M*A*S*H, one of the most beloved and prolific sitcoms in American history, premiered on CBS. Set amidst the Korean War—but with its thematic heart enmeshed in the then-ongoing conflict in Vietnam—the series frequently blended drama, pathos, and political allegory into its comedic mix. The struggles and triumphs of Hawkeye, Trapper John, Hot Lips, Klinger, Burns, Radar, Father Mulcahy, and the rest of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospitcal continued for 11 seasons capped by a series finale that remains the most-watched scripted program ever.
M*A*S*H was adapted by Larry Gelbart from the 1970 Robert Altman film MASH, which was adapted from the 1968 Richard Hooker novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. In turn, the TV show inspired another brand extension: the blockbuster line of M*A*S*H action figures with authentic posable limbs and pull-string plaintive monologuing. -A.D.
Also on September 17:
1965: Even Sgt. Schultz knows that Hogan’s Heroes premiered on CBS on this date, where it ran for six seasons. Bob Crane starred as the titular Col. Hogan, whose band of misfit Allies kept things as lively as you probably could in a WWII-era German POW camp run by the hapless Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer).
1966: Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) chooses to accept the mission, and Mission: Impossible initiates a seven-season run on CBS. The Cold War-era spy thriller was briefly revived by ABC in 1988, and in 1996 it inspired a Tom Cruise-starring film which has become a franchise of its own.
1967: Appearing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Who end their performance of “My Generation” with a bang. Specifically, the detonation of explosive charges that Keith Moon characteristically stuffed into his drum kit—a larger dose than usual, this time, firing shrapnel at the band and disrupting the telecast.
1991: America falls in love with the manly grunt of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Home Improvement, debuting on ABC on this date, ran for eight seasons and made a star of former stand-up comic Tim Allen.
2006: The WB shutters operations after 11 years. The following day, the one-time aspirant to be America’s fifth network merged with rival UPN (which had folded two days earlier) and began broadcasting as The CW.
2010: Bowing to the pressures on daytime soaps in recent years, As The World Turns airs its final installment after 54 years and over 13,000 epsiodes on CBS.
Today’s Birthdays: Kyle Chandler, coach (47); Kevin Clash, Elmo alter ego (52); Pat Crowley, character actress (79); Roddy McDowall, fantasy islander (d. 1998); Lupe Ontiveros, matriarch (d. 2012); John Ritter, company keeper (d. 2003); Matthew Settle, gossiper (43); James Urbaniak, Venture father (49); Malik Yoba, alpha (45).