5. M*A*S*H 

Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart  

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Aired: CBS, 1972-1983

M*A*S*H remains the only long-running series, comedy or drama, set around a war zone. Based on the iconic film by Robert Altman (who had himself adapted his movie from the Richard Hooker novel), the TV series, developed by writer-director Larry Gelbart and producer Gene Reynolds, found a more TV-friendly tone than Altman’s movie without sacrificing bite, that tricky alchemy of antic comedy and casualties of war. As critic F.X Feeney noted in 2009, Gelbart, at 22, had flown to Korea as a writer for Bob Hope just as the war started, which came to inform the tone of M*A*S*H. “I am convinced,” Gelbart wrote in The New York Times in 1983, before the two-and-a-half-hour finale, “that we achieved a creative freedom unheard of in the medium before or since.” The finale drew 105 million viewers, the largest audience to have ever watched a single episode of television.

A chronicle of the life and career of Larry Gelbart 

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