A show is only as good as its ratings. This is the universal truth for television because, sadly, without good ratings, shows get thrown out just as they’re getting started.
Today, ratings make the difference in whether a show will ever get the chance to progress past a first season or even a promo.
For famous sitcoms of the 1900s that is still true. So how do some of those sitcoms sit in ratings?
‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘I Love Lucy,’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver’
The TV show “Leave It to Beaver” was on from 1957 to 1963. It focuses on the life of Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver and his adventures at home, school, and around his neighborhood.
According to IMDb, the show never reached the top ten in ratings. The show had been receiving good ratings when the star, Jerry Matthews, wanted to retire from acting and focus on his education. The series was the first in prime time TV that actually had a series finale.
“Gunsmoke” is one of the greatest TV Westerns of all time. It had been so long that some fans split up the show into “eras” when they talk about it. When the show started focusing more on guest characters and reduced the stars to supporting characters, the show dropped from No. 1 to No. 36.
Then the show was briefly canceled and renewed later by William Paley. A new generation saw the show and boosted the ratings to No. 2 and it continued eight more years on the air. It had consistently good ratings. It was No. 1 from 1957 to 1961 and in 1970 was No. 2.
“I Love Lucy” was one of the most popular sitcoms of the time and it kept that popularity all through its run. According to Hollywood Reporter, the show was America’s No. 1 show six months into airing. It had 11 million families tuning in during a time in history where only 15 million had TV sets.
The show remained like this for four of the six seasons. It was the first show to end its run at the very top of the Nielsen ratings. This would again be matched by the very popular “The Andy Griffith Show.” The final season of “The Andy Griffith Show” took place in 1967-1968 and was rated No. 1.
‘Bonzana,’ ‘Threes Company,’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ Ratings
Another popular Western is “Bonzana.” According to Insider, it consistently sat at the top of the ratings. It would fall between No.1 and No. 3 in ratings.
The sitcom starring John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt, “Threes Company,” was also consistently popular. It remained in the top three in TV from 1977 to 1980.
“The Brady Bunch” never received a spot in the Top 30 programs of Nielsen ratings. The highest it went was No. 34.
Oftentimes, much judgement of a show’s quality is based on its last season and last episode. Shows were canceled without a true resolution and this is often true for sitcoms. For “M*A*S*H” however, the final episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” is the most-watched finale of any TV series.
As for ratings the show reached its peak at No. 4 in 1974. It was on TV from 1972 to 1983. It is No. 5 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of best comedy shows.
The list also puts “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” at No. 26. The show had consistently high ratings and received 29 Primetime Emmy Awards.