In What Time Slots Have TV’s Top-Ranked Programs Aired?

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All in the Family was the #1-ranked show from 1972-1976. It and The Cosby Show, which was #1-ranked from 1986-1990 are the only two scripted series to rank #1 for five seasons — all consecutive.

Scheduling has always been a key factor in the success or failure of a TV show. A great lead-in can turn a new show into a top-ranked hit such as with I Love Lucy — which premiered in 1951 as the lead-out to Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, the #1 show in the country at the time. Conversely, one hit show can turn a viewership dead zone into an gold mine of eyeballs — as was the case with The Cosby Show, which became the first Thursday night series to rank #1 in 1986.

As we discuss scheduling on this site, we hope it will help to know WHEN TV’s top-ranked shows aired. So below is a listing of the days and times each of those #1-ranked programs aired with our customary Notes and Other Observations:

1950-1951  The Texaco Star Theatre – Tuesdays 8-9pm on NBC

1951-1952  Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts – Mondays 830-9pm on CBS

1952-1953  I Love Lucy – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1953-1954  I Love Lucy – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1954-1955  I Love Lucy – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1955-1956  The $64,000 Question – Tuesdays 10-1030pm on CBS

1956-1957  I Love Lucy – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1957-1958  Gunsmoke – Saturdays 10-1030pm on CBS

1958-1959  Gunsmoke – Saturdays 10-1030pm on CBS

1959-1960  Gunsmoke – Saturdays 10-1030pm on CBS

1960-1961  Gunsmoke – Saturdays 10-1030pm on CBS

1961-1962  Wagon Train – Wednesdays 730-830pm on NBC

1962-1963  The Beverly Hillbillies – Wednesdays 9-930pm on CBS

1963-1964  The Beverly Hillbillies – Wednesdays 9-930pm on CBS

1964-1965  Bonanza – Sundays 9-10pm on NBC

1965-1966  Bonanza – Sundays 9-10pm on NBC

1966-1967  Bonanza – Sundays 9-10pm on NBC

1967-1968  The Andy Griffith Show – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1968-1969  Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In – Mondays 8-9pm on NBC

1969-1970  Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In – Mondays 8-9pm on NBC

1970-1971  Marcus Welby, M.D. – Tuesdays 10-11pm on ABC

1971-1972  All in the Family – Saturdays 8-830pm on CBS

1972-1973  All in the Family – Saturdays 8-830pm on CBS

1973-1974  All in the Family – Saturdays 8-830pm on CBS

1974-1975  All in the Family – Saturdays 8-830pm on CBS

1975-1976  All in the Family – Mondays 9-930pm on CBS

1976-1977  Happy Days – Tuesdays 8-830pm on ABC

1977-1978  Laverne & Shirley – Tuesdays 830-9pm on ABC

1978-1979  Laverne & Shirley – Tuesdays 830-9pm on ABC

1979-1980  60 Minutes – Sundays 7-8pm on CBS

1980-1981  Dallas – Fridays 10-11pm on CBS

1981-1982  Dallas – Fridays 10-11pm on CBS

1982-1983  60 Minutes – Sundays 7-8pm on CBS

1983-1984  Dallas – Fridays 9-10pm on CBS

1984-1985  Dynasty – Wednesday 9-10pm on ABC

1985-1986  The Cosby Show – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

1986-1987  The Cosby Show – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

1987-1988  The Cosby Show – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

1988-1989  The Cosby Show – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

1989-1990  Roseanne – Tuesdays 9-930pm on ABC

The Cosby Show – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

1990-1991  Cheers – Thursdays 9-930pm on NBC

1991-1992  60 Minutes – Sundays 7-8pm on CBS

1992-1993  60 Minutes – Sundays 7-8pm on CBS

1993-1994  60 Minutes – Sundays 7-8pm on CBS

1994-1995  Seinfeld – Thursdays 9-930pm on NBC

1995-1996  ER – Thursdays 10-11pm on NBC

1996-1997  ER – Thursdays 10-11pm on NBC

1997-1998  Seinfeld – Thursdays 9-930pm on NBC

1998-1999  ER – Thursdays 10-11pm on NBC

1999-2000  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Tuesday 8-9pm on ABC

2000-2001  Survivor – Thursdays 8-9pm on CBS

2001-2002  Friends – Thursdays 8-830pm on NBC

2002-2003  CSI – Thursdays 9-10pm on CBS

2003-2004  American Idol – Tuesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2004-2005  American Idol – Tuesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2005-2006  American Idol – Tuesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2006-2007  American Idol – Wednesdays 9-10pm on FOX*

2007-2008  American Idol – Tuesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2008-2009  American Idol – Wednesdays 9-10pm on FOX*

2009-2010  American Idol – Tuesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2010-2011  American Idol – Wednesdays 8-10pm on FOX*

2011-2012  NBC Sunday Night Football – Sundays 830-11pm on NBC

2012-2013  NCIS – Tuesdays 8-9pm on CBS

2013-2014  NBC Sunday Night Football – Sundays 830-11pm on NBC

2014-2015  NBC Sunday Night Football – Sundays 830-11pm on NBC

2015-2016  NBC Sunday Night Football – Sundays 830-11pm on NBC

*Times varied throughout the season as some segments were two hours long. But for the purposes of these exercises, the Tuesday edition will be considered to air 8-10pm as the performance show and the Wednesday edition will be considered to air 9-10pm as the results show except for the 2010-2011 season when the show was shifted to what we will call a Wed 8-10pm/Thur 8-9pm schedule.

 

Notes and Other Observations:

–  Five #1-ranked shows aired on Monday nights: Arthur Godrey’s Talent ScoutsI Love LucyThe Andy Griffith ShowRowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and All in the Family.

– A leading nine #1-ranked shows aired on Tuesday nights: The Texaco Star TheatreThe $64,000 QuestionMarcus Welby, M.D.Happy DaysLaverne & ShirleyRoseanneWho Wants to be a Millionaire?American Idol and NCIS.

– Four #1-ranked shows aired on Wednesday nights: Wagon TrainThe Beverly HillbilliesDynasty and American Idol.

– Seven #1-ranked shows aired on Thursday nights: The Cosby ShowCheersSeinfeldERSurvivorFriends and CSI.

– One #1-ranked show aired on Friday nights: Dallas.

– Two #1-ranked shows aired on Saturday nights: Gunsmoke and All in the Family.

– Three #1 ranked shows aired on Sunday nights: Bonanza60 Minutes and Sunday Night Football.

– Two #1 ranked shows aired in the 7pm hour: 60 Minutes and Wagon Train.

– A leading fourteen #1-ranked shows aired in the 8pm hour: The Texaco Star TheatreArthur Godfrey’s Talent ScoutsWagon TrainRowan and Martin’s Laugh-InAll in the FamilyHappy DaysLaverne & ShirleyThe Cosby ShowWho Wants to be a Millionaire?SurvivorFriendsAmerican IdolNBC Sunday Night Football and NCIS.

– Thirteen #1-ranked shows aired in the 9pm hour: I Love LucyThe Beverly HillbilliesBonanzaThe Andy Griffith ShowAll in the FamilyDallasDynastyRoseanneCheersSeinfeldCSIAmerican Idol and NBC Sunday Night Football.

– Six #1-ranked shows aired in the 10pm hour: The $64,000 QuestionGunsmokeMarcus Welby, M.D.DallasER and NBC Sunday Night Football.

– Wagon Train ran from 730-830pm on (prior to the FCC’s 1971 Prime Access Rule that gave the 7pm hour over to the network affiliates to encourage local and independent television production) and is considered to have been a #1-ranked program in both the 7pm hour and the 8pm hour. This is the only such program to cross prime time hours in such a way.

– Because NBC Sunday Night Football airs 8-11pm, it is considered to have been a #1-ranked program in the 8pm, 9pm and 10pm hours. This is the only such program to factor into all three prime time hours.

– All in the FamilyDallas and American Idol are the only three programs to achieve #1 rankings in more than one time slot. Dallas‘s other time slot was an hour earlier. All in the Family‘s other time slot was on a different night and time. American Idol‘s TWO other time slots were on a different nights and times.

– Taking the leading day for #1-ranked programs (Tuesdays) and the leading hour for #1-ranked programs (8pm) and we can theoretically base that to assume Tuesdays at 8pm is the most successful time slot for #1-ranked programs as it has produced six of them: The Texaco Star TheatreHappy DaysLaverne & ShirleyWho Wants to be a MillionaireAmerican Idol and NCIS.

 

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