Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 years ago in TV ratings PART 4: February 1986 Nielsens for animated shows in the weekday early fringe time period reported by independent stations

Although the Nielsen ratings for February of 1986 don't technically qualify as "25 years ago" the numbers are still important analytical tools for roboplastic archaeologists looking to study the popularity of cartoon robot Volkswagens and their transforming Tyrannosaurus cohorts. I'm taking a look this time at the February '86 ratings for shows in the 'Early Fringe' time period (Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) as reported by independent stations. Independent UHF stations of the 80s were traditionally the realm of the half hour toy commercial and they were where I did most of my afterschool cartoon watching. Since the independents had a much wider variety of animation in their lineups than the networks, the numbers for the independents give a more complete comparison of the relative popularity of the most cartoons. But first here's the entire top ten based on Kids' share and rank for the early fringe as reported by independent stations in February '86:

Kids' Rank/ShareHousehold Rank/ShareProgram# of StationsFeb '85 ShrMay '85 ShrNov '85 Shr
01/3903/12Diff'rent Strokes34121111
02/3217/10Scooby Doo22101010
06/3002/13Three's Company9151313
06/3004/12Too Close for Comfort20131213
06/3015/10G.I. Joe73111011
09/2913/10Little House on the Prairie1110910
09/2916/10He-Man & the MotU

February '86 was the first sweeps period after the legendary November '85 sweeps when Thundercats, Transformers, She-Ra, G.I. Joe and He-Man fought it out in a very toy cartoon heavy Kids' top ten. In November the only non-toy cartoons in the top 10 were Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry and perennial ratings champion Woody Woodpecker. For whatever reason Woody Woodpecker disappeared completely from the ratings in February '86, leaving the non-animated Diff'rent Strokes in the number 1 kids' spot. Tom & Jerry also dropped out of the top ten and the two vacancies left by them and Woody were filled by the live action shows Little House on the Prairie and Too Close for Comfort. One of the criticisms leveled against the ratings system was that the kids numbers were largely inaccurate because children didn't take their reporting responsibilities seriously. I tend to agree that something fishy is going on here because Little House and TCfC were mind numbingly boring to me when I was 11 back in '85. I can't imagine them being more popular than He-Man. Then again, maybe I'm discounting the most powerful demographic of all: pre-teen girls!

Feb '86 was also the second consecutive report to use Kids' rank and share, allowing for a little bit of kid-centric ratings continuity to be established. Transformers and Thundercats continued to be the top toy based shows in February 86, both tying for third with a 31 share. In November '85 they were in fourth and fifth place with Transformers taking a 34 share on the kids chart, slightly edging out Thundercats which had a 33. Although they both improved in rank, the slight erosion in overall share indicated that the popularity of toy based cartoons was beginning to decline.

Other animated shows outside the kids' top ten:

Kids' Rank/ShareHousehold Rank/ShareProgram# of StationsFeb '85 ShrMay '85 ShrNov '85 Shr
22/2232/07Tom & Jerry5766
27/2130/07Challenge of the GoBots24988
37/1440/05Bugs Bunny7564
39/1241/04Inspector Gadget13554
42/1147/03Jayce & the Wheeled Warriors22544
45/1048/03Super Friends7664

After debuting on the November '85 ratings in 17th place with a 27 share, M.A.S.K. loses a few points and drops to 19th, which is still not too bad. GoBots falls five places to 27th and Voltron actually climbs up the chart, going from 37th in November to 29th in February. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors in 42nd place only falls one spot compared to November and Tranzor-Z rockets to 39th from 46th. Robotech at 46th remains the least popular cartoon in the kids' top 50. I am still amazed how Tranzor-Z remains so obscure in pop culture history and Robotech so lauded when the actual ratings of the day reveal Robotech's popularity to be well below that of most every other cartoon. It's possible the absence of Tranzor-Z merchandise in North America contributed to this while the less popular Robotech was afforded a toyline. Or maybe a cartoon about a robot that was just a robot didn't make as much of an impression as one about transforming robot fighter planes. Maybe the key to pop culture immortality in 1985 was not ratings popularity but whether or not a cartoon had Shoji Kawamori jet robots you could buy at K-Mart.

NEXT TIME ON RATINGSTASTIC ROBOTCARTOONALYPSE: The February '86 Early Fringe network ratings-featuring possibly the most robotastic top ten ever!

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