You'd be hard-pressed today to find someone who has seen just one episode of "M AS*H" and not fallen instantly in love with the program.
The 11-season military-themed show set during the Korean War featured an authentic dry humor that few programs before it possessed. Premiering on CBS in 1972 (and based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker, "Mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors," as well as the film that followed), "M AS*H" lasted for over 250 episodes.
It was one of the highest rated shows in television history and today continues to air in syndication -- its popularity simply refuses to end.
Here's a look at five facts most people likely never knew about the compelling program that revolved around the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital based in South Korea.
1.) The show originated as a movie sequel. This fact is often forgotten given the success of the television show, but "M AS*H" was originally adapted into a 1970 film directed by the late Robert Altman.
Before the television show was developed, producers were attempting to launch a movie sequel to Altman's work. The sequel would have been based on the second book in Hooker's series called "M AS*H Goes to Maine."
The television series was pondered only after the movie sequel failed to gain steam. If the "Maine" sequel had come to be -- we may never have had a "M AS*H" television show.
2.) The laugh track was hotly debated. Behind the scenes, one of the biggest disagreements on "M ASH" was whether or not the show should contain a laugh track. It seems odd in retrospect that a show set during the Korean War (and airing on television during the Vietnam War) would even contain a laugh track -- but the studio insisted.
The studio and the show's creators, Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, eventually reached a compromise.
The laugh track was kept out of scenes that took place inside the operating room if so desired by the creators.
When season six came along, the program used a more modest and less invasive laugh track. A handful of episodes even ditched the laugh track altogether, including the series finale.
The behind-the-scenes arguments and the progression of the laugh track over the course of the show exemplified how far ahead of its time "M AS*H" really was. Today, the majority of comedies have ditched laugh tracks completely, with that device now often perceived as tacky, dated and too on-the-nose.
3.) The last episode made history. The finale of "M AS*H" aired in 1983 -- and was one of the most notable moments in television history. The episode ran for over two hours and reportedly had over 120 million viewers.
As legend goes, the New York City Sanitation/Public Works Department faced plumbing system shutdowns in some parts of the city due to overuse -- that's because so many people apparently waited to use the bathroom until the end of the final episode of "M AS*H."
Interviews with sanitation workers as featured in revealed that water usage saw a huge spike in the city after the final episode of the show. Rumor has it that over three quarters of city residents flushed their toilets in the moments following the end of the series.
4.) The show starred real-life veterans. Cast members Alan Alda, Jamie Farr, Wayne Rogers, and Mike Farrell all had firsthand knowledge of the military.
Alda spent six months in the Army Reserves, while Farr spent two years in the Army, in Japan and Korea. Rogers spent time in the Navy. Farrell was a Marine.
5.) Alan Alda was a big part of the show's success. The New York City-born actor wasn't just the show's breakout star -- he appeared as surgeon Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, better known as Hawkeye, in more episodes of the show than any other cast member, from its very first days to its last. (Actress Loretta Swit, as Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, followed him closely in terms of show appearances -- and she, too, appeared for all 11 seasons.)
Six-time Emmy Award winner Alda was also an integral part of the program's success behind the scenes. Alda co-wrote nearly 20 episodes of "M AS*H" and directed over 30 episodes, including the legendary series finale. He was also the first actor in Hollywood history to ever win on the same television show; he won Golden Globes as well. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1994.
"Guns and bombs and anti-personnel mines have more power to take life than we have to preserve it."
Here's one of his best quotes as Hawkeye, which also summed up much of the appeal of the program: "Three hours ago, this man was in a battle. Two hours ago, we operated on him. He's got a 50-50 chance. We win some, we lose some. That's what it's all about. No promises. No guaranteed survival. No 'saints in surgical garb.' Our willingness, our experience, our technique are not enough. Guns and bombs and anti-personnel mines have more power to take life than we have to preserve it. Not a very happy ending to a movie. But then again, no war is a movie."
PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at . Follow him on .