How come Cheers did so bad?

I’ve been watching some of the 1st season episodes of Cheers on Nick at Night. I hear that so far as the ratings went they came in dead last at the end of their first season. How come? The show wasn’t any worse then those that came out when they were popular.


Probably just took a while to catch on. It’s one of the shows that people cite when they get mad about a TV show getting taken off the air prematurely.

Somethings do take a while to sort out. Scrubs is one of the funniest-yet-heart-warming shows I’ve seen in ages, but it fared quite poorly until they ran “Scrubs” marathons in the summer to try to hook people. It seemed to have worked.

What was Cheers up against early on? Was it always on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m.?

Ah, I knew I’d find it if I looked in the right place.

In 1982, Cheers was on opposite Too Close for Comfort and Simon & Simon, which had a tremendous 8:00 lead-in, magnum p.i., the 4th rated show that year. Simon wound up 7th.

Schedule citation
Ratings citation

It wasn’t just the scheduling. In 1982 NBC was in the dumpster. They had IIRC, one successful show – the A-Team. People simply didn’t tune in to NBC to sample anything.

Hill Street Blues also finished at the bottom of the ratings in its first season and climbed steadily in the seasons to come.

NBC’s patience with these shows was one part commitment by the programming gurus and one part not having anything to replace them with.

Cheers suffered mostly from being stranded on a poor night in a wasteland of mediocre shows. It gradually built a following as word of mouth spread about its quality. It likely would have continued it’s slow growth if it hadn’t been for the major changes that occurred to the schedule in 1984. Its popularity took off when NBC premiered The Cosby Show at 8:00, moved the solidly established Family Ties to 8:30 to follow Cosby, and added Night Court at 9:30 as a follow up to Cheers. The Cosby show is unfairly given nearly all of the credit for NBC’s revival and the revival of the sitcom. The truth is that Cosby benefitted a lot from the shows the followed it. For the first time in a long time you could tune the tv to a single channel and be entertained for the entire night without changing the channel.

Wow, they should have come up with some sort of marketing gimmick for a must-see night of television like that, Number Six.