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Most popular TV shows the year you were born

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Chuck Lorre Productions

Most popular TV shows the year you were born

Starting in January, Netflix is set to debut a whopping 38 new original television shows and movies on the streaming platform. That could mean a substantial difference in television ratings, as the Nielsen ratings service edges into reporting viewership for the streaming platform. Does that mean “The Big Bang Theory” will finally be edged out, replaced by something you can binge in one day? Viewers at home will have to wait and see.

As the landscape of TV shifts, it’s the perfect time to take a look back at the history of television. Stacker went through Nielsen’s television show ratings since the invention of the TV show season in 1950, in order to find the most popular shows in the year you were born.

The data is pulled from Nielsen Media Research, up to the most recent numbers from November 2018. Each year uses the information from the fall to spring season; for example the 1950 slide uses the rankings from the October 1950–April 1951 season. For shows that aired on multiple days each week, the rating information is broken out per day.

Read on to find out the shows that were most popular the year you were born. 

RELATED: Top 100 TV shows of the '60s

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NBC

1950: Texaco Star Theatre

#1 show: "Texaco Star Theater" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 61.6)

#2 show: "Fireside Theater" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 52.6)

#3 show: "Philco TV Playhouse" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 45.3)

Milton Berle, also known as “Mr. Television,” hosted “Texaco Star Theatre,” one of the most popular television shows in history. It was a variety show with different guests and skits, evolving out of a 1930s radio show.

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CBS

1951: Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts

#1 show: "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 53.8)

#2 show: "Texaco Star Theater" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 52)

#3 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 50.9)

Another television show that evolved from a radio show, “Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts” was a 30-minute variety show. Talent scouts would bring amateur performers onto the show and they'd perform in front of a live audience. The winner was named based on an applause meter.

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Desilu Productions

1952: I Love Lucy

#1 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 67.3)

#2 show: "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 54.7)

#3 show: "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 47.1)

I Love Lucy” made Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz household names. The two starred in this show, where Desi played Ricky, a bandleader, and Lucille played Lucy, his wife who constantly got into hijinks.

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Desilu Productions

1953: I Love Lucy

#1 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 58.8)

#2 show: "Dragnet" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 53.2)

#3 show: Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 43.6)

Crime show “Dragnet” was one of the first TV series filmed in Hollywood, focusing on the lives of police officers and the work they did on cases. Jack Webb played Sgt. Joe Friday, the star character.

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Desilu Productions

1954: I Love Lucy

#1 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 49.3)

#2 show: "The Jackie Gleason Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 42.4)

#3 show: "Dragnet" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 42.1)

The Jackie Gleason Show” was a comedy variety show named for its host. One of the regular sketches was “The Honeymooners,” which eventually became its own show.

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CBS

1955: The $64,000 Question

#1 show: "The $64,000 Question" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 47.5)

#2 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 46.1)

#3 show: "The Ed Sullivan Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 39.5)

This popular game show featured contestants vying for a chance to win $64,000 by answering quiz questions to earn money. The show became infamous, however, for being part of a game show scandal where contestants were coached and the outcome was fixed.

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Desilu Productions

1956: I Love Lucy

#1 show: "I Love Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 43.7)

#2 show: "The Ed Sullivan Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 38.4)

#3 show: "General Electric Theater" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 36.9)

On “The Ed Sullivan Show” variety show, host Ed Sullivan featured different acts and helped launch the career of many musicians. The Beatles, for example, had their first live U.S. television appearance on the show; 73 million people tuned in to watch.

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CBS

1957: Gunsmoke

#1 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 43.1)

#2 show: "The Danny Thomas Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 35.3)

#3 show: "Tales of Wells Fargo" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 35.2)

Gunsmoke” was a Wild West-themed television show featuring James Arness, focused on lawlessness in Dodge City. This show also evolved from a radio show, though the cast on the radio was completely different.

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CBS

1958: Gunsmoke

#1 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 39.6)

#2 show: "Wagon Train" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 36.1)

#3 show: "Have Gun—Will Travel" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 34.3)

Wagon Train” followed a train on its way from Missouri to California after the Civil War. Ward Bond and Robert Horton led the caravan across the country in their roles as characters Maj. Seth Adams and Flint McCullough. Bond eventually died of a heart attack during the fourth season and was replaced without explanation.

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CBS

1959: Gunsmoke

#1 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 40.3)

#2 show: "Wagon Train" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 38.4)

#3 show: "Have Gun—Will Travel" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 34.7)

Western show “Have Gun—Will Travel” played on both television and the radio. It followed the exploits of a professional gunslinger, played by Richard Boone. The star also directed many of the episodes, a few dozen of which were written by “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry.

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CBS

1960: Gunsmoke

#1 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 37.3)

#2 show: "Wagon Train" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 34.2)

#3 show: "Have Gun—Will Travel" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 30.9)

Thanks to “Gunsmoke's” setting in Dodge City, the show spurred the creation of a modern catchphrase: “Get the hell out of Dodge.” The show also made it to the U.K. in the form of a comic strip named “Gun Law.”

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Revue Studios

1961: Wagon Train

#1 show: "Wagon Train" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 32.1)

#2 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 30)

#3 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 28.3)

Bonanza” followed patriarch Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, and his sons Little Joe (Michael Landon), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Adam (Pernell Roberts), as they managed their home, Ponderosa Ranch. Nearly all of the stars were also musicians who released albums; Lorne Greene went on to have a lucrative music career.

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CBS Television Network

1962: The Beverly Hillbillies

#1 show: "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 36)

#2 show: "Candid Camera" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 31.1)

#3 show: "The Red Skelton Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 29.8)

The Beverly Hillbillies” told the story of the Clampetts, a family who struck it rich finding oil on their property and moved to Beverly Hills. Most fans instantly recognize the Clampetts' truck, which is now on display at the Ralph Foster Museum in Missouri.

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CBS Television Network

1963: The Beverly Hillbillies

#1 show: "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 39.1)

#2 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 36.9)

#3 show: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 33.3)

The Dick Van Dyke Show” featured Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, and Larry Mathews. The show follows the mishaps endured by a comedy show writer, his family, and his coworkers.

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NBC

1964: Bonanza

#1 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 36.3)

#2 show: "Bewitched" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 31)

#3 show: "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 30.7)

In sitcom “Bewitched,” Elizabeth Montgomery stars as Samantha Stephens, a witch who falls in love with an ad executive in New York City. The show revolves around their lives and an often broken agreement that Samantha wouldn't use witchcraft.

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NBC

1965: Bonanza

#1 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 31.8)

#2 show: "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.8)

#3 show: "The Lucy Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.7)

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” was a comedy spinoff from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors, left Mayberry to join the Marines; the show features his hijinks that tend to get him in trouble.

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NBC

1966: Bonanza

#1 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 29.1)

#2 show: "The Red Skelton Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 28.2)

#3 show: "The Andy Griffith Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.4)

The Red Skelton Show” was a variety show full of skits, starring legendary comedian Red Skelton and featuring special guests. Skelton was initially hesitant about the television format, so he continued to do his radio show during the first two seasons just in case.

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CBS

1967: The Andy Griffith Show

#1 show: "The Andy Griffith Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.6)

#2 show: "The Lucy Show" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27)

#3 show: "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.6)

By 1967, Andy Griffith had charmed America's television viewers with “The Andy Griffith Show.” The sitcom documented the lives of Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor, his son Opie (played by Ron Howard), Andy's Aunt Bee, and bumbling deputy Barney Fife (played by Don Knotts).

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George Schlatter-Ed Friendly Productions

1968: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

#1 show: "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 31.8)

#2 show: "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.2)

#3 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 26.6)

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted this sketch comedy show and has often been called the original “Saturday Night Live.” The two hosts had a slew of celebrity guests throughout the show's tenure, including Goldie Hawn, Don Rickles, and Bob Newhart.

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George Schlatter-Ed Friendly Productions

1969: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

#1 show: "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 26.3)

#2 show: "Gunsmoke" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.9)

#3 show: "Bonanza" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 24.8)

This year, “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In” won a Golden Globe for the best television show. The name of the show was modeled after '60s youth protests, altering “sit-in” and “teach-in” to match the comedy theme.

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Universal Televsion

1970: Marcus Welby, M.D.

#1 show: "Marcus Welby, M.D." (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 29.6)

#2 show: "The Flip Wilson Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 27.9)

#3 show: "Here's Lucy" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 26.1)

Robert Young and James Brolin starred as Dr. Marcus Welby and his assistant Dr. Steven Kiley in “Marcus Welby, M.D.” The drama features the two doctors as they attempt to treat patients in a world where patient care is more impersonal than ever.

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Tandem Productions

1971: All in the Family

#1 show: "All in the Family" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 34)

#2 show: "The Flip Wilson Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 28.2)

#3 show: "Marcus Welby, M.D." (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 27.8)

All in the Family” was a sitcom that documented the world of working man Archie Bunker as he argued with his family about modern issues. Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton played Archie and his wife Edith, respectively.

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Tandem Productions

1972: All in the Family

#1 show: "All in the Family" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 33.3)

#2 show: "Sanford and Son" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 27.6)

#3 show: "Hawaii Five-O" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.2)

Fred and Lamont Sanford were the main characters in “Sanford and Son.” The show features the father-son duo, as they mange Fred's junk dealer business. Redd Foxx played Fred, and Demond Wilson played his son Lamont.

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Tandem Productions

1973: All in the Family

#1 show: "All in the Family" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 31.2)

#2 show: "The Waltons" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 28.1)

#3 show: "Sanford and Son" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 27.5)

Feel-good sitcom “The Waltons” was about a family that lived in the Virginia mountains during the Depression and World War II, told from the perspective of the family's eldest son, John-Boy. As a result of the show's popularity, “Goodnight, John-Boy” became a popular phrase for viewers as they went to bed each night.

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Tandem Productions

1974: All in the Family

#1 show: "All in the Family" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 30.2)

#2 show: "Sanford and Son" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 29.6)

#3 show: "Chico and the Man" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 28.5)

Chico and the Man” starred Freddie Prinze as Chico and Jack Albertson as Ed Brown, and tells the story of the two working together in a mechanic's garage. Prinze killed himself during the third season, and the show never recovered; it was canceled after the fourth.

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Tandem Productions

1975: All in the Family

#1 show: "All in the Family" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 30.1)

#2 show: "Rich Man, Poor Man" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 28)

#3 show: "Laverne & Shirley" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 27.5)

Rich Man, Poor Man” was the second-highest rated show in the 1975–1976 television season. The miniseries starred Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss as the Jordache brothers, following their lives from World War II to the end of the 1960s.

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Henderson Productions

1976: Happy Days

#1 show: "Happy Days" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 31.5)

#2 show: "Laverne & Shirley" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 30.9)

#3 show: "ABC Monday Night Movie" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 26)

Happy Days” was set in Milwaukee in the '50s and '60s and told the story of the Cunningham family and son Richie's friends. Ron Howard played Richie, and Henry Winkler played the other mainstay in the series, local bad boy Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli—also known as “The Fonz.” Along Milwaukee's riverwalk today, there's a bronze statue of Henry Winkler as The Fonz to honor his time on the show.

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Henderson Productions

1977: Laverne & Shirley

#1 show: "Laverne & Shirley" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 31.6)

#2 show: "Happy Days" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 31.4)

#3 show: "Three's Company" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 28.3)

Laverne & Shirley” was a spinoff of “Happy Days,” featuring two female roommates that lived in Milwaukee and worked at a brewery nearby. In the show, they eventually moved to California after being replaced by machines at their job.

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Henderson Productions

1978: Laverne & Shirley

#1 show: "Laverne & Shirley" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 30.5)

#2 show: "Three's Company" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 30.3)

#3 show: "Mork & Mindy" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 28.6)

Three's Company” was another show about roommates. In the show, Janet and Chrissy (played by Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, respectively) need a roommate, so they offer a spot in their apartment to Jack, played by John Ritter.

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CBS News Productions

1979: 60 Minutes

#1 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 28.4)

#2 show: "Three's Company" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 26.3)

#3 show: "That's Incredible!" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 25.8)

This televised news magazine has been continuously on the air since 1968. The first hosts of “60 Minutes” were Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace. The show broadcasts hour-long investigations into controversial issues.

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CBS

1980: Dallas

#1 show: "Dallas" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 34.5)

#2 show: "The Dukes of Hazzard" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.3)

#3 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27)

Soap opera-style “Dallas” followed the exploits of a Texas oil king named J.R. Ewing, played by Larry Hagman. The unscrupulous characters on the show indulged in manipulation and blackmail.

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CBS

1981: Dallas

#1 show: "Dallas" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 28.4)

#2 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 27.7)

#3 show: "The Jeffersons" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 23.4)

The Jeffersons” featured a newly rich African-American family that moved to a luxury apartment building; it was a spinoff of “All in the Family.” Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford played married couple George and Louise Jefferson.

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CBS News Productions

1982: 60 Minutes

#1 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.5)

#2 show: "Dallas" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 24.6)

#3 show: "M*A*S*H" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 22.6)

M*A*S*H” was a sitcom about a mobile army surgical hospital in the Korean War. Alan Alda starred as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce. The pilot for the wildly popular show was written in just two days.

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CBS

1983: Dallas

#1 show: "Dallas" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.7)

#2 show: 60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 24.2)

#3 show: "Dynasty" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 24.1)

Dynasty” followed the lives of two warring oil families, the Colbys and the Carringtons, in Denver. The show is currently heading into a second season of a reboot on the CW.

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Aaron Spelling Productions

1984: Dyansty

#1 show: "Dynasty" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 25)

#2 show: "Dallas" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 24.7)

#3 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 24.2)

The Cosby Show” took third place in the ratings the first year it aired. The star of the show, Bill Cosby, played obstetrician Heathcliff Huxtable. Cosby is currently serving three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault.

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The Carsey-Warner Company

1985: The Cosby Show

#1 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 33.7)

#2 show: "Family Ties" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 30)

#3 show: "Murder, She Wrote" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 25.3)

In “Family Ties,” another family sitcom, viewers followed the Keaton family—Michael J. Fox starred as the son, Alex—as they try to raise a family of vastly different personalities in the suburbs. Originally, the creators wanted Matthew Broderick to play Alex, but Broderick turned them down.

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The Carsey-Warner Company

1986: The Cosby Show

#1 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 34.9)

#2 show: "Family Ties" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 32.7)

#3 show: "Cheers" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 27.2)

Cheers” chronicled the life of bartender Sam Malone, played by Ted Danson, and the other employees and regulars. The show coined the tagline “where everybody knows your name.”

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The Carsey-Warner Company

1987: The Cosby Show

#1 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 27.8)

#2 show: "A Different World" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 25)

#3 show: "Cheers" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 23.4)

A Different World” was actually a spinoff of “The Cosby Show,” initially focusing on daughter Denise Huxtable's life at college. Lisa Bonet left after the first season, though, and the show began to gain high praise following her departure.

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The Carsey-Warner Company

1988: The Cosby Show

#1 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 25.6)

#2 show: "Roseanne" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 23.8)

#3 show: "A Different World" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 23)

Family comedy “Roseanne” took second place in ratings in the first year it aired. Roseanne Barr and John Goodman starred as Roseanne and Dan Conner in a series that highlighted the trials and tribulations of raising a family in Illinois.

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The Carsey-Warner Company

1989: The Cosby Show and Roseanne (tie)

Tied for #1 show: "The Cosby Show" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 23.1)

Tied for #1 show: "Roseanne" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 23.1)

#3 show: "Cheers" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 22.7)

Bill Cosby, patriarch of the Huxtable family on “The Cosby Show,” was recently convicted of indecent assault. Roseanne has faced some controversy as well, thanks to a racist tweet that caused ABC to cancel the reboot of her show.

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NBC

1990: Cheers

#1 show: "Cheers" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 21.3)

#2 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 20.6)

#3 show: "Roseanne" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 18.1)

Sam Malone, the fictional bartender in “Cheers,” was supposedly a former baseball player for the Boston Red Sox. The iconic bar's inspiration is actually a place you can visit in Boston.

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CBS News Productions // Keith Richardson // YouTube

1991: 60 Minutes

#1 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 21.9)

#2 show: "Roseanne" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 19.9)

#3 show: "Murphy Brown" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 18.6)

Candice Bergen's show “Murphy Brown” followed Bergen in her role as Murphy Brown, an opinionated broadcast journalist. A reboot launched this year for one season; it was cancelled shortly after.

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CBS News Productions

1992: 60 Minutes

#1 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 21.9)

#2 show: 'Roseanne" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 20.7)

#3 show: "Home Improvement" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 19.4)

Home Improvement” followed Tim “The Toolman” Taylor (played by Tim Allen) and his assistant Al Borland (played by Richard Karn) as they mucked through a TV show called “Tool Time.” Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who played Taylor's son Randy, quickly became a teen heartthrob during his time on the show.

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CBS News Productions

1993: 60 Minutes

#1 show: "60 Minutes" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 20.9)

#2 show: "Home Improvement" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 20.4)

#3 show: "Seinfeld" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 19.4)

In 1993, “Seinfeld” was just hitting its stride as the “show about nothing.” It starred Jerry Seinfeld as the main character, with his pals George (Jason Alexander), Kramer (Michael Richards), and Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), following the daily life of the foursome in New York City.

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Castle Rock Entertainment

1994: Seinfeld

#1 show: "Seinfeld" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 20.6)

#2 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 20)

#3 show: "Home Improvement" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 19.5)

ER,” a medical drama, initially starred George Clooney as a doctor at a county hospital's emergency room in Chicago. The show was originally a movie script rather than a series, written by Michael Crichton.

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Warner Bros.

1995: ER

#1 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 22)

#2 show: "Seinfeld" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 21.2)

#3 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 18.7)

Sitcom “Friends” followed the lives of six friends living in Manhattan. It helped launch the careers of stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, and Matthew Perry, and coined an avalanche of catchphrases, such as “How you doin'?” and “We were on a break!”

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Warner Bros.

1996: ER

#1 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 21.1)

#2 show: "Seinfeld" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 20.5)

#3 show: "Suddenly Susan" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 17)

Suddenly Susan” starred Brooke Shields. The show chronicled character Susan Keane's life working at a magazine. Producers, after seeing Shields on an episode of “Friends,” designed the entire series just for her to star in.

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Castle Rock Entertainment

1997: Seinfeld

#1 show: "Seinfeld" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 21.7)

#2 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 20.4)

#3 show: "Veronica's Closet" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 16.6)

In “Veronica's Closet,” Kirstie Alley starred as Veronica Chase, a woman who runs a company focusing on lingerie and books. Ratings slowed after the departure of several characters on the show without explanation.

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Warner Bros.

1998: ER

#1 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 17.8)

#2 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 15.7)

#3 show: "Frasier" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 15.6)

“Cheers” spin-off “Frasier” followed the life of Dr. Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, as he moved his successful therapy business from Boston to Seattle and began work as a therapy radio talk show host. The producers didn't want crossover from “Cheers” to overshadow the show, so they picked a setting as far away from Boston as possible.

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Buena Vista Television

1999: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

#1 show: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 18.6—Tuesday, 17.5—Thursday, 17.1—Sunday)

#2 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 16.9)

#3 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 14)

In quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” Regis Philbin hosted contestants who answered questions of increasing difficulty to hopefully win a million dollars. Philbin began his long career in television as a page for “The Tonight Show” in 1956.

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Mark Burnett Productions

2000: Survivor

#1 show: "Survivor" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 17.4)

#2 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 15)

#3 show: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 13.7—Wednesday, 13—Tuesday)

Survivor,” a reality game show, soared to the top of the charts in its inaugural year. Contestants were dropped on a deserted island and had to compete in challenges to see who of the 16 could survive the longest. The winner won $1 million.

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NBC

2001: Friends

#1 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 15)

#2 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 14.5)

#3 show: "ER" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 14.2)

Crime drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” followed a group of forensics evidence investigators as they solved crimes in Las Vegas. The show ended its 15-season run in 2015.

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CBS Productions

2002: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

#1 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 16.3)

#2 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 13.9)

#3 show: "Joe Millionaire" (Network: FOX; Nielsen rating: 13.3)

Reality show “Joe Millionaire” only lasted one season. In it, a fake millionaire attempted to woo 20 women, and the truth about his income was revealed in the final episode to a winning woman who had to decide if she wanted to stay with the pauper who wasn't a prince.

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CBS Productions

2003: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

#1 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 15.9)

#2 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 14.9—Tuesday, 14.1—Wednesday)

#3 show: "Friends" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 13.6)

Reality game show “American Idol” burst onto the scene and took the second-highest ratings the second year it aired. The singing competition, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, put 12 amateur vocalists onstage to vie for a recording contract.

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CBS Productions

2004: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

#1 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 16.5)

#2 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 15.7—Tuesday, 15.3—Wednesday)

#3 show: "Desperate Housewives" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 14.5)

In “Desperate Housewives,” a group of suburban housewives have their lives turned upside-down when one of their friends kills herself. The set for the show was also used for “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Munsters.”

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Fox

2005: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 17.6—Tuesday, 17.2—Wednesday)

#2 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 15.6)

#3 show: "Desperate Housewives" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 13.8)

Kelly Clarkson was the first winner of “American Idol.” She's considered the second most successful idol winner in history; Carrie Underwood takes the top spot, according to one music critic.

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Fox

2006: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 17.3—Wednesday, 16.8—Tuesday)

#2 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 12.7—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)

#3 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 12.7)

In popular reality show “Dancing with the Stars,” celebrities join professional dancers onstage to master new dance styles. If they win, they get a trophy. Interestingly, NFL players have a history as some of the best contestants on the show.

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Fox

2007: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 16.1—Tuesday, 15.9—Wednesday)

#2 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 14—Monday, 12.6—Wednesday, 12.3—Tuesday)

#3 show: "Desperate Housewives" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 11.6)

The celebrities on “Dancing with the Stars” earn a full base salary of about $125,000—but that doesn't mean they're any good. ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne was crowned the show's worst dancer ever, and rapper Master P earned the lowest score in the history of the show.

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Fox

2008: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 15.1—Wednesday, 14.6—Tuesday)

#2 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 12.9—Monday)

#3 show: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.5)

Dancing is hard, and “Dancing with the Stars” contestants can prove it. Bill Nye hurt his quad, Tom DeLay suffered stress fractures in both his feet, Misty May-Treanor tore her Achilles tendon, and Steve-O hurt his back.

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Fox

2009: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 13.7—Tuesday, 13.3—Wednesday)

#2 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 12.6)

#3 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.5)

Crime show “NCIS” follows a fictional Naval Criminal Investigative Service as it investigates and solves crimes. The NCIS is a real organization, however, and once was shown in a background shot in the series.

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Fox

2010: American Idol

#1 show: "American Idol" (Network: Fox; Nielsen rating: 14.5—Wednesday, 13.4—Thursday)

#2 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 13.8)

#3 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.7)

Sunday Night Football” is a weekly broadcast of NFL football games. One of the most highly watched games was the Dec. 29, 2013, matchup of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys; the game determined the division champion and decided who would go to the playoffs.

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NBC Sports

2011: Sunday Night Football

#1 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.4)

#2 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.3)

#3 show: "Dancing with the Stars" (Network: ABC; Nielsen rating: 12)

Another big “Sunday Night Football” matchup was the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 23, 2014. It was a huge win for the Cowboys. The two teams maintain a fierce rivalry.

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Belisarius Productions

2012: NCIS

#1 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.4)

#2 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.4)

#3 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.6)

Sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” follows three friends—Penny, Sheldon, and Leonard—and the things they learn from each other as neighbors. The show had two different pilots, because the network didn't like the first version, but saw potential in the series.

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NBC Sports

2013: Sunday Night Football & NCIS (TIE)

Tied for #1 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.6)

Tied for #1 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.6)

#3 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.3)

When Jim Parsons auditioned for “The Big Bang Theory,” he wasn't quite sure what it was. He initially confused Chuck Lorre with Chuck Woolery and thought it was a game show.

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NBC Sports

2014: Sunday Night Football

#1 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.3)

Tied for #2 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.6)

Tied for #2 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.6)

Do you know Penny's last name on “The Big Bang Theory?” No one does, and it's intentional. The jury is out on if it will ever be revealed.

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Belisarius Productions

2015: NCIS

#1 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.8)

#2 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 12.6)

#3 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 12.5)

Several of the characters on “The Big Bang Theory” are musicians, and two of the stars learned new instruments just for the role. Johnny Galecki has played the cello since childhood, and Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik learned the theremin and harp for the series.

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Chuck Lorre Productions

2016: The Big Bang Theory

#1 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.5)

#2 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.4)

#3 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 11.1)

Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson wrote the theme song to “The Big Bang Theory.” He initially didn't want to because his previous work for television had been rejected, but he agreed to do it when Lorre told him he was their only choice.

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Chuck Lorre Productions

2017: The Big Bang Theory

#1 show: "The Big Bang Theory" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 11.1)

Tied for #2 show: "NCIS" (Network: CBS; Nielsen rating: 10.3)

Tied for #2 show: "Sunday Night Football" (Network: NBC; Nielsen rating: 10.3)

“The Big Bang Theory's” main cast members are some of the highest paid comedy actors in television. As of 2017, five of them were earning about $900,000 an episode.

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