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NBC Wins Week With Comedies

March 11, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ With five comedies in the Top 10, including the No. 1 ″Cosby Show″ and newcomer ″Valerie,″ NBC posted its largest winning margin in the prime time ratings since Super Bowl week, figures from the A.C. Nielsen Co. showed Tuesday.

The strong performance came five days after NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff declared that NBC would win outright its first prime-time season since Nielsen began compiling national ratings three decades ago.

David Poltrack, CBS’ vice president for research, conceded that NBC would win.

For the week of March 3-9, NBC had a 17.6 rating to CBS’ 15.2 and ABC’s 14.1. The week NBC broadcast the Super Bowl in January, it won by 5.2 points. With six weeks left in the 30-week season, NBC has averaged a 17.8 rating to CBS’ 16.9 and ABC’s 15.0.

Each national rating equals 859,000 homes with television.

The record-breaking ″Cosby Show,″ which is bound to be NBC’s first top- rated series since ″Laugh-In″ in 1969, had a 36.4 rating. Its companion comedy, ″Family Ties,″ was second with a 33.0. NBC’s ″Cheers″ was fourth, ″Golden Girls″ sixth and ″Valerie,″ the new sitcom starring Valerie Harper, tied for 10th.

ABC’s Tuesday comedies also cracked the Top 10. ″Who’s the Boss?″ was eighth and ″Growing Pains″ ninth.

The rest of the Top 10 included CBS’ ″Murder, She Wrote″ in third, CBS’ ″60 Minutes″ in fifth, ABC’s ″Dynasty″ in seventh and NBC’s ″Miami Vice″ in 10th.

In contrast to the success of ″Valerie″ and another NBC comedy newcomer, Jack Klugman’s ″You Again?″, which ranked 18th, CBS introduced two sitcoms that ranked closer to the bottom of the ratings. ″Fast Times″ was 49th and ″Tough Cookies″ ranked 55th out of 69 shows.

″You Again?″ and ″Valerie″ were on 8-9 p.m. EST on Monday. ″Fast Times″ and ″Tough Cookies″ were on 8-9 on Wednesday. Young audiences dominate the 8 o’clock time periods, but CBS attracts less young viewers than NBC and ABC. CBS hasn’t developed a successful 8 o’clock comedy since ″Good Times″ in 1976.

Research executives were asked how the new CBS and NBC comedies would have fared had they switched networks and time slots with each other. NBC’s Gerald Jaffe speculated that NBC would still have the successful comedies and CBS would have the failing ones. CBS’ Michael Eisenberg said ″Fast Times″ and ″Tough Cookies″ might have done better on NBC.

″I think CBS is going to have a hard time launching kid-oriented comedies on their schedule,″ said Jaffe, NBC’s vice president for research projects. ″Right now CBS is the network of last choice for young people.″

CBS has an added problem: how to find young viewers with its on-air promotions. No CBS show can be used effectively to publicize youthful shows, the way NBC can utilize ″The Cosby Show.″

Promos for ″Fast Times″ and ″Tough Cookies″ would be wasted in CBS’ most popular shows, ″60 Minutes″ and ″Murder, She Wrote″ - programs enormously popular with viewers over 50.

″It’s like a Catch-22,″ said Eisenberg, CBS’ research director.

Last Wednesday, CBS’ comedies competed against NBC’s established hit, ″Highway to Heaven,″ and they finished third in the time slot. On Mondays, neither CBS’ ″Scarecrow & Mrs. King″ nor ABC’s ″Hardcastle & McCormick″ have been dominating 8 o’clock, and NBC’s comedies, in their first Monday outing, won the time period.

″If you’re No. 1, you don’t compete with yourself, and that’s another advantage,″ said Eisenberg.

After six days last week, CBS and ABC were second, each with a 13.7 rating to NBC’s 18.3. CBS then had another strong Sunday, winning the movie competition again. CBS’ ″Blind Justice″ ranked 20th, the first part of NBC’s miniseries, ″Dress Gray,″ was 24th and a repeat of ABC’s James Bond movie, ″Live and Let Die,″ finished 25th.

NBC was third for the night, losing poorly in the first two hours of prime time with its kids comedies, ″Punky Brewster″ and ″Silver Spoons,″ and its anthology duo of ″Amazing Stories″ and ″Alfred Hitchcock Presents.″

Steven Spielberg’s ″Amazing Stories″ has been overtaken by the previous biggest name in family storytelling: Disney. ABC’s new ″Disney Sunday Movie″ has become No. 2, behind CBS’ combination of ″60 Minutes″ and ″Murder, She Wrote.″

″We’re getting squeezed badly in the time period,″ said Jaffe.

Last week’s bottom five shows, in descending order, were: ABC’s ″Fortune Dane,″ ABC’s ″Benson,″ ABC’s ″Ripley’s Believe It or Not,″ ABC’s ″The Fall Guy″ and CBS’ ″Trapper John, M.D.″

In evening news, the ″CBS Evening News″ was first with a 12.9 rating. The ″NBC Nightly News″ averaged a 12.4. ABC’s ″World News Tonight″ had an 11.3.

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