By the time M*A*S*H pulled into its 11th and final season, it was a far different vehicle than the one that rolled out in the fall of 1972.
It was certainly light-years from Robert Altman's 1970 theatrical realization of Richard Hooker's novel. By the fall of'82 the balance between silliness, satire and socio-political statement had shifted decidedly towards the latter. M*A*S*H had essentially become our first "dramedy." Though still a hugely popular show, the idea of a two and a half hour finale was ambitious. But like an aging athlete gearing up for that final championship run, the M*A*S*H creative team answered the call. This final episode remains the single most-watched entertainment program in TV history, and deservedly so -- for the most part. Several risks were taken, and it was more serious than funny. Hawkeye (Alan Alda) suffered a nervous breakdown triggered by a tragic flashback, while Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) bonded with a group of Korean musicians. It doesn't turn out happily. Most of the loose ends, though, are sewn up nicely. This set comes with two discs of special features, mostly documentaries and interviews. A fitting farewell. (P.F. Wilson) Grade: A