Nielsen Top 10, January 22nd – January 28th, 1973

Here are the first ten programs from the twentieth week of the 1972-1973 television season, which ran from Monday, January 22nd, 1973 through Sunday, January 28th. There were a total of 62 programs broadcast during the week and The Los Angeles Times published the complete Nielsen report on February 10th, 1973. The paper noted that ABC’s Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law ranked 11th for the week, a “spectacular climb” from 45th the previous week. More about that later. Once again, All in the Family sat atop the Nielsen chart for CBS. In second place was a 90-minute “Entertainer of the Year” special hosted by Ed Sullivan, in which the annual awards from the American Guild of Variety Artists were presented. It aired on Tuesday, January 23rd from 9:30PM to 11PM.

Not a single movie night was in the Top Ten; The ABC Wednesday Movie (Go Ask Alice) was the top-rated movie night for the week, ranking 15th. ABC’s new sitcom, Here We Go Again, which it introduced the previous week, ranked last. For the week as a whole, CBS was first with an average 21.7 Nielsen rating, up from a 19.1 rating the previous week. NBC ranked second with a 19.7 (down from a 20.6 rating) and ABC brought up the rear with a 17.3 rating (down from an 18.6 rating). Here’s the Top Ten, complete with Nielsen ratings:

## Program Net Rating
1. All in the Family CBS 36.9
2. “Entertainer of the Year” CBS 29.3
3. Sanford & Son NBC 28.7
4. Hawaii Five-O CBS 28.7
5. The Mary Tyler Moore Show CBS 27.1
6. Gunsmoke CBS 26.1
7. Bridget Loves Bernie CBS 25.7
8. The Wonderful World of Disney NBC 25.5
9. Adam-12 NBC 25.0
10. Maude CBS 24.8

Would could have caused the “spectacular climb” of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law on ABC? The episode, broadcast on Wednesday, January 24th from 10-11PM, concerned Owen Marshall’s niece, who sued her husband for divorce and in a counter-suit was accused of committing adultery. The twist: their son was conceived through artificial insemination and that is the adultery, according to the husband. Arthur Hill starred as Owen Marshall, Martin Sheen and Jess Walton played the couple. It’s unlikely that the guest stars were the reason for the huge jump. And I doubt the content of the episode drew in viewers. So what about the competition?

The previous week’s episode, broadcast on Wednesday, January 17th, competed from 10-11PM with Cannon on CBS and “Cole Porter in Paris” on NBC. Its lead-in was a made-for-TV movie called Female Artillery with Dennis Weaver and Ida Lupino. Here’s how the networks fared that evening:

 8:00PM 16.3/24 19.7/28 (avg) 26.5/39
 8:30PM 16.0/23 (avg) 19.7/28 34.1/49 (avg)
 9:00PM 16.0/23 14.7/21 (avg) 34.1/49
 9:30PM 16.0/23 14.7/21 34.1/49
10:00PM 16.7/29 (avg) 18.7/33 (avg) 19.2/34 (avg)
10:30PM 16.7/29 18.7/33 19.2/34
Average 16.3/25 17.7/27 27.9/42

NBC had a huge advantage thanks to “The Bob Hope Christmas Special,” which aired from 8:30-10PM and overwhelmed its competition. ABC ranked third for the evening as a whole, although it beat NBC’s Medical Center during the 9-10PM hour, and Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law was third in its time slot. What was different on Wednesday, January 24th?

First of all, NBC broadcast a new episode SEARCH, which did not do as well as “Cole Porter in Paris.” More importantly, the lead-in for Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law was much, much stronger. Finally, at the last minute CBS pre-empted its scheduled episode of Cannon in favor of a news special on Vietnam. A huge lead-in thanks to The ABC Wednesday Night Movie and weak competition from CBS and NBC created the perfect conditions for Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law to thrive.

Here’s the evening’s ratings:

18.4/28 (avg)18.4/28
 8:00PM 16.8/26 18.6/28 (avg) 25.0/39
 8:30PM 23.7/36 (avg) 18.6/28 19.4/29 (avg)
 9:00PM 23.7/36 19.4/29
 9:30PM 23.7/36 19.4/29
10:00PM 24.6/43 (avg) 11.4/20 (avg) 16.8/29 (avg)
10:30PM 24.6/43 11.4/20 16.8/29
Average 23.0/37 16.1/25 19.5/31

Note that Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law actually did slightly better than The ABC Wednesday Movie, at least based on this average Nielsen ratings. CBS pre-empting Cannon meant many households who would have been watching CBS from 10-11PM stayed on ABC instead, preferring Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law to a news special on Vietnam. For the record, the episode of Cannon that was supposed to air on January 24th (“The Prisoners”) was rescheduled for February 21st.


“‘Lawrence’ Loses Ratings Scramble.” Los Angeles Times. 10 Feb. 1973: B7.

2 Replies to “Nielsen Top 10, January 22nd – January 28th, 1973”

  1. There were two surprises in Week 20 of the 1972-73 season, and both had to do with ABC movie franchises.

    At the time, I remember being surprised, no, flabbergasted, that GO ASK ALICE had rated as lowly as it did in households, because the ‘ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week’ was quite the sensation amongst younger demographics (I’m going to try to track down A18-49 numbers from that week). Copies of the ‘Go Ask Alice’ book by Anonymous (Miss Beatrice Sparks holds the copyright for this work, which was marketed as non-fiction, a subject of dispute) literally flew off the shelves of bookstores and libraries. The paperback went into multiple printings (it still to this day sells well off of backlist), the music featured in the telemovie started popping up again all over AM top-30 radio and flying off the shelves of record stores…Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ was revived from relative obscurity into being an anthem of the early seventies cool-kid generation. Had ABC skedded a quick encore of the film, I’m certain it would have exceeded the 23.7HH/36% that the telemovie garnered on Wednesday. ABC eventually did repeat GO ASK ALICE on Wednesday October 24, 1973 where it got a respectable 18.6HH/29%, but by then the sensation had died down somewhat.

    The other major surprise for ABC in Week 20 was the tepid Nielsens from world broadcast premiere of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – PART 1 on ‘The ABC Sunday Night Movie’. The film generated an 18.0HH/29% which, on the surface was respectable, except that ABC had paid a fortune to license the world television premiere of the epic by Mr. David Lean. All expectations from the network were for a gangbuster rating to promote their upcoming February Sweep fare…in those days, films that were spread over two nights usually had a three-to-five minute “coming soon” promo reel of upcoming ABC features/telemovies at the conclusion of the movie leading in to local news. ABC had upcoming world premieres of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and PAINT YOUR WAGON that would likely have been plugged at the conclusion of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, as well as some of the more promotable upcoming ‘Movie of the Week’ premieres.

  2. Was this year’s broadcast of the THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on Saturday the first year in so many that ABC didn’t air it on a Sunday at 7?

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