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Looking back...Primetime Ratings from the 80's

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With the fall season upon us, I thought some of you might be interested to see what the Big 3 offered up to begin the 1987/88 TV season. 

Would welcome any questions/comments and happy to post more if anyone is interested ...


  1. Cosby Show NBC 31.5/51

  2. A Different World NBC 31.3/49

  3. Cheers NBC 28.4/44

  4. Night Court NBC 24.9/40

  5. Dolly Show ABC 24.7/38

  6. Who's the Boss? ABC 23.4/39

  7. Growing Pains ABC 23.3/36

  8. Golden Girls NBC 22.3/40

  9. Full House Special ABC 21.7/34

  10. Hooperman NBC 21.5/35

  11. Family Ties NBC 21.0/34

  12. Murder, She Wrote CBS 20.4/32

  13. I Married Dora Special ABC 20.3/33

  14. 60 Minutes CBS 20.0/37

  15. Newhart CBS 19.1/30

  16. Monday Night Football ABC 18.7/34

  17. Moonlighting ABC 18.3/32

  18. Slap Maxwell ABC 18.2/31

  19. My Two Dads NBC 18.1/28

  20. Unsolved Mysteries Special NBC 17.9/32

  21. Alf NBC 17.9/29

  22. Designing Women CBS 17.8/28

  23. Head of the Class ABC 17,4/29

  24. 227 NBC 17.3/32

  25. Matlock NBC 17.0/27

  26. Dallas CBS 16.9/31

  27. Buck James ABC 16.6/30

  28. Special Movie Presentation CBS 16.6/31

  29. Dynasty ABC 16.5/28

  30. NBC Sunday Night Movie NBC 16.5/27

  31. Cagney & Lacey CBS 16.4/28

  32. Valerie's Family

  33. Miami Vice NBC 16.2/29

  34. J.J. Starbuck Special NBC 15.8/30

  35. Kate & Allie CBS 15.6/24

  36. Highway to Heaven NBC 15.6/27

  37. Perfect Strangers ABC 15.2/27

  38. Knots Landing CBS 15.2/27

  39. Facts of Life NBC 14.8/29

  40. 20/20 ABC 14.7/28

  41. Equalizer CBS 14.4/24

  42. Frank's Place Special CBS 13.9/23

  43. A Year in the Life NBC 13.8/23

  44. Beauty & the Beast Special CBS 13.5/26

  45. St Elsewhere NBC 13.4/23

  46. NBC Monday Movie 13.4/22

  47. CBS Movie Special 13.1/22

  48. CBS Sunday Movie 12.6/21

  49. Jake and the Fatman Special CBS 12.5/24

  50. Crime Story NBC 12.3/21

  51. ABC Thursday Night Movie ABC 12.2/20

  52. Wiseguy CBS 12.1/19

  53. MacGyver ABC 11.9/20

  54. Private Eye NBC 11.5/22

  55. Rags to Riches NBC 11.2/21

  56. Tour of Duty CBS 10.6/17

  57. Disney Sunday Movie ABC 10.4/19

  58. Oldest Rookie CBS 10.4/18

  59. Our House NBC 10.2/19

  60. Spenser: For Hire ABC 10.1/16

  61. I Married Dora ABC 10.1/18

  62. Houston Knights CBS 9.6/16

  63. Full House ABC 9.3/18

  64. Sledge Hammer ABC 7.9/13

  65. ABC Sat. Night Movie Special ABC 7.3/14

  66. Max Headroom ABC 6.9/13

  67. Charmings ABC 6.7/11

  68. Once a Hero ABC 3.7/7

Edited by Paul Raven
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14 hours ago, I Am A Swede said:

Have I gone blind? I can't seem to find Falcon Crest anywhere? Surely it couldn't have fallen so low in the ratings that it didn't make the top 68?

That list is all the shows that aired that week.

Falcon Crest was not shown as CBS aired a 2 hr Beauty and the Beast 8-10 pm with Dallas at 10.

The following week Dallas moved back to 9 and Falcon Crest had its season premiere at 10


Other shows not appearing in premiere week


Magnum PI ,The Equalizer. Law and Harry McGraw, Leg Work, West 57th, Everything's Relative and My Sister Sam


Head of the Class, Thirtysomething,O'Hara and Hotel


Amen, Hunter and LA Law.


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While I am so proud to see The Cosby Show & Different World be the top 2 shows at this time, it'd still take 30+ years for networks to still catch on that Black people can lead shows and have a strong following. Hell, networks still aren't fully convinced IMO. 

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23 minutes ago, NothinButAttitude said:

While I am so proud to see The Cosby Show & Different World be the top 2 shows at this time, it'd still take 30+ years for networks to still catch on that Black people can lead shows and have a strong following. Hell, networks still aren't fully convinced IMO. 

And 227 and Amen were winning their time slots on NBC Saturday.

Frank's Place on CBS starred Tim and Daphne Reid and was given the prime Monday lead in slot.

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To give a clearer picture of how the ratings related to the schedule.

Sunday 6:00 6:30 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC movie Spenser: For Hire Dolly Buck James
CBS 60 Minutes Murder, She Wrote movie
Fox 21 Jump Street Werewolf Married with Children The Tracey Ullman Show Duet local programming
NBC Our House Family Ties My Two Dads movie
PBS local programming Masterpiece Theatre
Monday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC MacGyver football
CBS Frank's Place Kate & Allie Newhart Designing Women Cagney & Lacey
NBC ALF The Hogan Family movie
Tuesday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Who's the Boss? Growing Pains Moonlighting Thirtysomething
CBS Houston Knights Jake and the Fatman The Law & Harry McGraw
NBC Matlock J.J. Starbuck Crime Story
Wednesday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Perfect Strangers Head of the Class Hooperman The Slap Maxwell Story Dynasty
CBS The Oldest Rookie Magnum, P.I. The Equalizer
NBC Highway to Heaven A Year in the Life St. Elsewhere
Thursday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Sledge Hammer! The Charmings movie
CBS Tour of Duty Wiseguy Knots Landing
NBC The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Night Court L.A. Law
Friday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Full House I Married Dora Max Headroom 20/20
CBS Beauty and the Beast Dallas Falcon Crest
NBC Rags to Riches Miami Vice Private Eye
Saturday 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC Once a Hero Ohara Hotel
CBS My Sister Sam Everything's Relative Leg Work West 57th
Fox Mr. President Women in Prison The New Adventures of Beans Baxter Second Chance local programming
NBC The Facts of Life 227 The Golden Girls Amen Hunter


Edited by Paul Raven
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Wow, Dolly Parton’s variety show started out strong! I remember watching a couple episodes in the late 80’s my mom taped on VHS. 


Even though I was only 4, I distinctively remember that FOX Sunday night lineup. Duet was retooled and renamed Open House. 

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I think CBS was the last to continue to offer fresh programming on Saturdays.

I guess the others gave up when season after season they couldn't come up with a winner. And viewing patterns changed.


Looking at the ratings above, My Sister Sam got a raw deal.Originally scheduled for Mon 8.30-9.00 between Kate and Allie and Murphy Brown it was switched with Frank's Place to Sat where it was off the air in a matter of weeks.

Had it stayed on Mon it probably would have lasted the season at least.

Leg Work and Everything's Relative were also quickly dropped.

Margaret Colin was the star of Leg Work.  Her co-stars - Frances McDormand and Patrick James Clarke (ex RH, SFT )It was CBS' second attempt to give her a series.

Jason Alexander and John Bolger were in Everything's Relative.

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On 03/10/2018 at 5:41 AM, DaytimeFan said:

It's amazing to see Friday and Saturday nights being prime television viewing nights rather than the time slot graveyards they've been for two decades.

Right? CBS's Friday line-up and NBC's Saturday schedule were literally appointment TV. I remember my parents ordering pizza instead of cooking on Saturdays so they could relax and enjoy the Golden Girls at al.


In the early 90s, NBC put Sisters on Saturday nights at 10pm, and that was a surprise breakout show for the network in that timeslot.


Thank you @Paul Raven for starting this topic. It really takes me back to some happy memories in my childhood. I never realised this but another show I adored, Murder, She Wrote, was the #1 show on CBS at the time. Starring a 60-something female, no less! 

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NBC scheduled Saturday nights up till 2000.  The late 90s on NBC on Saturday had a fairly strong schedule with The Pretender/Profiler getting decent buzz.. while the network could never find a strong third show to start the night off no matter how hard they tried.    After 2000, NBC went to repeats.. with CBS following suit by the mid 2000s.


Friday nights in the late 80s till the mid to late 90s had TGIF on ABC... it was done as CBS started losing their grip on the night.

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Wk 2 of the season with all of the shows now on air


  1. Cosby Show NBC 29.8/49

  2. A Different World NBC 28.2/45

  3. Growing Pains ABC 26.5/41

  4. Cheers NBC 26.1/41

  5. Moonlighting ABC 25.9/40

  6. Golden Girls NBC 24.4/44

  7. Who's the Boss? ABC 24.0/39

  8. Tonight Show 25th Anniversary NBC 23.8/39

  9. Murder, She Wrote CBS 22.8/34

  10. Family Ties NBC 20.9/32

  11. 60 Minutes CBS 20.7/34

  12. ALF NBC 20.3/32

  13. NBC Monday Night Movies NBC 20.2/32

  14. Amen NBC 18.7/34

  15. Valerie's Family

  16. My Two Dads NBC NBC 18.6/28

  17. NBC Sunday Night Movie NBC 18.1/29

  18. 227 NBC 17.6/32

  19. Hooperman ABC 17.5/28

  20. CBS Sunday Movie CBS 17.5/29

  21. Dolly ABC 17.3/26

  22. Head of the Class ABC 17.1/28

  23. Dallas CBS 17.0/30

  24. Hunter NBC 17.0/34

  25. Thirtysomething ABC 16.7/30

  26. Perfect Strangers ABC 16.3/28

  27. Matlock NBC 15.25

  28. Miami Vice NBC 15.9/28

  29. Designing Women CBS 15.8/24

  30. Facts of Life NBC 15.4/29

  31. Dynasty ABC 15.2/26

  32. Newhart CBS 15.2/23

  33. Falcon Crest CBS 15.1/28

  34. Slap Maxwell Story ABC 14

  35. Magnum, Pl. CBS 14.9/24

  36. J.J. Starbuck NBC 14.9/23

  37. Knots Landing CBS 14.8/25

  38. Crime Story NBC 14.2/26

  39. St. Elsewhere NBC 14.1/24

  40. Beauty and the Beast CBS 14.0/26

  41. Equalizer CBS 14.0/24

  42. Monday Night Movie NBC 13.7/22 33.

  43. Cagney & Lacey CBS 13.6/23

  44. Highway to Heaven NBC 13.5/23

  45. Kate & Allie CBS 13.0/20

  46. Our House NBC 12.4/21

  47. MacGyver ABC 12.2/19

  48. Frank's Place CBS 12.2/20

  49. A Year in the Life NBC 12.0/19

  50. Private Eye NBC 11.9/22

  51. Buck James ABC 11.6/19

  52. Wiseguy CBS 11.5/18

  53. Oldest Rookie CBS 10.8/18

  54. 20/20 ABC 10.7/20

  55. Spenser: For Hire ABC ABC 10.7/20

  56. Tour of Duty CBS 10.3/17

  57. Disney Sunday Movie ABC 10.2/18

  58. Hotel ABC 9.6/19

  59. Jake and the Fatman CBS 9.6/15

  60. Rags to Riches NBC 9,6/18

  61. Full House ABC 9.5/18

  62. I Married Dora ABC 9.4/17

  63. ABC Thursday Night Movie ABC 9.4/15

  64. Law and Harry McGraw CBS 9.4/17

  65. O'Hara ABC 8.5/15

  66. Charmings ABC 8.4/14

  67. Sledge Hammer! ABC 7.9/13

  68. My Sister Sam CBS 7.3/14

  69. Everything's Relative CBS 7.2/13

  70. West 57th CBS 6.9/14

  71. Max Headroom ABC 6.4/11

  72. Leg Work CBS 6.0/11

  73. Once a Hero ABC 4.6/9


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It was originally Valerie, then when she departed it became Valerie's Family and then the Hogan Family.

Does anyone have the details on why Ms Harper left her show?

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