When M*A*S*H concluded its 11-season run in 1983, 105 million fans tuned in for a record-breaking finale, and star Jamie Farr thought the attention was “frightening.”
Farr played Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger on the series. He was one of the handful of stars who was with the show from Season 1. When it came time for the story to end, he was heartbroken. The cast and crew had become a family, and the show was all he’d known for over a decade.
During an interview with Bennington Banner in 1983, Farr admitted he never once considered quitting the show on his own accord, and he would have continued as long as the network kept the series. But he found it nerve-wracking that over 100 million people felt just as attached to it.
“That show on the 28th of February is an American event,” he said ahead of the finale, per MeTV. “That is frightening. People are holding parties all over this country — sending us off, saying goodbye to us on that final episode.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Didn’t Want the ‘Responsibility’ of Being a National Icon
The build-up to the M*A*S*H series finale was truly epic with international bets and brackets on how storylines would end, massive viewing parties planned weeks or longer in advance, and every major newspaper and magazine vying for interviews and spoilers.
Jamie Farr worried that people saw M*A*S*H as a true event, that the surgeons of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital were real war heroes. He’d hoped people would have attached such adoration to “peacemakers,” “educators,” and scientists instead of “this little stupid television show that’s on about three or four times a day now.”
“I don’t know if I want that responsibility,” he admitted. “I’m serious about that. I had no intention of having this so-called national importance. All I wanted to do was to have a weekly job where I knew my paycheck was coming in… But all this coverage!”
Farr couldn’t help but take a step back from all of the hoopla surrounding the finale.
“M*A*S*H has been a way of life for me, and it will seem strange not going there anymore, not seeing these people,” he said during a separate interview with The Los Angeles Times. “We have to be adult about it. We’ll all go on to something else, but what frightens me is that I’ll be offered shows like those on-air today. There’s only one M*A*S*H in my lifetime. It’s a classic show. It’s like retiring Nashua or Lou Gehrig.”
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