The 1985-1986 Season, Week by Week

Here’s a chart listing the top programs for each week of the 1985-1986 season, including the summer repeat months. The season officially began on Monday, September 23rd, 1985 and ended 30 weeks later on Sunday, April 14th, 1986. NBC was easily the top network in the Nielsen ratings with a 17.5 rating. CBS was second with a 16.7 rating and ABC brought up the rear with a 14.9 rating. It was the first time NBC won a television season, having previously tied for first with CBS during the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons.

The highest-rating program was NBC’s The Cosby Show, which ranked first for an astounding 27 weeks during the official season and 46 times during the 1985-1986 season as a whole. Furthermore, during four of those six weeks NBC was still had the top program. ABC was able to top the weekly rankings just twice, once for the seventh game of the World Series and again for the Thursday edition of “Liberty Weekend.”

NBC had five of the Top Ten shows for the season, while CBS had three and ABC two. Here they are:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Family Ties (NBC)
3. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
4. 60 Minutes (CBS)
5. Cheers (NBC)
6. Dallas (CBS)
7. Dynasty (ABC)
8. The Golden Girls (NBC)
9. Miami Vice (NBC)
10. Who’s the Boss? (ABC)

The source for the chart is the Associated Press, which released a list of the previous week’s Top Twenty shows every Tuesday.

Week ##DateTop ProgramNetwork
Week 01Sep 23rd, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 02Sep 30th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 03Oct 07th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 04Oct 14th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 05Oct 21st, 1985SPORTS: World Series, Game 7ABC
Week 06Oct 28th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 07Nov 04th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 08Nov 11th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 09Nov 18th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 10Nov 25th, 1985TELEFILM: Perry Mason ReturnsNBC
Week 11Dec 02nd, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 12Dec 09th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 13Dec 16th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 14Dec 23rd, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 15Dec 30th, 1985The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 16Jan 06th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 17Jan 13th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 18Jan 20th, 1986SPORTS: Superbowl XXXNBC
Week 19Jan 27th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 20Feb 3rd, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 21Feb 10th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 22Feb 17th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 23Feb 24th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 24Mar 03rd, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 25Mar 10th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 26Mar 17th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 27Mar 24th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 28Mar 31st, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 29Apr 07th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 30Apr 14th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
*Regular Season Ends*
Week 31Apr 21st, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 32Apr 28th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 33May 05th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 34May 12th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 35May 19th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 36May 26th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 37Jun 02nd, 1986Family TiesNBC
Week 38Jun 09th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 39Jun 16th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 40Jun 23rd, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 41Jun 30th, 1986Liberty Weekend (Thurs.)ABC
Week 42Jul 07th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 43Jul 14th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 44Jul 21st, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 45Jul 28th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 46Aug 04th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 47Aug 11th, 1986Family TiesNBC
Week 48Aug 18th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 49Aug 25th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 50Sep 01st, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 51Sep 08th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC
Week 52Sep 15th, 1986The Cosby ShowNBC


  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Yes, NBC virtually “built” their Thursday night schedule around Cosby in 1985-’86 (and that’s why they won the season):

    8:00 THE COSBY SHOW [naturally]
    8:30 FAMILY TIES [often the #2 program]
    9:00 CHEERS
    9:30 NIGHT COURT

    ABC and CBS were virtually “shell-shocked” in planning their schedules as a result.

    Even CBS’ “answer” to the Cosby format, “CHARLIE AND COMPANY” (starring Flip Wilson), came and went on Wednesdays at 9pm(et), opposite ABC’s #1 series in that time period, “DYNASTY”, which was beginning to “lose its edge”. But the network DID have a few “evergreens” to fall back on: “60 MINUTES” and “MURDER SHE WROTE” on Sundays, “SCARECROW & MRS. KING”, “KATE & ALLIE”, “NEWHART”, and “CAGNEY & LACEY” on Mondays, ‘MAGNUM P.I.”, “SIMON & SIMON” and “KNOTS LANDING” on Thursdays, and “DALLAS” and “FALCON CREST” on Fridays.

    ABC wasn’t so lucky. By depending too much on Aaron Spelling to supply most of their prime-time programming in the 1984-’85 season, they “lost” the season to CBS (with NBC a close second, due to the first season of “THE COSBY SHOW”), and tore up Spelling’s exclusive contract with the network. However, what remained of his series- “DYNASTY”, “HOTEL”, and “THE LOVE BOAT”- continued in the 1985-’86 season (with one new series, “HOLLYWOOD BEAT”, gone within a few weeks, and another, the “DYNASTY” spin-off, “DYNASTY II: THE COLBYS”, hanging on)…but “LOVE BOAT” ended that season. However, there were some bright spots- “MacGYVER” on Sundays, “GROWING PAINS”, “MOONLIGHTING” and “SPENSER: FOR HIRE” on Tuesdays, “MR. BELVEDERE” on Fridays, and in mid-season, “PERFECT STRANGERS”, “HEAD OF THE CLASS”, and the return of the Disney anthology series (as “THE DISNEY SUNDAY MOVIE”). But several of their more recent series, “HARDCASTLE & McCORMICK”, “THE FALL GUY”, and “RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!”, vanished at the end of the season.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    …and of course, the first of the “updated” “PERRY MASON” TV movies {I personally refer to it as “The Case Of Della Street’s Dilemma’} was SO successful on “NBC SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES”, it “jump-started” Raymond Burr’s career and led to a series of 26 two-hour movies, until Burr’s death in 1993.

  • Michael Spadoni says:

    Barry is absolutely right in noting NBC’s Thursday night juggernaut was the engine that drove the network to its first outright seasonal win since the early 1950’s.
    But it wasn’t the only reason for NBC’s dominance during the 1985-86 season. On Saturday night, a new comedy featuring four women over 50 did quite nicely, thank you. “THE GOLDEN GIRLS” tied for seventh place with “DYNASTY” that season, helping another new sitcom that followed it, “227” (20th place). And old favorite “THE FACTS OF LIFE” still had some steam left in it (27th place), while second-season crime drama “HUNTER” was building an audience.
    And of course, we can’t forget a couple of sophomore NBC hits that season–“MIAMI VICE” on Fridays (9th place); and Michael Landon’s Wednesday night drama “HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN” (11th place). Not to mention NBC’s movie nights on Sunday (21st place) and Monday (22nd place tie with “HOTEL”). Add the mid-season success of new sitcoms “YOU AGAIN” with Jack Klugman and John Stamos (19th place) and “VALERIE” with Valerie Harper (24th place tie with “MOONLIGHTING” and “FALCON CREST”), and it added up to a stellar comeback season for NBC.

  • Cee Jay says:

    Looks like everything old is new again at the peacock network they are trying a new version of the Thursday comedy line up with The Office, Community, Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live Weekend Edition Thursday and Jay Leno not in this order and to tell you the truth I don’t see lightning strinking twice

  • pBOB says:

    The sitcoms haven’t been the same since they got rid of the studio audiences and show opennings.

    I was recently on the Retrojunk site and didn’t realize how long and how many different show openings Three’s company had for seasons one & two.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    You’re right, Michael! I almost completely forgot about “THE GOLDEN GIRLS”, which allowed the network to build a Saturday night “beachhead” as well. But “YOU AGAIN?” [an American version of a British sitcom, “HOME TO ROOST”] didn’t last too long, and “VALERIE” was almost scuttled by Valerie Harper abruptly leaving the show. Fortunately, with Sandy Duncan “replacing” her, “THE HOGAN FAMILY” (as it finally became known) found a comfortable nest on Mondays until 1991.

  • Michael Spadoni says:

    Agreed, Barry: “YOU AGAIN” didn’t last long; it got a boost from a premiere after “THE COSBY SHOW” before moving to Monday nights. But it didn’t last; the show was canceled in the spring of 1987. One funny note about “YOU AGAIN”: British actress Elizabeth Bennett played the role of housekeeper Enid Tompkins on both “YOU AGAIN” and the British “HOME TO ROOST,” requiring her to commute between London and Los Angeles during the run of both shows. According to TV historians Tim Brooks and Earl Marsh, it was a video first.

  • “The Equalizer” also started on CBS this year, along with “The New Twilight Zone”, which were two more bright spots for the network IMO.

Leave a Reply