In another triumph for good programming, "Sarah, Plain and Tall" was the most-watched program on television last week.
According to A.C. Nielsen, the CBS Sunday Night Movie was a big winner, pulling in a 23.1 rating and a 35 share. That was 1.3 rating points higher than the No. 2 show, "Cheers."Not only did "Sarah" win, but it did so against strong competition. The Hallmark Hall of Fame production blew away "In Broad Daylight" on NBC (which pulled a 13.7 rating and finished 29th for the week) and the much-hyped "Son of the Morning Star" on ABC (an 11.7 rating and 42nd place.)
All of which should tell network executives something - if they put on good, family-oriented programming, Americans will tune in.
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" is not just an isolated instance of this phenomena. Just looking at the previous two Hallmark shows indicates the same thing.
Last December, Hallmark's "Decoration Day" on NBC was the No. 7 show the week it aired. And last May, CBS' "Caroline?" pulled off a big surprise - it beat highly touted movies about Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and the Beach Boys.
Not only was "Caroline?" No. 4 the week it aired, it was the most-watched movie on television during the May sweeps.
So the evidence is there. But will the execs notice? Probably not.
(NBC, to its discredit, didn't even think enough of "Decoration Day" to schedule it during the November sweeps.)
In the battle among the networks, strange things continue to happen. ABC won again, and perennial frontrunner NBC was third for the third week in a row.
The figures showed ABC with a 12.7 rating, CBS with a 12.4 and NBC with a 12.1. All three networks averaged a 20 share. (Each rating point represents 931,000 homes and a share is the percentage of homes actually watching TV.)
For the season to date, NBC is still in front (with a 12.8/21) but the other two networks are nipping at the Peacock's heels - ABC has averaged a 12.6/21 and CBS a 12.3/20.
NBC's explanation for its recent tumble is that the war in the gulf has disrupted viewing habits, and Americans are tuning in to comedies to divert themselves.
Nice try, but NBC has more comedies than either of the other two networks.
Here are the top 10 shows, their network and rating: 1. "The CBS Sunday Movie: Sarah, Plain and Tall," 23.1; 2. "Cheers," NBC, 21.8; 3. "The American Music Awards," ABC, 20.4; 4. "60 Minutes," CBS, 19.3; 5. "A Different World," NBC, 18.3; 6. "The Golden Girls," NBC, 17.7; 7. "America's Funniest Home Videos," ABC, 17.6; 8. "Empty Nest," NBC, 17.5; 9. "Family Matters," ABC, 17.4; 10. "Full House," ABC, 17.