44 many, many times. However, it'll never achieve the syndication revenue and DVD sales 'M*A*S*H' has, so in that way, Wayne is right.

Of course, the biggest winner in this isn't the NFL or the Saints. It's CBS. After all, the network had Sunday's game and the 'M*A*S*H' finale in 1983. That gives the Tiffany network the top two all-time viewed programs. Somewhere Les Moonves is beating his chest like Tarzan, don't you think?

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I don't think the Nielson Ratings are based on percentage. It is based on actual viewers. Granted the population is greater now then back in 1980 but 106.5 viewers is 106.5 viewers. Plus the viewers had more opportunities to view other programs with cable, vito, etc. they wanted to watch the Superbowl.

February 17 2010 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Shouldn't this kind of record setting be the percentage of the population watching, rather than the numbers alone?

106.5 million American viewers out of roughly 309,162,581 Americans in 2010 is considerably less impressive than 106 million out of roughly 226,545,805+ (1980 numbers).

As the US population continues to grow, records like this can be broken all the time unless one factors in the population size at the time.

February 09 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to norwegianne's comment

Amen to that!! :-D

February 10 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When you think how many more people there are in the US now compaired to 1983 (70,000,000 more) and how many more TV's there are now. I think that the M*A*S*H* record is more impressive.

February 09 2010 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

I realize that this Superbowl was remarkable because of the Saints participation in it and it will remain so for awhile. But after years of watching MASH, our involvement with the characters and that heartstring- pulling ending, MASH's ending will live on and on in our minds. Twenty seven years since it aired and many still remember it vividly. I'm with you Alan and Wayne.

February 09 2010 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People still remember the MASH finale.

This Super Bowl will be forgotten quickly, as they usually are. This time next year few outside of NO will be able to tell you who played in it.

February 09 2010 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to emtae's comment
Matthew Golem

Isn't it more remarkable that a show could pull this kind of rating in 2010 - with all the cable competition, Tivo, Internet, etc...?

Were there additional outlets (besides the CBS broadcast) to watch the Super Bowl that Nielsen is including in this rating?

February 09 2010 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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