You'll have to pardon my appearance today, TV Column fans, but I'm beat after all the "M*A*S*H" Day festivities.
What? You mean you didn't celebrate Feb. 28th, the sixth anniversary of the "M*A*S*H" series finale? You didn't pay homage to the most-watched program in television history? You didn't chant a mantra - "60.3 rating, 77 share" - at the Sacred Shrine of Holy Numbers?Maybe it's time to cash in your official Couch Potato chips.
The true sofa spud always observes "M*A*S*H" Day with appropriate activities: wheelchair races, look-alike contests (my 9-year-old son recently retired the family trophy in this event with his year-round impression of the Swamp in his bedroom), Spam sandwich lunches, creamed chipped beef on toast dinners and, of course, 4077 seconds of silence beginning at 8 p.m. ("M*A*S*H's" starting time for most of its 11 prime time seasons).
Naturally, these activities are scheduled around KSL's twice daily showings of "M*A*S*H" reruns - which, now that you mention it, have recently been extended for 12 more complete runs on Ch. 5. That's right, "M*A*S*H"-aholics, KSL will be trotting the doctors and nurses of the 4077th out to those heavily loaded choppers through 1996 - and maybe on into the 21st Century.
"We still have great faith in `M*A*S*H'," said KSL programmer David R. Manookin, who seemed remarkably clear-headed considering he was speaking the day after "M*A*S*H" Day. "It's become an institution in many Utah homes."
Indeed it has. For most of the past decade, KSL's "M*A*S*H" reruns have dominated Utah television like the seagulls dominated the crickets. Something about the show's style and humor grabs Utah viewers like it grabs viewers nowhere else. "M*A*S*H" has played twice daily here, earning the kind of ratings numbers usually reserved for Super Bowls and BYU football games.
True, the ratings have declined recently. The early showing even fell to number two in the time period after KSL moved it from 5 to 4:30 p.m. But the 10:35 showing continues to control the time period even though its share of the viewing audience has slipped from the plus-50 range to the low-to-mid-30s.
So you have to figure that KSL will stick with Hawkeye, Trapper, B.J. and the rest of "M*A*S*H's" Yankee Doodle Doctors.
"As long as people support the show," Manookin said, "it'll be there."
And as long as it's there, there'll be "M*A*S*H" Day. And I'll be looking like this on the day after.