And that means it defeated the previous record holder, the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H. Which means that finally I have discovered this year's Korea tie-in to NFL championship.
[above: Upon hearing news of the record-breaking audience, Jacob Lacey gives Jeremy Shockey a congratulatory hug.]
To me, the final episode of M*A*S*H holds a special place, and in terms of audience share it still kicks butt: M*A*S*H garnered 106 million viewers out of a 1983 population of 233.8 million, versus the 106.5 million Superbowl spectators out of the US's population of 308.6 million today. That point was not lost on the NYT:
Alan Alda, the star of “M*A*S*H” and the director of its two-and-a-half-hour finale, wrote in an e-mail message: “I’m happy for New Orleans. I want to see that city come out first in every way that it can, even if it means giving up a record that ‘M*A*S*H’ held for a long time.” But, he said, “don’t give me the Magnanimity Medal yet.” He wonders about Nielsen Media’s ability to account for the effect of large groups gathered around TV sets to watch major events.True, that. Which is one reason I enjoy sitting around and watching events like the Superbowl, the inauguration, the opening of the Olympics (except for the one in Beijing, which I boycotted), etc.: I like being connected with the rest of the country, especially in such fractured and fractious times.
For a program to attract more than 100 million viewers today is nearly miraculous. There are 114.9 million TV households now, nearly 32 million more than when the final “M*A*S*H” attracted 106 million viewers. But the media universe is fractionalized now, with many more TV channels and other ways to amuse ourselves.
But here's hoping the 4077th stays at #2 for a long while. To your record of more than a quarter century, good-bye, farewell, and amen.