Top 40 Programs from First Nielsens of the 1963-1964 Season

Here are the Top Forty programs from the first Nielsen report of the 1963-1964 season, covering the period running from Monday, September 23rd through Sunday, October 6th. The report was released on Monday, October 28th. Jack Gould reported on these first Nielsens in The New York Times on October 29th [1]. The Beverly Hillbillies topped the list with a 34.9 Nielsen rating. For the period as a whole, CBS averaged a 20.0 rating (down from a 20.3 the year before), NBC a 17.0 rating (down from a 17.7) and ABC a 16.4 (up from a 14.7).

I don’t know the 33rd program because The New York Times printed the 32nd program — The Flintstones — twice. Furthermore, Gould revealed the following day that My Favorite Martian had been accidentally left off the list [2]. Including it pushed everything else down a slot. He didn’t provide its rating. I’ve reprinted the list as it was published; I assume the sixth entry, given as “Petticoat Fever,” was actually Petticoat Junction.

## Program Network Rating
1. Hillbillies CBS 34.9
2. Bonanza NBC 30.9
3. Dick Van Dyke CBS 28.1
4. Lucille Ball CBS 28.1
5. Andy Griffith CBS 27.0
6. Petticoat Fever CBS 25.9
7. Danny Thomas CBS 25.8
8. Red Skelton CBS 24.6
9. Perry Mason CBS 24.2
10. Donna Reed ABC 23.9
11. I’ve Got a Secret CBS 23.9
12. Patty Duke ABC 23.5
13. Candid Camera CBS 23.4
14. Dr. Kildare NBC 22.9
15. Ben Casey ABC 22.8
16. Jack Benny CBS 22.4
17. Hazel NBC 22.2
18. My Favorite Martian CBS ??.?
19. The Virginian ABC 21.7
20. Gunsmoke CBS 21.4
21. Grindl NBC 21.3
22. Ed Sullivan CBS 21.1
23. Lawrence Welk ABC 20.9
24. Walt Disney NBC 20.9
25. What’s My Line CBS 20.5
26. Ozzie and Harriet ABC 20.3
27. My Three Sons ABC 20.3
28. McHale’s Navy ABC 20.2
29. Wagon Train NBC 20.1
30. To Tell the Truth CBS 20.0
31. Jackie Gleason CBS 19.9
32. Rawhide CBS 19.8
33. Flintstones ABC 19.7
34. ? NBC 19.6
35. Outer Limits ABC 19.3
36. Joey Bishop NBC 19.3
37. The Nurses CBS 19.2
38. Garry Moore CBS 19.1
39. Fugitive ABC 19.0
40. The Greatest Show on Earth ABC 18.9
41. Combat ABC 18.8

Works Cited:

1 Gould, Jack. “‘Hillbillies’ Lead ni Nielsen Study.” New York Times. 29 Oct. 1963: 71.
2 Gould, Jack. “TV: Ratings of the Autumn Premieres.” New York Times. 30 Oct. 1963: 79.

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8 Replies to “Top 40 Programs from First Nielsens of the 1963-1964 Season”

  1. It is fascinating to see The Donna Reed Show, which had been on already for five years, appear for the first time in the top 10. Apparently this was the only season in its eight on the air that it did so. Other than the arrival of Bob Crane as a cast member, I wonder what the circumstances were that spiked the ratings that year?

  2. What is interesting to me is that unlike these days when just about every show in the top 10 is a drama, there were only 2 in this list (Bonanza and Perry Mason).

    Also seeing 3 game shows in the top 30 is something you don’t see today either.

  3. Jack Gould could have cared less about most of the “Top Forty” shows in the 1963-’64 season; as the “dean” of all TV critics for the NEW YORK TIMES, he honestly believed TV had a mission to enlighten as well as entertain, a view most people seem to have forgotten these days. But Gould never did. He was one of the few viewers who didn’t care for “THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES” and “PETTICOAT JUNCTION” {this is why he labeled it “PETTICOAT FEVER” in his article, ‘oh, whatever it’s called’, was probably his opinion; he was more of a Dick Van Dyke and Jack Benny fan}. As to the fact that “MY FAVORITE MARTIAN” had been “accidentally’ left off the previous list…probably not, as I remember Gould initially gave it a “so-so” review [and he was more in favor of “BEWITCHED” than “I DREAM OF JEANNIE”: his review of the latter on its premiere in September 1965 ended with, “It ain’t got that twitch”].

    NOW….keep in mind that CBS’ programs usually took almost all of the “Top Ten” slots for several seasons in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And it was the scheduling that did it: “THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES” and “THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW” was a one-two “sucker punch” combination to the other networks on Wednesday nights [9-10pm(et)] from 1962 through ’64. That’s why Perry Como opted for a monthly “KRAFT MUSIC HALL” on Thursdays that fall (alternating with “KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER”, co-produced by his production company, Roncom Films) and ABC foolishly moved “BEN CASEY” to Wednesdays at 9pm in September ’63 [back it went to Mondays at 10, the following season].
    Mondays went to “THE LUCY SHOW”, “THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW” (in its final season), and “THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW” [8:30-10pm], defeating NBC’s “MONDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES” and “HOLLYWOOD AND THE STARS” (a weekly documentary produced by David Wolper & Jack Haley, Jr. and narrated by no less than Joseph Cotten; its subjects mostly culled from pre-1949 Warner Bros. films in United Artists’ library, and a few “behind-the scenes” episodes concerning UA’s latest theatrical features), and ABC’s {NOT NBC] 90 minute color edition of “WAGON TRAIN” {one of the network’s RARE weekly color series, but not enough people were watching color TV sets at that time, and some of ABC’s affiliates were unable to “colorcast” the program}.
    Tuesdays were also unbeatable for CBS in the fall of ’63, due to ‘THE RED SKELTON HOUR”, “PETTIOAT JUNCTION”, and “THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM” [8:30-10]; however, Benny made the mistake of getting angry at them for “splitting up” the previous season’s combination of him and Skelton, without first advising HIM of their plans. When he was unable to contact his old friend Bill Paley about the matter, he and MCA made a deal to move his show to NBC for the fall of ’64 [some sources claim James T. Aubrey, “The Smiling Cobra” of CBS, its president and chief programmer, decided to “cancel” Benny because of previous deals he and his MCA reps made with the network that infuriated Aubrey- “If you want another season of ‘CHECKMATE’, you gotta renew the Benny show”]. But that’s another story….

    The three “game shows” in the “Top 30” were all Goodson-Todman panel shows on CBS that enjoyed a solid audience for over a decade- “TO TELL THE TRUTH” {Mondays, 7:30}, “I’VE GOT A SECRET” {8:00} [which led right into ‘THE LUCY SHOW”], and that Sunday night perennial, “WHAT’S MY LINE?” {10:30}. “CANDID CAMERA”, scheduled right before John Daly & company, was everyone’s favorite “reality show”, with Allen Funt & Durward Kirby and unsuspecting people caught in ridiculous situations via hidden camera (“SMILE! You’re on Candid Camera!”).
    And, of course, no matter where “PERRY MASON” was scheduled (this season, Thursdays at 9), it retained its loyal audience against NBC’s “DR. KILDARE” and “HAZEL”, and ABC’s new Jimmy Dean variety hour.

    In fact, NBC still had some ratings muscle with “BONANZA” and ‘WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR” on Sundays (even though CBS’ “MY FAVORITE MARTIAN” and “THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW” had a slightly bigger audience between 7:30 and 9pm), “THE VIRGINIAN” on Wednesdays, and the aforementioned “DR. KILDARE”/”HAZEL” combo on Thursdays.

    “THE DONNA REED SHOW” probably got a boost on Thursdays in the fall of ’63 due to “THE FLINTSTONES” appearing just before it at 7:30, and “MY THREE SONS” after [8:30]. The only “serious” competition was CBS’ “PASSWORD” and “RAWHIDE”; NBC’s “TEMPLE HOUSTON” starring Jeffrey Hunter, was on for exactly one season, and cancelled in favor of “DANIEL BOONE” the following season….

  4. One reason ABC did relatively well during the first week of the “official” 1963-64 television season was that the network had premiered all of its new and returning series a week early. ABC’s launch began Monday, September 16th and ran through the 22nd, while CBS and NBC were still showing reruns. As you can see in the ratings for the September 23rd through October 8th period, ABC was a close third behind NBC and enjoyed an increase from a year earlier. The ABC stunt didn’t help duds such as the big-money game show “100 GRAND” or the overlong “JERRY LEWIS SHOW,” but it did give a boost to the new “PATTY DUKE SHOW,” “THE FUGITIVE” and “OUTER LIMITS,” along with veterans such as “DONNA REED” and “OZZIE & HARRIET.” The “sneak peek” premiere week was successful enough for ABC to repeat the following year–with even better results.

  5. I wonder how The Flintstones did in its final three seasons. The first three seasons ranked #18, #21, and #30 respectively.

    1. Actually, I just composed an article featuring the Sitcom performances this season.

      I am currently composing vintage ratings articles. I compose the Sitcoms First, then post the entire ratings history. I’m working on 1964-65 Sitcoms next, and then will work to compose 1973-75, 1977-78 and 1981-82 sitcoms and finally post the entire network performances. Currently, I have complete Ratings History posted from 1984-present and have a plethora of articles similar at

  6. Everything here is basically a well-known title with the possible exception of Grindl which starred Imogene Coca. I always liked her and so I looked up Grindl on IMDB. Miss Coca played an employee of the Foster Temporary Employment Agency. Her character had a different job every week. Sounds like a good concept for a show but this only lasted one season. A few people remember this show and liked it. Particularly one episode where a lady hires Grindl to label everything in the house so it always goes in the same spot

  7. Remember the show that was on Television back in the Seventies or even the sixties..The Show comprised of going on the Street in America and finding a real hard down family and follow them for a week or two even a month .And they would show there hard luck ..then they would step in and give them money lots of money to get back on there feet. can anyone remember that show was so good …great Show .
    Can you help me out by the name and when it was on Australia TV
    Thanks everyone

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