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Most popular TV shows the year you were born

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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