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Ratings for “Golden Girls” Sparkle in Debut

September 17, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Hoping to be this year’s ″Cosby Show,″ ″The Golden Girls,″ NBC’s geriatric comedy, got a head start on the 1985-86 season and raced to the top of last week’s A.C. Nielsen rankings, finishing with the highest ratings for any premiere program in two years.

″Golden Girls,″ lavishly praised by TV critics and advertising agencies, had a 25 rating and 43 share, according to Nielsen figures released Tuesday. (A rating measures the percentage of the nation’s 85.9 million TV homes tuned in. A share measure the percentage of the sets in use that are tuned in.)

″Golden Girls″ led NBC to its 16th victory, including one tie, in 17 weeks. NBC averaged a 14.7 rating. ABC, helped by strong performances from its opening ″Monday Night Football″ game and its ″Barbara Walters Special,″ finished second with a 14.0 rating. CBS, with only one show in the Top Ten - the episode launching ″60 Minutes‴ 18th season - had a 12.5.

With one week left in the 52-week TV year, CBS leads with a 15.1 rating to NBC’s 15.0 and ABC’s 13.7.

″The Golden Girls,″ which is about four elderly women living together in Miami Beach, finished ahead of a rerun of ″The Cosby Show,″ which had a 24.6 rating, 40 share. NBC’s new comedy following ″Golden Girls,″ ″227,″ also was well-sampled, finishing third in its debut with a 23.8 rating, 40 share. The ″Miss America Pageant″ capped NBC’s Saturday night, ranking fourth with a 23.7 rating, 44 share.

″NBC placed the ‘Golden Girls’ premiere beautifully because ‘Miss America’ was right after it,″ said Bob Igiel, senior vice president at the NW Ayer advertising agency. ″It got good promotion, good press and its performance was a real accomplishment on Saturday night.″

Last season, network viewing on Saturday night experienced the largest declines, falling victim to video cassette rentals and the networks’ own inept programming. NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff said NBC was fighting back by scheduling its best pilot, ″Golden Girls,″ on Saturday.

″The show got sampled, and that’s important,″ said Curt Block, an NBC vice president. ″We may be building a comedy bloc on Saturdays the way CBS did in the ’70s (with ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ and ‘Newhart’).″ NBC’s other Saturday comedies, ″Facts of Life″ and ″Gimme A Break,″ ranked 11th and 15th, respectively.

NBC apparently benefited from CBS and ABC not yet introducing their new Saturday programs. ABC is counting on Robert Wagner’s ″Lime Street,″ which is set to debut this Saturday, while CBS will go with new theatrical and made- for-TV movies. Last Saturday, ABC’s competing movie, ″In Like Flynn,″ ranked 55th out of 60 shows. CBS’ movie, ″Illusions,″ was 57th.

The last show opening better than ″Golden Girls″ was CBS’ ″AfterMASH,″ which had a 31 rating, 47 share in September, 1983.

ABC also showed improvement last week, thanks to football, Walters and a rerun of the ″Lady Blue″ movie pilot, which ranked eighth with a 19.2 rating, just below the 19.8 it had in April. ″Lady Blue″ was up against CBS’ critically acclaimed ″Death of a Salesman,″ which ranked 24th with a 14.5 rating.

Ratings for ″Monday Night Football″ had been falling off for several years, but the Washington-Dallas opener may signal a pro football turnaround. The game drew a higher rating than every Monday night game last season except the last, the important Miami-Dallas game.

″Football will do better this year,″ said Igiel.

The Thursday night game, a match-up between Kansas City and the Los Angeles Raiders, also performed better than last season’s Thursday night opener and ranked 21st for the week.

For the week of Sept. 9-15, the Top Ten included ″Golden Girls,″ ″The Cosby Show,″ ″227,″ ″Miss America,″ ″Monday Night Football,″ ″The Barbara Walters Special,″ ″60 Minutes,″ ″Lady Blue,″ NBC’s Cheers″ and NBC’s ″Family Ties.″

NBC’s ″Hell Town″ ranked 13th in its first regular episode, but its major competion, ABC’s ″Dynasty,″ doesn’t start until Sept. 25. The ″Hell Town″ lead-in apparently helped NBC’s new news magazine, ″American Almanac,″ which ranked 40th but its 12.0 rating represented a 19 percent increase over its first installment last month.

CBS’ ″West 57th″ ranked 46th with an 11.1 rating.

The bottom five shows were: ABC’s ″Love Boat,″ 56th, followed by CBS’ ″Illusions,″ ABC’s ″Ripley’s Believe It or Not,″ NBC’s ″Motown Revue″ and CBS’ ″Saturday Morning Preview.″

In the evening news competition, the ″CBS Evening News″ was first with an 11.4 rating. ABC’ ″World News Tonight″ had a 10.0, while the ″NBC Nightly News″ averaged a 9.7.

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