M*A*S*H (an acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) is an American war comedy-drama television series that aired on CBS from September 17, 1972 to February 28, 1983. It was developed by Larry Gelbart as the first original spin-off series adapted from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H, which, in turn, was based on Richard Hooker's 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. The series, which was produced with 20th Century Fox Television for CBS, follows a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the "4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War (1950–53).
The ensemble cast originally featured Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers as surgeons Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce and "Trapper" John McIntyre, the protagonists of the show, joined by Larry Linville as surgeon Frank Burns, Loretta Swit as head nurse Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, McLean Stevenson as company commander Henry Blake, Gary Burghoff as company clerk Walter "Radar" O'Reilly, Jamie Farr as orderly Maxwell Klinger, and William Christopher as the chaplain, Father John Mulcahy. Over the run of the show, several members of the main cast were replaced: Wayne Rogers was replaced by Mike Farrell as B. J. Hunnicutt, McLean Stevenson was replaced by Harry Morgan as Sherman Potter, Frank Burns was replaced by David Ogden Stiers as Charles Emerson Winchester III, and Gary Burghoff left; with the Maxwell Klinger character moving into the company clerk role. Longtime supporting cast members included Kellye Nakahara, Jeff Maxwell, Allan Arbus, and Edward Winter.
The series varied in style and tone – including broad comedy and tragic drama – which can be attributed to fluctuating writing staff over the life of the show, and the variety of sources contributing to the stories, such as actor Alan Alda and surgeons who served in the Korean War. The show's title sequence features an instrumental version of "Suicide Is Painless," the original film's theme song.The show was created after an attempt to film the original book's sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, failed. The television series is the best-known of the M*A*S*H works, and one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history. Its final episode, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", was the most-watched television broadcast in American history from 1983 until 2010, and remains both the most-watched finale of any television series and the most-watched episode of a scripted series.