Watching M*A*S*H in the 1970s
Network television in the 1970s was very different than it is today and watching television was a very different experience. There were fewer commercials, for one thing. Episodes of M*A*S*H during its original prime time run on CBS typically ran 25-26 minutes compared to 20-21 minutes for sitcoms today. There were also no network logos or “bugs” in the lower left hand or right hand corner.
There were certainly no annoying animated graphics taking up the lower third of the screen promoting the next show. Program sponsorship was far more common, although the days of a single sponsor fully funding a television series were long over by the time M*A*S*H premiered.
For people who only started watching M*A*S*H in syndication, it is all but impossible to really know what it was like to watch the series when it was first broadcast. The following videos, taken from a pair of episodes taped off-air in 1978, offer a glimpse at what it was like to watch M*A*S*H in prime time on CBS during the 1970s.
Here’s a 15-second sponsor spot for Prudential Insurance (“M*A*S*H, sponsored by Prudential…”) seen immediately after the opening credits. Commercials for Prudential were also seen during the episodes.
“Don’t Go Away” Bumper
Here’s a brief “bumper” aired prior to the final commercial break (“Don’t go away, we’ll be right back”) with a voiceover that sounds like Harry Morgan.
The CBS Eye
A CBS network identification (“This is CBS”) featuring the iconic CBS Eye. Prior to the introduction of network logos or “bugs” at the bottom of the screen, these identifications were aired during commercial breaks to remind viewers which network they were watching.
Take a look at the original closing credits for “Commander Pierce,” the Season 7 premiere broadcast by CBS on Monday, September 18th, 1978 from 9-9:30PM. It features a CBS network voiceover for the season premieres of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk (on Friday, September 22nd, 1978) plus the season premiere of One Day at a Time immediately following M*A*S*H at 9:30PM.
20th Century Fox Logo
In the 1970s, the animated 20th Century Fox (the company that produced M*A*S*H) logo seen at the end of every episode of looked somewhat different than the one currently attached to episodes currently airing on TV and released on DVD.
Like the other networks, CBS did a great deal of promotion for its programming, including M*A*S*H. Episodes of the series were advertised using promotional spots intended to convince and entice viewers to tune in next week. Here are a pair of rare promotional spots from September 1975 for the first two episodes of Season 4. Sadly, they are audio only.
Listen to a CBS Promotional Spot for “Welcome to Korea”
Listen to a CBS Promotional Spot for “Change of Command”
Thanks to AaronHandyIII and the Yahoo! CBSPromos2 Group for providing the audio files.
Originally published April 9th, 2004
Last updated October 26th, 2016