The Nielsens: March 26-April 1, 1984

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

The Nielsens: March 26-April 1, 1984
They're heeeeeeeeeeere

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.

Simon & Simon
Viewed from just about any angle, Simon & Simon was one of the biggest shows of the '80s — it aired from '81-'88, and hovered in the upper echelon of the Nielsens for much of that run — and yet it's rarely part of the conversation when people rattle off series that exemplify the TV trends of the decade. I'd wager this is probably because it was one of a long, long list of shows about crime-solving duos that had an ampersand in the title; other examples drawn from this week's ratings include Cagney & Lacey, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, and Hardcastle & McCormick.

But originality was never really the point. In fact, Simon & Simon was on its way to being canceled after its first season before someone had the bright idea to pair it with Magnum, P.I., thereby creating what immediately became an unbeatable back-to-back bloc of impeccably mustachioed adventurers. Clearly, the TV viewers of the '80s were hungry for kickass theme songs, exotic locales, and the dispensation of justice by handsome fellows who were absolutely not cops.

Like Magnum, the Simon brothers were private investigators; unlike Magnum, who operated out of Hawaii, they were based in San Diego, where Rick (the Vietnam vet who broke all the rules) lived in a boat parked in the yard outside the home of his brother A.J. (the preppy one who went to church). Rick was played by future Major Dad star Gerald McRaney; A.J. was played by One Life to Live veteran and future author Jameson Parker. Men wanted to be them! Women wanted to be with them! It was a CBS execs' dream.