"Most viewed episode"... of a TV series-rating criteria?

For some idiotic reason, I was thinking of “The Beverly Hillbillies”. In the confused jumbles of my mind (I’m home with a fever), I remembered hearing that the episode where Granny boxed the kangaroo was the highest viewed episode. Well, to me, it was one of the unfunniest, but, people’s tastes vary, etc…
But, it occurred to me: Say you have a great series, with say 1 million viewers a week. Say week of October 1 was the funniest ever (by ‘everybody’s’ standard, whatever that is.) Wouldn’t the October 8 episode be the most viewed, at least in the 60s? I mean, even today, if a show is hilarious, that means that the 1 million viewers will think it is hilarious. They won’t call people to watch it, would they/you/we? Everybody would be telling everybody the next day at work, school, etc… and thus, generate more interest for the following week, I would think. So that would mean that the October 8 episode could be the ep. with the highest audience, and still be the unfunniest and most boring POS to come down the pike. Am I thinking this correctly, or, am I at the hallucination stage?


If what you’re asking is “Does being the most-watched episode of a series correlate to being the best/funniest/whateverest,” then the answer is probably “no.”

Being the most-watched episode of a series, certainly prior to the era of DVRs and on-demand, has, I suspect, more to do with how well-hyped the episode was and what was programmed against it.

Indeed. In those days, all the viewer had to go on was the promos that the network ran for an upcoming episode, and maybe the brief capsule description in TV Guide (“The Beverly Hillbillies: Granny boxes a kangaroo. (New, 30 min.)”)

For a regular series, unless something had been announced ahead of time (a special guest star, a cliffhanger, etc.), “most watched” probably had a high degree of blind chance to it.

“Most watched” can also correlate to “in best time slot”. There are several shows, such as “The X Files” and “Friends”, where the most watched episode is the one that was on after the Super Bowl. It had absolutely nothing to do with how people liked or disliked the episode.
“Most hyped” is the other indicator for “most watched”. After all, the final episode of “Seinfeld” was far and away the most watched episode, and the majority opinion of it was negative.

Of course then you have the stuff like the finale of the Fugitive, where everyone wanted to see how it ended.

In its day, ***The Beverly Hillbillies ***was the most popular show on television by a wide margin. An ordinary 1963 or 1964 episode of ***The Beverly Hillbillies *** got ratings that ranked with the Super Bowl.

SOMETIMES, a popular show will get spectacular ratings for one special episode (i.e. the finale of MASH*** or the “Who Shot JR?” episode of Dallas)

But the Hillbillies were a rare, special case- they got phenomenal ratings with just regular episodes.

For what it’s worth, the highest rated series episode of all time is probably Elvis’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan, which drew a 82.6 rating in 1956.

Actually, the most-watched episode of a series probably coincided with a cold, rainy weekday evening when there wasn’t much going on.

To test my hypothesis I looked up the ratings for Roots, which is a perfect test case. It ran for eight consecutive days (Sunday through Sunday) with the final episode being one of the most-watched programs of all time. So you’d expect the ratings to build each night, right?

Sunday (1/23/77) – 28.84 million households watching
Monday – 31.40 million
Tuesday – 31.90 million. Okay, we’ve got a good rise going here.
Wednesday – 31.19 million
Thursday – 32.54 million. Back on track now.
Friday – 32.68 million. That was back in the day when people actually watched TV on Fridays.
Saturday – 30.12 million
Sunday (1/30/77) – 36.38 million

So if you want a most-watched episode, the lesson is clear. Don’t show it on a Saturday.

Only somewhat related, but tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the most watched episode of MASH, the finale. Fun fact! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the input, all!

Just for comparison, what were the ratings for the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1964?

I suspect there are Chinese TV shows that draw 10x the highest US TV rating of all time.

You need:

  1. Poor channel selection
  2. Tons of eyeballs
  3. Nothing else to do

Quick question, hh… By “highest viewed,” do you mean the episode with the highest ratings on its original airing, or the highest viewed episode ever, including reruns and syndication?

I’m not sure how easy it would be to even compile data on the latter, but certainly the factors determining the most-watched episode would be very different in each case.

There are also numerous ways to rate programmes. Do you look at peak viewing figures which is the amount of viewers a show gets at a particular time (figures fluctuate minute by minute of course), or reach which is the number of people who watch any part of the show? Although then you have to specify how much they need to watch in order to count. Usually TV companies will look for 3 consecutive minutes. There’s also share, which is the percentage of all the people watching any TV at that time watching your show. Then there are ratings. Each rating is 1% of the total audience of people who COULD be watching (everyone who has access to a TV). So it gets complicated.