M*A*S*H Ratings & Rankings


Introduction

The television industry is driven by the Nielsen ratings, provided by the Nielsen Company. Ratings determine how much a network can charge for advertisements aired during commercial breaks. Every week, a list of television programs is compiled, with the programs ranked by rating. At the end of every television season another ranking is compiled, with the programs once again ranked by rating, but for the entire season.

On a weekly basis, M*AS**H was rarely the highest rated television program, although it did regularly rank in the Top Five, Top Ten, or Top Twenty, depending on the competition. It might surprise fans of M*A*S*H to learn that the series never once reached the top spot during any of its eleven seasons. Its first season on the air, from 1972-1973, it ranked 46th. The following season, however, it skyrocketed to fourth in the ratings and never fell out of the Top Twenty, only once falling out of the Top Ten. The eleventh and final season was the third highest-rated show of the 1982-1983 television season, the closest the series ever came to the number one spot.

Weekly Rankings By Season

The following tables list the weekly rankings for M*A*S*H, season by season. Nielsen information comes primarily from The Los Angeles Times for Seasons One through Six; The New York Times for Seasons Seven through Ten, and The Associated Press for Season Eleven. Starting midway through Season Two, the only Nielsen information I have found thus far lists either the Top Fifteen or Top Twenty rankings, with the occasional list reaching the Top Thirty. In some cases, I was unable to find any information for certain weeks and thus if an episode has no ranking, it could mean it finished outside the Top Twenty or I have no information one way or the other.

I have written brief overviews of each season, pointing out episodes of interest and explaining why certain episodes had low rankings where I could. Excluding Season 1, with the information I have available, the lowest-rated episode of M*A*S*H was Season Ten’s “Picture This,” aired April 5th, 1982, which ranked 36th due to heavy competition from NBC. It is possible that other episodes ranked lower, but even if they did, the vast majority of the 227 episodes broadcast between September 15th, 1973 and February 28th, 1983 ranked in the Top Twenty. An incredible achievement.

Season One

For its first season, M*A*S*H was given the 8PM Sunday timeslot opposite NBC’s The Wonderful World of Disney and ABC’s The FBI, both of which would finish the 1972-1973 season in the Top Thirty, with The Wonderful World of Disney in the Top Ten. In the face of such competition, M*A*S*H performed poorly.

The very first episode ranked 45th for the week and later episodes would sink even lower. However, during the second half of the season, M*A*S*H stabilized and even saw some improvement, reaching the Top 30 on occasion and even breaking the Top Twenty in March 1973. The turnaround wasn’t enough to keep M*A*S*H from finishing the 1972-1973 season in 46th place.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/17/1972 M*A*S*H — The Pilot 45th
09/24/1972 To Market, To Market
10/01/1972 Requiem for a Lightweight
10/08/1972 Chief Surgeon Who? 54th
10/15/1972 The Moose 44th
10/22/1972 Yankee Doodle Doctor
11/05/1972 Bananas, Crackers and Nuts 43rd
11/12/1972 Cowboy 43rd
11/19/1972 Henry, Please Come Home 38th
11/26/1972 I Hate A Mystery 36th
12/10/1972 Germ Warfare 56th
12/17/1972 Dear Dad 53rd
12/24/1972 Edwina
01/078/1973 Love Story 43rd
01/14/1973 Tuttle 50th
01/21/1973 The Ringbanger 30th
01/28/1973 Sometimes You Hear the Bullet 22nd
02/04/1973 Dear Dad, Again 36th
02/17/1973 The Long-John Flap 49th
02/25/1973 The Army-Navy Game 43rd
03/04/1973 Sticky Wicket 33rd
03/11/1973 Major Fred C. Dobbs 27th
03/18/1973 Cease-Fire 18th
03/25/1973 Showtime
Season Two

CBS wisely moved M*A*S*H to 8:30PM Saturdays, sandwiched between hits All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The new time slot worked wonders for M*A*S*H and the series spent the bulk of the 1973-1974 season comfortably in the Top Ten, ranking 4th for the season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/15/1973 Divided We Stand 3rd
09/22/1973 5 O’Clock Charlie 15th
09/29/1973 Radar’s Report 7th
10/06/1973 For the Good of the Outfit 6th
10/13/1973 Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde 6th
10/20/1973 Kim 7th
10/27/1973 L.I.P. (Local Indigenous Personnel) 6th
11/03/1973 The Trial of Henry Blake 7th
11/10/1973 Dear Dad… Three 10th
11/17/1973 The Sniper 9th
11/24/1973 Carry On Hawkeye 6th
12/01/1973 The Incubator 5th
12/08/1973 Deal Me Out 9th
12/15/1973 Hot Lips and Empty Arms 11th
12/22/1973 Officers Only 4th
01/05/1974 Henry in Love
01/12/1974 For Want of a Boot
01/19/1974 Operation Noselift 8th
01/26/1974 The Chosen People
02/02/1974 As You Were
02/09/1974 Crisis 5th
02/16/1974 George
02/23/1974 Mail Call 9th
03/02/1974 A Smattering of Intelligence 5th
Season Three

M*A*S*H was moved again for its third season, this time to Tuesdays at 8:30PM. It would face The ABC Movie of the Week and The CBS Tuesday Night Movie. M*A*S*H easily beat its competition and would top the Nielsen charts for potentially the first time with the final two episodes of the season.

The series finished the 1974-1975 season in 5th place, down one slot from the previous season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/10/1974 The General Flipped at Dawn 11th
09/17/1974 Rainbow Bridge
09/24/1974 Officer of the Day 3rd
10/01/1974 Iron Guts Kelly 9th
10/08/1974 O.R.
10/15/1974 Springtime 8th
10/22/1974 Check-Up 2nd
10/29/1974 Life With Father 6th
11/12/1974 Alcoholics Unanimous 5th
11/19/1974 There is Nothing Like a Nurse
11/26/1974 Adam’s Ribs
12/03/1974 A Full Rich Day 9th
12/10/1974 Mad Dogs and Servicemen 6th
12/31/1974 Private Charles Lamb t12th
01/07/1975 Bombed
01/14/1975 Bulletin Board 10th
01/21/1975 The Consultant 4th
02/04/1975 House Arrest
02/11/1975 Aid Station 15th
02/18/1975 Love and Marriage 7th
02/25/1975 Big Mac
03/04/1975 Payday 6th
03/11/1975 White Gold 1st
03/18/1975 Abyssinia, Henry 1st
Season Four

M*A*S*H moved to Fridays at 8:30PM for its fourth season, which saw the introduction of Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan. CBS was hoping to blunt NBC’s dominance of Friday evenings. M*A*S*H was scheduled opposite NBC’s strong Chico and the Man and fell out of the Top Twenty for the first nine weeks of the season.

The November 11th episode, “Dear Peggy,” was given a test broadcast in the Tuesday 8:30PM time slot the series had occupied the previous season. Ratings shot up. Starting in December, M*A*S*H was moved to Tuesdays at 8:00PM and did well enough to rank 15th for the season, down ten spots from the previous season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/12/1975 Welcome to Korea
09/19/1975 Change of Command
09/26/1975 It Happened One Night
10/03/1975 The Late Captain Pierce
10/10/1975 Hey, Doc
10/17/1975 The Bus
10/24/1975 Dear Mildred
10/31/1975 The Kids
11/07/1975 Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler
11/11/1975 Dear Peggy 8th
11/21/1975 Of Moose and Men
11/28/1975 Soldier of the Month
12/02/1975 The Gun 11th
12/09/1975 Mail Call, Again 6th
12/16/1975 The Price of Tomato Juice 5th
12/23/1975 Dear Ma
01/06/1976 Der Tag 6th
01/13/1976 Hawkeye 7th
01/20/1976 Some 38th Parallels
01/27/1976 The Novocaine Mutiny 10th
02/03/1976 Smilin’ Jack 19th
02/10/1976 The More I See You
02/17/1976 Deluge
02/25/1976 The Interview 16th
Season Five

Continuing in the Tuesday 9:00PM timeslot, M*A*S*H spent much of the 1976-1977 season in the Top Ten. The 100th episode of the series, “Lt. Radar O’Reilly,” broadcast October 12th, ranked first for the week, as did the season finale.

Only one episode, “End Run,” failed to make the Top Twenty. The reason? It aired during the historic week when ABC broadcast the miniseries Roots and utterly dominated the Nielsen ratings.

The series rebounded to 4th place for the 1976-1977 season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/21/1976 Bug Out 9th
09/28/1976 Margaret’s Engagement 11th
10/05/1976 Out of Sight, Out of Mind 6th
10/12/1976 Lt. Radar O’Reilly 1st
10/19/1976 The Nurses 12th
10/26/1976 The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan 11th
11/09/1976 Dear Sigmund 6th
11/16/1976 Mulcahy’s War 6th
11/23/1976 The Korean Surgeon t6th
11/30/1976 Hawkeye Get Your Gun 7th
12/07/1976 The Colonel’s Horse 5th
12/14/1976 Exorcism 4th
12/21/1976 Hawk’s Nightmare 6th
01/04/1977 The Most Unforgettable Characters 3rd
01/11/1977 38 Across 5th
01/18/1977 Ping Pong 8th
01/25/1977 End Run
02/01/1977 Hanky Panky 7th
02/08/1977 Hepatitis 5th
02/15/1977 The General’s Practitioner 4th
02/22/1977 Movie Tonight 5th
03/01/1977 Souvenirs 5th
03/08/1977 Post Op 3rd
03/15/1977 Margaret’s Marriage 1st
Season Six

The introduction of David Ogden Stiers during the season premiere performed well, ranking 5th for the week. But for the next four months, M*A*S*H languished at the bottom end of the Top Twenty due to competition from ABC’s Three’s Company. Beginning January 30th, CBS moved the series to Mondays at 9:00PM and saw the ratings jump up, with the season finale ranking 1st.

M*A*S*H ended the 1977-1978 season in 9th place, down slightly from the previous season (Three’s Company, by comparison, ranked 3rd).

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/20/1977 Fade Out, Fade In 5th
09/27/1977 Fallen Idol 15th
10/04/1977 Last Laugh 20th
10/11/1977 War of Nerves 14th
10/18/1977 The Winchester Tapes 14th
10/25/1977 The Light That Failed
11/01/1977 In Love and War
11/08/1977 Change Day
11/15/1977 Images
11/22/1977 The M*A*S*H Olympics 18th
11/29/1977 The Grim Reaper 17th
12/06/1977 Comrades in Arms (1) 17th
12/13/1977 Comrades in Arms (2) t16th
12/20/1977 The Merchant of Korea 12th
01/03/1978 The Smell of Music 17th
01/10/1978 Patient 4077 12th
01/17/1978 Tea and Empathy
01/24/1978 Your Hit Parade
01/30/1978 What’s Up, Doc?
02/06/1978 Mail Call Three 9th
02/13/1978 Temporary Duty 6th
02/20/1978 Potter’s Retirement 17th
02/27/1978 Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde 4th
03/27/1978 Major Topper 1st
Season Seven

M*A*S*H continued in the Monday 9:00PM timeslot it had taken over halfway through its sixth season. For the bulk of the season, the series continued to rank in the top Ten or Top Fifteen, with a few exceptions.

The third episode of the season, “Lil,” tied for 20th due to competition from NBC’s “Little Women” miniseries. The fifth episode of the season, “The Billfold Syndrome,” faced a special 90-minute episode of NBC’s Little House on the Praririe and fell out of the Top Twenty. In mid-February, CBS broadcast the second half of Gone with the Wind on Monday, February 12th, pre-empting M*A*S*H.

CBS gave the series a special Wednesday airing on February 14th and ratings fell somewhat in response.

For the 1978-1979 season, the series ranked 7th, a slight improvement from the previous year.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/18/1978 Commander Pierce 5th
09/25/1978 Peace On Us 4th
10/02/1978 Lil t20th
10/09/1978 Our Finest Hour 9th
10/16/1978 The Billfold Syndrome
10/23/1978 None Like it Hot t10th
10/30/1978 They Call the Wind Korea 6th
11/06/1978 Major Ego 9th
11/13/1978 Baby, it’s Cold Outside 11th
11/20/1978 Point of View 9th
11/27/1978 Dear Comrade 6th
12/04/1978 Out of Gas 8th
12/11/1978 An Eye for a Tooth 5th
12/18/1978 Dear Sis 3rd
01/01/1979 B.J. Papa San 9th
01/08/1979 Inga 8th
01/15/1979 The Price 9th
01/22/1979 The Young And The Restless 8th
01/29/1979 Hot Lips is Back in Town 13th
02/05/1979 C*A*V*E 9th
02/14/1979 Rally Round the Flagg, Boys 24th
02/19/1979 Preventive Medicine 18th
02/27/1979 A Night at Rosie’s 11th
03/05/1979 Ain’t Love Grand 9th
03/12/1979 The Party t8th
Season Eight

M*A*S*H spent another season in its Monday 9:00PM timeslot, with every episode ranking in the Top Fifteen save two. On October 1st, an address from President Carter on the three networks pushed “Guerilla My Dreams” to 9:15PM and it faced stiff competition from “The 17th Anniversary Tonight Show,” which ranked 3rd from the week. And on December 31st, “Yessir, That’s Our Baby” fell out of the Top Twenty despite facing relatively weak competition from a pair of movies on ABC and NBC.

The series improved to 5th place for the 1979-1980 season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
09/17/1979 Too Many Cooks 11th
09/24/1979 Are You Now, Margaret? 5th
10/01/1979 Guerilla My Dreams t19th
10/08/1979 Good-Bye Radar (Part 1) 2nd
10/15/1979 Good-Bye Radar (Part 2) 3rd
10/22/1979 Period of Adjustment 8th
10/29/1979 Nurse Doctor 4th
11/05/1979 Private Finance 3rd
11/12/1979 Mr. and Mrs. Who? 12th
11/19/1979 The Yalu Brick Road 14th
11/26/1979 Life Time 3rd
12/03/1979 Dear Uncle Abdul 9th
12/10/1979 Captain’s Outrageous 8th
12/17/1979 Stars and Stripes 5th
12/31/1979 Yessir, That’s Our Baby
01/07/1980 Bottle Fatigue 7th
01/14/1980 Heal Thyself 5th
01/21/1980 Old Soldiers 4th
01/28/1980 Morale Victory 6th
02/04/1980 Lend a Hand 10th
02/11/1980 Goodbye, Cruel World 3rd
02/18/1980 Dreams 10th
03/03/1980 War Co-Respondent 2nd
03/10/1980 Back Pay 3rd
03/24/1980 April Fools t1st
Season Nine

The 1980-1981 television season was delayed due to an actor’s strike. When it did begin, M*A*S*H was once again airing on Mondays at 9:00PM and this time, every single episode did rank in the Top Fifteen. In fact, with the exception of the season premiere, every episode of the season ranked in the Top Ten, with eleven ranking in the Top Five. Those high ratings helped M*A*S*H end the 1980-1981 in 4th place.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
11/17/1980 The Best of Enemies 14th
11/24/1980 Letters 5th
12/01/1980 Cementing Relationships 4th
12/08/1980 Father’s Day 3rd
12/15/1980 Death Takes A Holiday 4th
12/29/1980 A War For All Seasons 6th
01/05/1981 Your Retention Please 5th
01/12/1981 Tell It To The Marines 6th
01/19/1981 Taking The Fifth 4th
01/26/1981 Operation Friendship 7th
02/02/1981 No Sweat 4th
02/09/1981 Depressing News 6th
02/16/1981 No Laughing Matter 5th
02/23/1981 Oh, How We Danced 4th
03/02/1981 Bottoms Up 1st
03/09/1981 The Red/White Blues 7th
03/16/1981 Bless You, Hawkeye 2nd
04/06/1981 Blood Brothers 10th
04/13/1981 The Foresight Saga 2nd
05/05/1981 The Life You Save 2nd
Season Ten

The 1981-1982 television season was delayed due to a writer’s strike. M*A*S*H spent its fourth consecutive season in its Monday 9:00PM timeslot. Several episodes ranked outside the Top Fifteen due to strong performances by programming on ABC and NBC. For example, on November 9th, “Rumor At The Top” faced stiffer than usual competition from NFL Monday Night Football on ABC. And on February 8th and February 15th, 1982, M*A*S*H faced powerful films on ABC: the second half of Superman and The Jerk, respectively.

The April 5th episode, “Picture This,” was up against The Kid with the Broken Halo on NBC and sank to 36th for the week.

Weak performances from these episodes saw M*A*S*H drop slightly to 9th place for the 1981-1982 season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
10/26/1981 That’s Show Biz 4th
11/02/1981 Identity Crisis 9th
11/09/1981 Rumor At The Top t20th
11/16/1981 Give ’em Hell, Hawkeye 9th
11/23/1981 Wheelers and Dealers 12th
11/30/1981 Communication Breakdown 5th
12/07/1981 Snap Judgement (Part 1) 19th
12/14/1981 Snappier Judgement (Part 2) 4th
12/28/1981 ‘Twas the Day After Christmas 4th
01/04/1982 Follies of the Living – Concerns of the Dead 9th
01/11/1982 The Birthday Girls t8th
01/18/1982 Blood and Guts 16th
02/01/1982 A Holy Mess 11th
02/08/1982 The Tooth Shall Set You Free
02/15/1982 Pressure Points
02/22/1982 Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way 7th
03/01/1982 Promotion Commotion t19th
03/15/1982 Heroes 5th
03/22/1982 Sons and Bowlers 10th
04/05/1982 Picture This 36th
04/12/1982 That Darn Kid 1st
Season Eleven

M*A*S*H spent its shortened eleventh season — it’s last — in its customary Monday 9:00PM timeslot. The February 7th episode, “Friends and Enemies,” faced an installment of “The Winds of War” on ABC and was shut out of the Top Twenty. The series sprang back the following week, ranking 8th, followed by a 5th place ranking for the penultimate episode.

The series finale, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” easily topped the Nielsen chart.

For the 1982-1983 season, M*A*S*H ranked 3rd, up six spots from the previous season.

Airdate Episode Title Rank
10/25/1982 Hey, Look Me Over t2nd
11/01/1982 Trick or Treatment 4th
11/08/1982 Foreign Affairs 6th
11/15/1982 The Joker is Wild 2nd
11/22/1982 Who Knew? t10th
11/28/1982 Bombshells 7th
12/06/1982 Settling Debts 3rd
12/13/1982 The Moon is Not Blue 3rd
12/20/1982 Run For the Money 7th
12/27/1982 U.N., the Night and the Music 15th
01/10/1983 Strange Bedfellows 5th
01/24/1983 Say No More 10th
02/07/1983 Friends and Enemies
02/14/1983 Give and Take 8th
02/21/1983 As Time Goes By 5th
02/28/1983 Goodbye, Farewell and Amen 1st

References:

The Associated Press
Brooks, Tim, and Earle F. Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present. Ballantine Books; 8th edition.
The Chicago Tribune
Televisions: One Season in American Television. St. Martins Press: 1983.
Herz, Peggy. All About M*A*S*H. Scholastic Books: 1972.
The Los Angeles Times
The New York Times
TV Guide

Last updated June 9th, 2016

1 Comment

  • Jon says:

    “The Life You Save” was originally scheduled to be aired 03/30/1981, but CBS news coverage of the assassination attempt on President Reagan preempted the show (and probably all other primetime programming) that night. It was postponed to 05/04/1981 (not 05/05/1981), the only time that an original episode of M*A*S*H aired during May Sweeps.

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