The Nielsens: April 23-29, 1984

Looking back at some highs and lows of the TV ratings from this week in 1984

The Nielsens: April 23-29, 1984
"We really need to get a bigger couch"

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.

A sort of Love Boat on land or Fantasy Island without the fantasy (or the island), Hotel was an Aaron Spelling-produced series that nominally centered on the staff of a San Francisco luxury lodge, with guest stars cycling through on a weekly basis. Adapted from Arthur Hailey's 1965 novel of the same name, the series' core cast included James Brolin (a.k.a. Thanos' dad), Connie Sellecca (fresh off her stint as the female lead on The Greatest American Hero), and Shari Belafonte (heir to the "Day-O" empire).

Shows like this were pretty common in the '70s and '80s — an early episode of Moonlighting riffs on this by having David Addison continually brainstorm ideas for shows like Bus Stop and Parking Lot — and it isn't hard to see why; you can crank a lot of narrative sausage out of a grinder that's been placed in a spot with a natural flow of new characters passing through. Everything old is eventually new again, so I'm sure this type of show will make a comeback at some point, and when it does, I'll be waiting.

Anyway, I don't know which episode aired this week in 1984, because Hotel was in a month-and-a-half lull of repeats at the time, but I can tell you that Season 1 guest stars included such luminaries as (deep breath) Heather Locklear, Dick Van Patten, Robert Vaughn, Robert Reed of The Brady Bunch, Scatman Crothers, Liberace, McLean Stevenson, Englebert Humperdinck, and, uh, Scott Baio. And I haven't even mentioned that Bette freaking Davis appeared in the pilot! Is it any wonder that even with a repeat, the show pulled a 20.2 share this week, good enough for fourth in the ratings?