The Nielsens: May 21-27, 1984

Reliving the highs and lows of the TV ratings from this week in 1984

The Nielsens: May 21-27, 1984
They're heeeeeeeeeere

These days, pretty much everyone walks around with a TV in their pocket, and there are so many viewing options that pretty much every show — no matter how popular it might be in the current definition of the term — is broadcast for a niche audience. But for decades, the small number of networks and the relative lack of options for rewatching anything meant that Americans watched a lot of the same stuff at the same time — and even programs that have largely been forgotten today drew what would now be considered massive ratings. In this recurring column, we take a fond and often somewhat mystified look back at the Nielsen ratings from long ago.

Love Thy Neighbor
There are lots of reasons to miss the days of the good old-fashioned broadcast network movie-of-the-week special, and Love Thy Neighbor manages to include most if not all of them. For starters, you've got an utterly bonkers plot, which in this particular case revolves around suburbanite enemies (John Ritter and Penny Marshall) whose spouses fall in love and run off together, leaving them... no choice but to raise their separate broods together? And ultimately fall in love themselves? And then there's the cast, which aside from the aforementioned Ritter and Marshall also includes Bert Convy, Falcon Crest vet Constance McCashin, Lukas Haas, scream queen Barbara Crampton, and Jerry Supiran, who would go on to star on the godawful syndicated "comedy" Small Wonder before falling on very, very hard times.

According to Marshall, she was convinced to take the project by Randy Newman, who didn't read the script but thought Ritter was so funny that it would be worth taking the risk — and also apparently cutting short a motorcycle trip through Europe with Art Garfunkel. Was ol' Rand right? Well, the viewers of 1984 thought so; Love Thy Neighbor took the top spot this week with a 20 share, which means that nearly 17 million people tuned in. See if you agree with their decision.