The Nielsens: February 20-26, 1984

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

The Nielsens: February 20-26, 1984
Forgetting their seething resentment of each other, one half-hour at a time

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.

Master of the Game, Part III
I have absolutely no memory of this miniseries, which is probably appropriate, given that it's an adaptation of a Sidney Sheldon novel and I would have been sneaking up on my tenth birthday at the time. It was hugely popular, though — the book topped the New York Times bestseller list for a month upon its release in 1982, and this third and final installment of the TV adaptation bested* all comers with a bonkers 28.2 share, which would have represented something like 23 million viewers.

What were all these people tuning in for? Some pretty soapy stuff, which tracks: As you'll see courtesy of the next entry on the list, viewers were extremely into all-star, multi-generational sagas in 1984, and they were apparently even more likely to watch if the cast was led by heavy hitters like, uh, Dyan Cannon and Harry Hamlin. Here's the basic plot, according to Wikipedia:

Kate Blackwell, matriarch of the Blackwell family and head of multinational business empire Kruger-Brent Int., celebrates her 90th birthday. She sees the ghosts of her past but refuses to join them until a member of the family is ready to take over. The novel revolves around four generations of the empire's rise and Kate's dedication to the conglomerate.

As I said, I have no memory of this miniseries and I also haven't read the book, but it's still awfully easy to predict that there must have been a lot of backstabbing, corporate intrigue, and illicit boning going on.