The 1979-1980 Season, Week by Week

This is something I’ve wanted to do for several years now and with the 2009-2010 television season officially getting underway tomorrow I decided now was the perfect time to try it out. It’s one thing to see the Top Ten or Top Thirty shows for any given television season but you can only draw so many conclusions from a list of the top shows. To really get a feel for a television season you need to see which programs were number one each and every week. So I’ve put together a chart listing the top programs for each week of the 1979-1980 season, including the summer months filled with repeats.

The season began on Monday, September 17th, 1979 and ended 31 weeks later on Sunday, April 20th, 1980. CBS came in first with a 19.6 Nielsen rating, ABC was second with a 19.5 and NBC brought up the rear with a 17.4. CBS had eight of the top ten shows for the season (ABC had the other two) while NBC’s best showing was 15th for Real People. Here are the top ten:

1. 60 Minutes (CBS)
2. Three’s Company (ABC)
3. That’s Incredible (ABC)
4. M*A*S*H (CBS)
5. Alice (CBS)
6. Dallas (CBS)
7. Flo (CBS)
8. The Jeffersons (CBS)
9. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
10. One Day at a Time (CBS)

More questionable, however, is when exactly the 1980-1981 season started and thus when the 1979-1980 repeat season came to a close. Due to a pesky actors strike, production on new and returning shows was delayed for months. Nonetheless, NBC insisted that the season began as scheduled on Monday, September 15th, 1980. ABC and CBS, on the other hand, called Monday, October 27th the official start of the season, and that seems to be what Nielsen went with as well. (Either way, the season ended on Sunday, April 10th, 1981 with CBS the winner.)

I decided not to include the actual Nielsen ratings for the top programs because I don’t think necessarily important for seeing trends. My source for the following chart is the Associated Press, which released a list of the previous week’s Top Twenty shows every Tuesday.

Week ## Date Top Program Network
Week 01 Sep 17th, 1979 Eight is Enough ABC
Week 02 Sep 24th, 1979 Three’s Company ABC
Week 03 Oct 01st, 1979 Alice CBS
Week 04 Oct 08th, 1979 SPORTS: World Series, Game 2 ABC
Week 05 Oct 15th, 1979 SPORTS: World Series, Game 7 ABC
Week 06 Oct 22nd, 1979 60 Minutes CBS
Week 07 Oct 29th, 1979 MOVIE: Jaws ABC
Week 08 Nov 05th, 1979 60 Minutes CBS
Week 09 Nov 12th, 1979 60 Minutes CBS
Week 10 Nov 19th, 1979 MOVIE: Smokey and the Bandit NBC
Week 11 Nov 26th, 1979 Three’s Company ABC
Week 12 Dec 03rd, 1979 Alice CBS
Week 13 Dec 10th, 1979 60 Minutes CBS
Week 14 Dec 17th, 1979 Three’s Company ABC
Week 15 Dec 24th, 1979 60 Minutes CBS
Week 16 Dec 31st, 1979 SPORTS: NFL Championship Post-Game CBS
Week 17 Jan 07th, 1980 The Dukes of Hazzard CBS
Week 18 Jan 14th, 1980 SPORTS: Superbowl XIV CBS
Week 19 Jan 21st, 1980 The Dukes of Hazzard CBS
Week 20 Jan 28th, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 21 Feb 04th, 1980 Dallas CBS
Week 22 Feb 11th, 1980 Three’s Company ABC
Week 23 Feb 18th, 1980 MOVIE: Harper Valley PTA NBC
Week 24 Feb 25th, 1980 Alice CBS
Week 25 Mar 03rd, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 26 Mar 10th, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 27 Mar 17th, 1980 Dallas CBS
Week 28 Mar 24th, 1980 Flo and M*A*S*H (tie) CBS
Week 29 Mar 31st, 1980 M*A*S*H CBS
Week 30 Apr 07th, 1980 TELEFILM: Kenny Rogers as The Gambler CBS
Week 31 Apr 14th, 1980 SPECIAL: The Academy Awards ABC
*Regular Season Ends*
Week 32 Apr 21st, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 33 Apr 28th, 1980 The Dukes of Hazzard CBS
Week 34 May 05th, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 35 May 12th, 1980 Miss USA Pageant CBS
Week 36 May 19th, 1980 M*A*S*H CBS
Week 37 May 26th, 1980 20/20 ABC
Week 38 Jun 02nd, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 39 Jun 09th, 1980 The Jeffersons CBS
Week 40 June 16th, 1980 The Jeffersons CBS
Week 41 June 23rd, 1980 M*A*S*H CBS
Week 42 June 30th, 1980 M*A*S*H and Three’s Company (tie) CBS/ABC
Week 43 Jul 07th, 1980 All-Star Baseball Game ABC
Week 44 Jul 14th, 1980 The Jeffersons CBS
Week 45 Jul 21st, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 46 Jul 28th, 1980 The Jeffersons CBS
Week 47 Aug 04th, 1980 Barbara Walters’ Summer Special ABC
Week 48 Aug 11th, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 49 Aug 18th, 1980 Circus of the Stars CBS
Week 50 Aug 25th, 1980 M*A*S*H and Dallas (tie) CBS
Week 51 Sep 01st, 1980 Miss America Pageant NBC
Week 52 Sep 08th, 1980 TELEFILM: The Women’s Room ABC
*NBC Begins 1980-1981 Season*
Week 53 Sep 15th, 1980 MINISERIES: Shogun, Part III NBC
Week 54 Sep 22nd, 1980 60 Minutes CBS
Week 55 Sep 29th, 1980 TELEFILM: Playing for Time CBS
Week 56 Oct 06th, 1980 SPORTS: National League Championship, Game 5 ABC
Week 57 Oct 13th, 1980 SPORTS: World Series, Game 5 NBC
Week 58 Oct 20th, 1980 SPORTS: World Series, Game 6 NBC

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6 Replies to “The 1979-1980 Season, Week by Week”

  1. This was the season CBS assembled its “blockbuster” Sunday night schedule. Not since the late ’40s and early ’50s, when “THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY” led off the network’s Sunday evening RADIO schedule, and “LASSIE” kicked off Sunday nights on CBS-TV in the late ’50s and early ’60s, did the network have such a successful lineup of shows. I’m sure you remember it {all times are Eastern, of course}:

    7:00 60 MINUTES
    8:30 ONE DAY AT A TIME
    9:00 ALICE
    10:00 TRAPPER JOHN, M.D.

    “THREE’S COMPANY” was still ABC’s “anchor” on Tuesday nights at 9pm, even though Suzanne Somers started whining about deserving more money by the end of the season, and the producers eventually “eased” her out of the show by the end of the 1980-’81 season. The rest of the schedule, though, was starting to show its “age”- “HAPPY DAYS” was about to lose Ron Howard as its “star”; “LAVERNE & SHIRLEY” had been foolishly moved to Monday nights [right back to Tuesdays in mid-season] in favor of “ANGIE”, which got lost in the shuffle and was gone by the end of the season; “TAXI”‘s ratings dropped to a point where it was moved to Wedenesdays the following season; and “HART TO HART” found a niche at 10pm, nesting comfortably there until 1984.

    “THE DUKES OF HAZZARD” was CBS’ “keystone” on Fridays at 9pm, followed by “DALLAS”. That one-two combination guaranteed ratings dominance for several more seasons (until John Schnieder & Tom Wopat “walked away” from the series in 1982 over, what else?, more dough, and were temporarily replaced in the fall of ’82).

    As an unexpected surprise, Barbara Eden’s 1978 “indie” feature “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (the original theatrical posters featured great art by Harvey Kurtzman & Will Elder) became the most-watched show the week it appeared opposite the “miracle on ice” Olympics hockey game telecast on ABC. Ratings challenged NBC, under Fred Silverman, immediately ordered a weekly version to air that fall. However, it was a bittersweet victory; the actors’ strike and a change in producers and format {originally envisioned as an hour-long comedy/drama under Cy Chermak, it finally aired as a straight half-hour sitcom from Sherwood Schwartz}, it didn’t appear until January 1981.

    “FLO”, the “spin-off” from “ALICE” (Florence Jean Castleberry [Polly Holliday] leaves Mel’s Diner in Phoenix to eventually take over a roadhouse- “Flo’s Yellow Rose”- in “Cowtown” {Ft. Worth}, Texas), started out strong when it premiered in March 1980 [#1 in its first episode], but petered out by the following season, due to an unfortunate day and time change. Too bad- I enjoyed it.

    Naturally, NBC insisted the 1980-’81 season began on September 15th, because of their shocking lack of “Top 10” shows. “SHOGUN” surprised everybody- based on James Clavell’s epic novel (and most of the dialogue in the earlier “chapters” was in Japanese, with subtitles), that mini-series, like the “Harper Valley” movie, was an unexpected success.

    “Playing For Time” was surrounded by controversy: Vanessa Redgrave was an avid supporter of Palestinian rights, yet she was playing a Jewish concentration camp survivor in this movie. No national advertiser would sustain the film, and CBS aired it under threats and condemnation from various Jewish organizations. Yet, because of the protests, it was the most watched program the week it aired. Today, who remembers it?

  2. Two notes about the 1979-80 season.
    First, as Barry correctly noted, it was the start of CBS’ Sunday night dominance. Critics didn’t expect that to happen, because ABC moved its blockbuster sitcom from the previous season, “MORK & MINDY,” to Sundays at 8:00. It seemed to be a good idea at the time, since “ALL IN THE FAMILY” had lost Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers; CBS simply put the focus on Archie Bunker’s bar (it had no choice, since Jean Stapleton would not appear in every episode) and gave it the new title of “ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE.”
    Many thought Robin Williams & company would dominate the timeslot. But ABC’s decision to removed several key characters from “MORK” and an increased emphasis on sex (with guests such as Raquel Welch and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders) turned off some viewers. “ARCHIE BUNKER” began winning the timeslot, propelling the rest of the CBS Sunday lineup with it. (Of course, having “60 MINUTES” as a lead-in to “ARCHIE” didn’t hurt.)
    Meanwhile, poor “MORK & MINDY” soon fell out of the top ten and into the middle of the ratings pack, forcing ABC to move the show back to its old Thursday slot; it never recovered from the slump and left the schedule in 1982.
    In fact, the various timeslot moves ABC made that season (as Barry pointed to above) proved to be the network’s downfall.
    CBS, by contrast, quickly yanked its poorest-performing new series from the schedule, including sitcoms “WORKING STIFFS” and “THE LAST RESORT,” and Steven Bochco’s police drama with James Earl Jones, “PARIS.”
    With several midseason hits (including “KNOTS LANDING” and “HOUSE CALLS”) plus its growing strength on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays, CBS eventually tied ABC for first place right up to the final week of the regular season. Week 31 proved to be the tiebreaker.
    As noted, ABC had the top-rated program–the annual Academy Award telecast. But CBS aired several strong programs that same week–a special two-hour episode of “THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.”
    (April 20th) and the two-part miniseries “GUYANA TRAGEDY: THE STORY OF JIM JONES” (airing April 15th and 16th). CBS won the week and, as it turned out, the 1979-80 season. It earned a 19.6 average rating, with ABC at 19.5 and NBC third with a 17.4.
    ABC would hold onto second place through 1984, when it fell back to its old third place status, while CBS’ dominance continued through the 1984-85 season. NBC, of course, would become the dominant network from the fall of 1985 through the rest of the decade. Who would have thought?

  3. Thank you, Michael. It certainly didn’t help ABC on Sundays when they scheduled two “unstable” sitcoms before “MORK & MINDY” at 8; “OUT OF THE BLUE”, a “Mork”-like sitcom starring stand-up comic Jimmy Brogan as a family’s “guardian angel” (he later wrote for Jay Leno’s “TONIGHT” in the ’90s) at 7, followed by “A NEW KIND OF FAMILY” at 7:30, a bland family comedy that quickly moved to Saturdays in mid-season and vanished.

  4. This is the season that California Fever premiered in September 1979 on CBS. I was only 7, so I don’t remember this show, but I heard that it was on Tuesday nights. It only lasted a few months, though.

    It was about these two teenagers, played by Jimmy McNichol and Marc McClure, that were in a band, and just hung out all the time at Rick’s Place. It was centered around sun, fun, cars, girls, and the California lifestyle of the time.

    I don’t remember why it was cancelled, but maybe a show like that should have been on NBC or ABC, and been released a year or two earlier. I don’t know.

  5. 1979 was he year NBC hit rock bottom with “Supertrain.” On the other hand, “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life” would enjoy long runs…it was also a year of departures-Gary Burghoff left MASH while Ron Howard left Happy Days, leaving Henry Winkler as the sole main star of the show.

    Ted Koppel’s reports on the Iran hostage crisis on ABC News would later evolve into Nightline.

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