Propelled by a huge share of the audience for "The Cosby Show," and with 11 of its other programs among last week's 20 highest-rated prime-time shows, NBC handily won the first week of the new television season, A.C. Nielsen Co. figures showed Tuesday.
The Peacock network, bidding to unseat longtime ratings leader CBS this season, had an average rating last week of 19.3, triumphing over CBS by 1.9 ratings points--more than 1.6 million homes. ABC was a distant third. (A rating point is equal to 859,000 homes.)
NBC's first-round victory was marred somewhat by a second-place showing for the debut Sunday of its much-publicized, much-awaited "Amazing Stories" by fantasy maestro Steven Spielberg. True, the first episode, which some critics said was fine in production values but feeble of story, was the nation's 12th most-watched program last week.
But "Stories" and NBC's "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," which follows "Stories" and was No. 18 in the standings, were also-rans in their time period against the new-season return of "Murder, She Wrote," one of five CBS offerings that made the Top 20 last week.
The "Murder" episode--it reunited star Angela Lansbury with guest star Len Cariou, who once shared the Broadway stage with her in "Sweeney Todd"--was the week's sixth most-watched offering, seen in nearly 21 million homes.
Another Sunday offering from CBS, "Amos," a TV movie starring Kirk Douglas, pleased the network even more. It came out fifth in the rankings and first in its time period against rival movie hits--"First Blood," aired by NBC, and ABC's broadcast of "Tootsie."
A total of 25 returning series and seven new ones premiered last week. The highest-rated newcomer was the Spielberg entry.
But the second-season return of Bill Cosby's wry, gently humorous family sitcom on NBC was easily the nation's most-watched program in the week ending Sunday. It drew a whopping 48% share of the estimated audience in its time period and was seen in more than 27 million homes, according to Nielsen figures. NBC's following Thursday-night sitcom, "Family Ties," came in second in the rankings, getting a 45% share of the audience.
The week wasn't much fun for ABC, though. It only had three series in the top 20--the new-season returns of "Dynasty," "Hotel" and "Who's the Boss?," which were 3rd, 14th and 17th, respectively, in the standings.
Alan Thicke, whose syndicated talk show flopped last season, gave ABC some hope with the debut of his new "Growing Pains" sitcom (21st on the Nielsen charts). But the return of "Love Boat" caused no joy for either ABC or producer Aaron Spelling.
Despite all its glitter and the promise of a musical number each week by The Love Boat Mermaids, the ninth-season launching of "Boat" was not accompanied by Nielsen whoopee. It ranked 46th in the week's ratings.
The second episode of ABC's new "Spenser: For Hire" was completely shot down by the second hour of the two-hour new season-premieres Friday of CBS' rival "Dallas" (seventh-ranked last week) and NBC's "Miami Vice" (eighth-ranked). "Spenser," starring Robert Urich, came in last.
The new season has 29 more weeks to go.
That one week's Nielsen triumph doesn't necessarily continue was indicated by NBC's new "The Golden Girls," which went into regular season competition last week. The second most-watched program the week it debuted, "Girls" slipped to 20th place in last week's ratings.