Nielsen Top 10, March 12th – March 18th, 1973

Here are the first ten programs from the twenty-seventh week of the 1972-1973 television season, which ran from Monday, March 12th, 1973 through Sunday, March 18th, 1973. There were a total of 62 programs broadcast during the week and The Los Angeles Times published the complete Nielsen report on March 28th, 1973. Once again All in the Family was the highest-rated program of the week. In third place was “Acts of Love — and Other Comedies,” an ABC special starring Marlo Thomas that aired on Friday, March 16th from 9-10PM. “The Red Pony,” another special, was in fourth. Based on a John Steinbeck story, the special aired on Sunday, March 18th from 8:30-10:30PM. Just outside the Top Ten was “The Lily Tomlin Show,” a CBS special that aired on Friday, March 16th from 10-11PM.

CBS won the week with an average 20.6 Nielsen rating (equal to its rating the previous week), followed by NBC with a 16.6 rating (up slightly from a 16.4 rating) and ABC with a 16.1 rating (down sharply from a 17.6 rating). Here’s the Top Ten, complete with Nielsen ratings:

## Program Net Rating
1. All in the Family CBS 34.7
2. Sanford and Son NBC 28.0
3. “Acts of Love — and Other Comedies” ABC 27.4
4. “The Red Pony” NBC 27.3
5. Maude CBS 25.3
6. Here’s Lucy CBS 25.2
7. Hawaii Five-O CBS 24.7
8. The Partridge Family ABC 24.5
9. The Wonderful World of Disney NBC 24.3
10. Mannix CBS 23.9

Here’s how the networks fared on Friday, March 16th, 1973. ABC aired The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family “Acts of Love — and Other Comedies,” and Love, American Style. CBS broadcast three specials: “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine,” “Ed Sullivan’s Broadway” and “The Lily Tomlin Show.” NBC filled its schedule with Sanford & Son followed by two-and-a-half hours of hockey (Boston vs. Detroit).

 8:00PM 15.8/27 10.9/18 28.0/47
 8:30PM 24.5/41 15.3/26 (avg)  7.1/12 (avg)
 9:00PM 27.4/46 (avg) 15.3/26  7.1/12
 9:30PM 27.4/46 15.3/26  7.1/12
10:00PM 18.5/53 (avg) 23.4/43 (avg)  7.1/12
10:30PM 18.5/53 23.4/43  7.1/12
Average 22.0/38 17.3/30 10.6/18

ABC did quite well with its line-up of regular series and specials. CBS was hurt by its Harlem Globetrotters special, which was a weak lead-in for “Ed Sullivan’s Broadway,” but recovered nicely at 10PM with “The Lily Tomlin Show.” As for NBC, despite the huge lead-in provided by Sanford & Son, viewers simply did not tune in for hockey.


“The Bunkers and CBS Top Nielsen Poll.” Los Angeles Times. 28 Mar. 1973: 31.

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8 Replies to “Nielsen Top 10, March 12th – March 18th, 1973”

  1. “The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine”, despite its “okay” ratings, later became the basis of the Saturday morning series they did for CBS in the 1974-’75 season. “Ed Sullivan’s Broadway” was mostly comprised of “original cast” performances presented on his weekly Sunday night show in the ’50s and ’60s [unlike CBS, Ed preserved and maintained his copies of the show’s kinescopes and videotapes, to the point where they became “the source” for most documentaries on Broadway and other facets of American entertainment- especially after Andrew Solt gained control of the Sullivan archives, and began licensing those “Broadway” highlights for several CD releases as well]. “The Lily Tomlin Show”, produced by Lorne Michaels (pre-“SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”), was her “breakout” special, making her one of the most celebrated female comediennes of the ’70s.

    Even though “Acts of Love- and Other Comedies” was a ratings success for Marlo Thomas, virtually no one remembers it today.

  2. ‘The Partridge Family’ was still racking up great ratings late in its third season?

    What always struck me as odd was that ‘The Brady Bunch’ never achieved high ratings during its original prime-time run, whereas its Friday-night companion show, ‘Partridge Family,’ routinely ranked among the top 20.

    1. I agree about “Brady Bunch”. This season, it had to face a red-hot “Sanford and Son” but still managed to finish a solid second.

      What would have been interesting to see is what would have happened if “Partridge Family” and “Brady Bunch” swapped positions. Would “Partridge Family” have fared any better against “Sanford and Son”? Would “Brady Bunch”, with lesser competition, have surged into the top 20?

      We’ll never know for sure.

  3. A number of interesting pilots and backdoors aired during Week 27 of the 1972-73 season:

    THE BAIT -> I still vividly remember this backdoor for a series that would have starred Miss Donna Mills as an undercover policewoman. The rivetingly suspenseful 90-minutes rated 21.3HH/34% but didn’t get a pick-up, and NBC’s ‘Police Woman’ pilot was still about a year away from airing (as a spinoff backdoor from ‘Police Story’).

    HAWKINS ON MURDER -> Backdoor for the ‘Hawkins’ series rated 21.2HH/35% (tied with THE BAIT) and got a fall pick-up, ending up on the fall sked in a shared timeslot with ‘Shaft’ on CBS as CBS attempted to create an alternative to NBC’s successful ‘Mystery Movie’ series.

    THE CALL IT MURDER -> An encore of a 1971 backdoor for a ‘Doug Selby D.A.’ series that would have starred Mr. Jim Hutton rated 12.5HH/20%. Mr. Jim Hutton would re-surface in the ‘Ellery Queen’ mystery series, shortly to come out on DVD I understand.


    CLASS OF ’63 -> This telefilm starring Mr. James Brolin wasn’t a backdoor, not then at least when it rated a rather nice 19.0HH/30%. I include it on the list only because it appears to be at least partial source material for the new ABC series ‘My Generation’ in that it’s focussed on a class reunion ten years out of school.

    MR. INSIDE – MR. OUTSIDE -> This backdoor was for a gritty realistic series set in New York starring Mr. Hal Linden and Mr. Tony Lo Bianco. The telemovie garnered 18.0HH/28%, but was not picked up, although Mr. Linden would go on to play a New York cop in ‘Barney Miller’.


    The CBS special ‘Applause’, based on the Tony Award-winning stage production, wasn’t a pilot, but received a huge amount of coverage at the time as it starred the smokin’ Miss Lauren Bacall, who had starred in the Broadway version. The special rated a rather skinny 13.7HH/23%, but is fondly remembered and eagerly awaited for DVD release. Absolutely remarkable television.


    The Friday special ‘Lily’ was a very, very funny variety tryout for a ‘The Lily Tomlin Show’ series that impressed CBS enough that they ordered up another special / second pilot for the following fall, which unfortunately didn’t do nearly as well in the Nielsens, and ideas of a series were not pursued. Mr. Lorne Michaels, Mr. Richard Pryor and Miss Lily Tomlin, amongst a group of writers, all won Writing Emmys for this special.


    ‘NBC Saturday Night at the Movies Double Feature’: THE MAGICIAN -> The first half of the double feature was a backdoor for a mystery series starring Mr. Bill Bixby that got a pick-up for the fall 1973 season, and it rated 18.8HH/30%.

    ‘NBC Saturday Night at the Movies Double Feature’: JARRET-> this backdoor starred Mr. Glenn Ford as a private detective, which caused some pushback from the writer who felt the role was better suited to a younger, more rollicking actor. The pilot garnered 18.7HH/34%, and didn’t get picked up to series, although NBC did carry over Mr. Ford to their ‘Family Holvak’ series project.

  4. Any more info on the Mario Thomas special? Will it be released on DVD anytime soon?

    Was she still doing ‘That Girl’ when this special aired?

  5. To ‘pB’: “That Girl” left the air in 1971 after five years. That special came a year after the record of “Free to Be . . . You and Me” came out – and a year before the TV special of the same name, all of which Ms. Thomas was involved in. Meanwhile, after “That Girl’s” end, her co-star on that show, Ted Bessell, got involved in a little program called “Me and the Chimp” that premiered on CBS in early 1972 as a midseason replacement, was clobbered in the ratings by NBC’s Flip Wilson, and was cancelled in the spring.

  6. And on a side note, one of Ted Bessell’s kids in ‘Me and the Chimp’ was played by an actress named Kami Cotler. She went on to have a higher-profile role in the show that replaced ‘Me and the Chimp’ on Thursdays in the fall of 1972: ‘The Waltons.’

    ‘The Waltons’ was responsible for knocking Flip Wilson off the air in the 1973-74 season when it soared to #2 in the ratings.

  7. Even though we in 2016 have many more choices of TV channels than in the 1970’s, I do miss the “special” programs the networks would air in that era. From week to week, you would never know “who” would have a special on, until the network started promoting the special or you saw it in the TV Guide(the real one, not today’s “TV What’s Up”).. Some of the specials were good, others not so good, but most were enjoyable and got respectable ratings.

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