Saturday, May 23, 2020

Weekend Post

This is very cool.  Top TV ratings from 1951-2019.  It's like a horse race.  Watch to see if your favorite show comes up in the backstretch.  Also, make note of network dominance.  CBS kicked ass for years, NBC had its day, ABC under Fred Silverman, rose briefly to the top, and Fox hit the big time with AMERICAN IDOL.  AMC even sneaks in there. 

Also, you'll notice how there are times when comedy rules and others when it's almost nowhere to be found.  Early on Westerns ruled.  Then disappeared.  And some shows you wouldn't think cracked the Top 10 like BECKER proved to be more popular than folks assumed.    The reboot of ROSEANNE goes straight to the top and then disappears in a blink.   All interesting stuff. 

And it's kind of mesmerizing.  Light up a joint and enjoy. 

37 comments :

Lemuel said...

It was fascinating, despite the hellish music.

gottacook said...

Although this is entertaining, I can't trust the data here. Halfway during the 10 seconds allotted to 1965, Batman is introduced and quickly begins climbing - but it didn't premiere until early 1966. (Whereupon it grew so popular that it spawned a theatrical feature that very summer, which I attended, age 9.) Perhaps "1965" is intended to represent 1965-66, but it could have easily been labeled as such.

slgc said...

That is positively hypnotic!

Jim said...

Mesmerizing is the word. What a great creation. I love it.

Finally seeing Gunsmoke for the first time in 60 years as a forced shut-in, I get its early ratings dominance. Have now seen several hundred as it’s on everywhere always, it seems. Don’t know why I stopped avoiding it, but I’m glad.

The family is really roasting me over it, but I’m having fun watching those early-years B&W Gunsmoke shows. They are educational. I had no idea that most Old West pioneers were gorgeous.

I also get why Gunsmoke’s ratings plummeted by 1962, long before eventually jumping the prairie shark during the color years. Those productions appear the product of some truly lazy efforts.

This fantastic graphic also reminds me of how much better TV is today.

VP81955 said...

If you enjoy the "Gunsmoke" TV series, listen to its radio predecessor, created by the same people who did the video version. (Nearly all of the several hundred episodes can be found online.) William Conrad -- the original Marshal Dillon -- rules!

Michael Hagerty said...

Gottacook: The seasons begin in fall, so "1965" is the 1965-66 season. Batman was big enough for that number.

tavm said...

Having binged-watched "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In", I'm fascinating in its journey from going to No. 1 to falling just a few years later. It's fall began after the third season when the show not only lost Goldie Hawn after her first starring movie Cactus Flower not only did wall but got her an Oscar, but also Jo Anne Worley and Henry Gibson was mostly gone during much of the fourth season not to mention Judy Carne who departed mid-third season to be replaced by Lily Tomlin. Then Arte Johnson left and the ratings fell even further. Then producer George Schlatter left before the sixth season which was very noticeable considering much of the edgy political humor was mostly non-existent at that point since NBC put the kibosh on any more anti-Nixon jokes which was supported by the president's friends of Dan and Dick and head writer/producer Paul Keyes. That last season at least had Patti Deutch and Willie Tyler and Lester who had some success post-show...

Jeff Boice said...

I did notice they listed Red Skelton as being on NBC throughout- he started and finished on NBC but he was on CBS from 1953-1970. I did send them a comment because it sort of ruins that 1963-1964 season where CBS had 14 of the top 15 shows (and Bill Paley was supposedly pissed because they couldn't make it a clean sweep from 1 to 15).

benson said...

Thanks for sharing this...yes, mesmerizing.

For all those jokes, AfterMASH was in the race for a while.

Several things jumped out at me. Syndication. How many long running sitcoms that you never see anymore, that were on this chart for significant chunks of time.

Also, as a fan of Andy Griffith, the show ended its run at number 1, and yet, hard core fans consider the final three seasons (the color episodes) as the step-children. And, going against contemporary thinking, the black and white episodes are the most popular in reruns.

Also the past 15 years, how much cheap programming rules the top of ratings, i.e., reality shows.

I wish the creators of this chart had left the total viewers line on top constant, to better indicate the general shrinking of mass viewership.

Glenn said...

I feel like sitcoms today have too much sit, not enough com. Nothing wrong with getting serious once in a while, but that should be far outweighed by laughs.

71dude said...

Random thoughts:
"The Jeffersons" had a strong start, eroded for several years and was nearly cancelled until it was placed behind "Alice" on Sunday nights and shot back to the Top 10 in its 6th season.

There were a lot of brief hits such as "Angie", "The Ropers", "Flo" and "Boston Common" that fell off the face of the earth quickly - and usually deservedly.

I've never seen more than two episodes of "Big Bang Theory" but I really like "Young Sheldon". It's got a great cast and some great heart.



blinky said...

You're welcome!

Troy McClure said...

There was a show called 227. What an awful title. I looked it up. It ran for 5 seasons! Go figure.

gottacook said...

Michael Hagerty: There's definitely some inconsistency here. For example, Frasier and NYPD Blue were both ratings hits upon their premieres in fall 1993, yet Frasier first appears here in mid-1993 whereas NYPD Blue doesn't appear until several seconds into 1994.

sanford said...

I am not sure what to draw from this other than what Ken mentioned about what the country was watching at different times and which networks did better at different times. I assume the numbers were average amount of viewers each week. I also noticed except for a few years the least amount of viewers on the list was over 10 million. This went by so fast though so it was hard to tell if network tv for the most part was drawing the most viewers.

Yachnoff said...

I was surprised not only be how of many of these shows I'd never seen, but how many of them I've never even heard of. Dakarti?

Yachnoff said...

Patti Deutsch was amazing.

Craig Gustafson said...

Growing up, I was a walking TV Guide (which is easier when you have only seven channels to deal with.) I could tell you what was on every channel, at every time of day. So this is fascinating for me, seeing which shows were popular, for how long. "Batman" surprised me. It took a ratings dive pretty quickly. Also, this begins in 1951, when there were fewer than seven million viewers. The viewing peak was in 2006, over 31,000,000 for "American Idol" (yechh.) By 2019, viewing has shrunk to 18,000,000 (for "The Big Bang Theory" - which I've never watched.)

I've gone from being a walking TV Guide at seven, to a cranky old guy who has never seen a single episode of ANY of the top rated shows. Since 2004. Yes, "60 Minutes" and "Modern Family" pop up in there, but I rarely watch "60 Minutes," and I've only seen "Modern Family" while sitting with my wife in hospital emergency rooms - so I've seen a LOT of that, but I don't seek it out. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...


That is really an informative glimpse into our personal history. Cool to see the real game changers like Lucy,Ed Sullivan, Beverly Hillbillies(!), All in the Family, Survivor, and American Idol affect the entire landscape

Fascinating to see the dominance of CBS until the mid 80s, and then completely out until a resurgence to dominate again in the 2010s.

I was surprised by Fox--almost completely out other than American Idol.

Also interesting that the highest numbers are not that different from the 50's

Tim W. said...

That was a weird way to walk down memory lane and far more fascinating than I would have expected. The most interesting fact for me was that from even before I was born, there were always several shows that I watched (obviously some in reruns, like The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, etc)) until we hit 2006. Then suddenly none of the shows that were on the list I watched. I’m not sure if that’s when my tastes deviated from the mainstream, but it also happens to be when cable television began its golden years. To me, that’s when network television really began its decline, as well.

Troy McClure said...

I agree with Lemuel. Best to watch with the sound on mute.

RobW said...

Please allow me to correct gottacook on the Batman theatrical feature, which was planned initially to introduce the characters with a theatrical run before the tv show premiered. Because of the cost of the sets, along with the Batcopter and the Batmobile, it was determined that a theatrical feature would be a good way to help split the costs of these props which would later be repurposed in the series. The series was supposed to premiere in the fall of 1966 after the theatrical feature that summer, but ABC was having a terrible season and asked Fox to move it up as a mid-season replacement. The series then ended up premiering in January 1966 before the theatrical feature's already-scheduled theatrical run in summer 1966. It would have been awfully hard to get a theatrical feature into theatres from a suddenly-hot tv show for summer 1966 if it hadn't already been in the production stages.

Charles Bryan said...

Interesting that there's basically a "floor" number to be included. And it's interesting to me that the biggest consistent number one shows were Dallas, Cosby, and American Idol.

bee- said...

Thanks for posting this!

Interesting how even today broadcast TV shows still dominate ratings, that despite the impression one often gets that it is at death's door.

Also I did not look at this video frame by frame so maybe I missed something but a bit surprised I did not see The Smothers Brothers at all nor The Twilight Zone.

gottacook said...

RobW: Really?! I've never heard that in all these years, although I do know something about Howie Horwitz's career earlier in the 1960s. I stand corrected.

Gareth said...

So a show about enormous fans of science fiction was far, far more successful than any show that actually was science fiction.

gottacook said...

Hey, RobW: Not wishing to be contrary for its own sake, but if The Batcave Companion (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2009; found on Google Books) is reliable, I'm going to have to conditionally retract my "I stand corrected."

On pp. 65-66, it states that the Batman series pilot began shooting October 20, 1965, for 21 days, directed by frequent director of pilots Robert Butler (Star Trek, Hill Street Blues, etc.), and then the series was rushed into production in time to premiere in January 1966, advanced from the originally scheduled fall 1966. A movie had been contemplated to precede the series but was not actually produced first; the movie idea was revived when the series was a success, and it was filmed between April 25 and May 31, 1966, premiering July 30 (p. 67).

Maybe these dates were simply made up by the authors, I admit. On the other hand, the impediments to getting a summertime movie quickly into theaters in 1966 were surely not what they became later - for example, in the post-Jaws era.

Anonymous said...

@ bee
the reason you didn't see the Smothers Brothers was because it was counteprrogramming against Bonanza.
Bonanza was no longer the 800 pound gorilla it was five years before but it was still popular enough to keep the Brothers out of the top 10 (CBS was looking at the younger demo).
Twilight Zone was always a moderately popular show, but never a big hit.

Baylink said...

Am I wrong, or did that not show MASH ever taking the number 1 slot, even for a short time?

Given that the numbers for the Finale -- numbers which take the all-time record for scripted television, and are unlikely *ever* to be eclipsed (if GOT, Sopranos and Breaking Bad didn't do it, nothing ever will -- don't seem to have invaded their data...

Dave Wrighteous said...

I guess this also takes into account reruns after seasons new episodes ended. It threw me for a second to see Seinfeld plummet so fast and then disappear.

Dave Wrighteous said...

Oh, and for Jim, the Gunsmoke fan, I'll second VP's recommendation that you check out the Gunsmoke radio show. Unlike most popular radio shows like The Lone Ranger where everyone had a gun, but people rarely died, Gunsmoke was the total opposite! Matt Dillon had NO problem filling up Boot Hill with corpses and wasn't opposed to just beating anyone up that crossed him. William Conrad had one of, if not the best voices in radio. When his Dillon barks out an order, it gets attention and you better listen or else, well, gunsmoke was coming.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

Most of the Gunsmoke episodes from the first season after it went to a one-hour format seemed padded and subpar, compared to the taut, well-scripted half hour episodes, IMHO. This was fairly typical of series around that time which went from 30 minutes to a full hour (well, 51-54 minutes, actually).

As to the long-running series seldom seen in syndication anymore, it could be that the holder of the syndication rights hasn't been very effective in marketing them, or that the series haven't aged very well. Or both.

Like Craig Gustafson, I have gone from being virtually a walking TV Guide when I was growing up to someone who hasn't watched a single episode of today's Top 10. I haven't even heard of some of them. (Ok, many of them.)

I absolutely LOATHE the "reality" series that have come to dominate the networks today.

Viscount Manzeppi said...

Hi Ken,

Good to finally talk with you! I've been reading your blog faithfully (well, except for the sports days) since I discovered it in 2009. If you need to contact me, the email shown is no longer valid. It is now shannon.edwards@inbox.com.

Also, how do I add an avatar?

Best,
Shannon Edwards
a/k/a "Viscount Manzeppi"

blogward said...

LOL @Yachnoff - I had a toy Daktari Land Rover, complete with zebra paint job - IIRC it came with plastic lion, chimp etc.

Jeffrey Graebner said...

One thing that I thought was interesting is that The Simpsons never cracked the list, unless I overlooked it. Kind of incredible that the longest running scripted primetime series in TV history doesn't show up.

Unknown said...

It would be interesting to see how many 'stars' show up in the list more than once. Quick glance (with sound off) I noticed Bob Newhart, Tom Selleck, Gerald McRaney.

greg6363 said...

Raymond Burr, Lee Majors.