We Look Back At The Top TV Shows of 1997

Categories: Top TV Show Ratings By Season,TV Ratings Reference

Written By

May 17th, 2008

er.gif1997: The Simpsons passes The Flintstones as the longest running prime-time animated series. Bryant Gumbel leaves the Today Show.

Notable TV premieres of the year: South Park (Comedy Central), King of the Hill (Fox), Just Shoot Me! (NBC), Buffy The Vampire Slayer (WB), Ally McBeal (Fox). Notable TV finales of the year: Married...With Children, Martin, Coach, and Rosanne.

Top 20 Prime Time Broadcast Programs, September 1996-May 1997:

1 E.R. NBC 21.2 35
2 Seinfeld NBC 20.5 32
3 Suddenly Susan NBC 17 27
4 Friends NBC 16.8 28
4 Naked Truth NBC 16.8 27
6 Fired Up NBC 16.5 26
7 NFL Monday Night Football ABC 16.2 27
8 Single Guy NBC 14.1 23
9 Home Improvement ABC 14 22
10 Touched By An Angel CBS 13.6 21
11 60 Minutes CBS 13.3 23
12 20/20 ABC 12.8 23
13 NYPD Blue ABC 12.5 21
14 CBS Sunday Movie CBS 12.1 19
15 Primetime Live ABC 11.9 20
16 Frasier NBC 11.8 18
17 Spin City ABC 11.7 18
18 NBC Sunday Night Movie NBC 11.5 18
18 Drew Carey Show ABC 11.5 18
20 X-Files FOX 11.4 17

NBC's Thursday Night "Must See TV" was at or near the peak of its drawing power. NBC had 7 of the top 8 shows, the most dominant year for a network we have yet seen in our "We Look Back" series. That dominance is usually attributed to NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff who, sadly, passed away in August, 1997. NBC has gone downhill since then to the point where ratings no longer matter to them.

It's hard to believe that just 11 years ago, 10 of the top 20 shows were sitcoms (Seinfeld, Suddenly Susan, Friends, Naked Truth, Fired Up, Single Guy, Home Improvement, Frasier, Spin City, Drew Cary Show), today there is one (Two and A Half Men).

I was surprised to see the NBC Sunday Night Movie in the list so recently. Major network broadcasting of an old movie in prime-time seems like an idea from a bygone era.

As mentioned above, the network v. network competition was lopsided, NBC having 9 of the top 20, ABC 7, CBS 3, and Fox only 1.

For a bit of perspective, the top rated show this season, Tuesday's American Idol, Season To Date HH rating is 16.1 and its share is 24. Don't forget that a HH ratings point today means a lot more households than it did in the past.

ER title card courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2005 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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