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Monday, March 18, 2024

F TROOP in the Nielsen Ratings Part Four - What REALLY Was, and Wasn't--and What Might Have Been

And now the thrilling conclusion of the F TROOP in the Nielsen Ratings series.  For you latecomers to the party, first, a chance to catch up: 

F TROOP in the Nielsen Ratings PART ONE at this link

F TROOP in the Nielsen Ratings PART TWO at this link

F TROOP in the Nielsen Ratings PART THREE at this link

I'm providing more context to the findings on the 1966-67 television season (see Part Two above for more), the show's second and unfortunately last.  We can dig into myths that had forty years to gain traction now, thanks to the newfound availability of Nielsen pocketbooks courtesy of Ratings Ryan.  Long-held perception and ratings reality have been two very different things throughout this exercise.  Thanks for checking out my ramblings over your morning coffee--I sincerely hope I've made it worth your while.  

F TROOP improved ABC's fortunes in its time slot again in 1966-67.

After BATMAN and GIDGET replaced SHINDIG! and DONNA REED for the second half of 1965-66 to kick off ABC's Thursday lineup, GIDGET averaged a rating of 18.6 for 14 airings (260.2 total) and a 29.2 share following BATMAN from January 12 to April 14, 1966.  Decent numbers on the surface, but losing over one-third of BATMAN's audience (27.0 rating/43 share).   When F TROOP moved into the time slot that fall, it improved on both GIDGET numbers during the season's first half (18.8/30.7)  despite a lead-in from a weaker BATMAN which fell to 19.3/33 during that September-December 1966 span (losing 28 percent of its rating and 23 percent of its share from its first season) and starting the season with one of the weakest lead-outs ever (more below).

GIDGET averaged 10.0 million households in the Spring of 1966, F TROOP bumped that up to 10.6 million households the following season.  This despite BATMAN dipping from 14.5 million households to 10.7 million in front of it.  F TROOP increased GIDGET's rating by 3 percent, share by 7 percent, and was seen in 6 percent more households. 

F TROOP did lose some of the audience from its lead-in--temporarily:

Over the course of the entire season, F TROOP lost 156,000 households on average from BATMAN:

F TROOP 10.615 million HH 19.24

BATMAN 10.771 million HH 19.53

For the full season, BATMAN rated 19.5, F TROOP 19.2: losing 1.5 percent of BATMAN's rating.  BATMAN had the higher rating of the two every week but two during the season's first half; the two shows tied once at 18.5 and F TROOP had a higher rating on 11/17/66.  Over the entire period from September 1966 through the end of December, ABC went from losing 32 percent of BATMAN's audience to less than 3 percent at 8 P.M. with F TROOP taking over for GIDGET.  Still, a loss is a loss.

Then, starting in January 1967, ABC gained households at 8 PM E.T.

In the second half of the season F TROOP was actually stronger than its lead-in.  Beginning 1/5/67, F TROOP had a higher rating than BATMAN nine out of the 15 weeks, with the two shows tying once.   BATMAN improved to 20.2 (302.8 over the 15 weeks) over the second half, F TROOP to 20.3 as noted in Part Two; if we remove reruns, F TROOP still holds a 7-5-1 edge in the 13 weeks in which both aired original episodes.  For the season, BATMAN held a 18-10-2 edge against its lead-in, but this was due solely to the first half.  During the season's second half, F TROOP (11.2 million households) actually averaged 60,000 more households than BATMAN (11.14 million).  Both shows improved from the first half of 1966-67, but F TROOP improved more. 

F TROOP's lead-outs might have had an affect on it at first.  

Moving to a new night and time was what I previously cited as a reason for F TROOP's somewhat slow start in Season 2, but another factor might have been one of television's all-time greatest disasters: THE TAMMY GRIMES SHOW (gone by October!) at 8:30 P.M.  With TAMMY GRIMES following it, F TROOP averaged 17.7 for the 3 weeks in September.  This improved to a 18.8 once DATING GAME was installed for GRIMES.  F TROOP surged to a 20.3 rating from January to April once BEWITCHED was moved up to 8:30 PM Eastern.  So BEWITCHED was very good for F TROOP, as you'd expect.  But the reverse is also true.

F TROOP and BEWITCHED were actually good for each other.

ABC made Thursday ladies' night beginning in 1967-68, moving Sally Field back to the 8 PM Thursday slot and adding Yvonne Craig to the cast of BATMAN as Batgirl.  But teaming F TROOP and BEWITCHED meant that ABC's two highest rated sitcoms in the Nielsens for both 1965-66 and 1966-67 were airing back to back on Thursdays, and F TROOP's second half increase of 1.5 ratings points was certainly helped by this schedule change.  Now, get a load of what having F TROOP as a lead-in did for BEWITCHED:

348.6 total in 16 weeks with TAMMY GRIMES/DATING GAME preceding it (21.8). 

346.4 total in 14 weeks with F TROOP as a lead-in (24.7)

ABC gave an early green light to THE FLYING NUN for the Thursday 8 PM slot in the Winter of 1967, so F TROOP would have been moved to another night had it returned.  Going by the ratings (not the only consideration for networks, obviously), that decision was debatable.  THE FLYING NUN briefly improved on F TROOP's showing (see more on that below) but BEWITCHED dropped from a 24.7 rating over the second half of 1966-67 with F TROOP as a lead-in to a 23.5 rating with NUN preceding it in 1967-68.  

THE FLYING NUN did--again, temporarily--improve upon F TROOP's showing on Thursdays.

THE FLYING NUN appeared to be a hit and an improvement, after taking over for F TROOP.  The sneak preview on September 7 averaged a 23.0 rating, which was higher than all but two F TROOP episodes the prior season.  In addition, NUN lasted three seasons after taking over at 8 P.M. Thursdays and finished 1967-68 in 34th place, up 5 spots from F TROOP while DANIEL BOONE slipped from 27th (remember, I came up with 20.5, not 20.8 for 1966-67) to 29th (20.0, though I came up with 19.8--a total of 514 in 26 airings).  So on the surface this decision bore fruit, since BOONE fell 3 percent and NUN gained a little less than 2 percent on the numbers over the full season.

Sources elsewhere gave NUN a 19.5 rating, but I came up with 19.7 rounding up.  THE FLYING NUN had a higher high share-wise during the first half, but after Christmas came a lower low than F TROOP had in either half of the previous season (30.7 and 31.8 respectively), finishing below a 30 share for the second half.

First, the season as a whole for each:

1966-67 F TROOP 19.24 rating/31.3 share (39th) 10.61 million HH

1967-68 FLYING NUN 19.66 rating/31.9 share (34th) 11.02 million HH

THE FLYING NUN also had the handicap of a weaker lead-in, as BATMAN utterly collapsed in front of it in 1967-68, totaling 246.1 for the season's first 16 weeks for a 15.4 average rating, losing nearly a quarter of its second half (20.2) audience from the previous season.  

So why do I say the improvement was temporary?  Because THE FLYING NUN was, like F TROOP a season earlier, a tale of two halves.  Only this time, the inverse of F TROOP's showing:

First half of 1967-68: 303.9 rating in 15 shows (20.2) 504.9 total share (33.7).

Second half of 1967-68: 246.8 in 13 shows (19.0) 387.7 total share (29.8).

NUN did have 10 weekly wins over BOONE to F TROOP's 9, but only one of those wins for FLYING NUN came after Dec. 14th.   By contrast, F TROOP won the entire hour for the final month of the previous season. 

Taking each entire season into account, THE FLYING NUN did slightly improve the ratings and cut into BOONE's audience--thanks to the first half.  It is debatable whether ABC was well served in the long run by the switch.  By the 1967-68 season's end, the number of households tuning into NUN (10.75 million) was 450,000 below F TROOP's second half average for 1966-67.  BEWITCHED also performed better with F TROOP in front of it (24.7) than in either half of the following season (23.6 and 23.4 respectively) with NUN as a lead-in.   

While F TROOP had a similar dip to NUN in the second half of its first season (20.9 to 19.9 opposite RED SKELTON) it reversed this in season two, regaining all of its 1965-66 audience by the Spring of 1967.  In its second season, THE FLYING NUN continued declining, sliding to a 16.9 rating (456.9 in 27 shows, 9.8 million households) and well out of the top 50 (51st place KRAFT MUSIC HALL averaged a 18.0, that's as far as any ratings I could locate went) with 9.8 million households per week.  Perception of THE FLYING NUN's success was shaped by its first three months on the air--the next two and a half seasons demonstrated a fall arguably faster and farther than BATMAN's.  With the benefit of long-term hindsight it appears that THE FLYING NUN maintained positive momentum of the prior half-season from F TROOP (20.3 for the latter in early 1967 to 20.2 for the former in Fall 1967, not much difference) for only a few months and then the bloom fell off the rose.  

F TROOP versus its peers--was it really that disappointing in 1966-67?

Peers being the 1965-66 sitcom class that returned for 1966-67.

F TROOP went from 37th (20.4) to 39th (19.2);

HOGAN'S HEROES went from 9th (24.9) to 17th (21.8); 

GET SMART from 12th (24.5) to 22nd (21.0); 

I DREAM OF JEANNIE from 27th (21.8) to 41st (19.0); 

GREEN ACRES 11th (24.6) to 6th (24.6), the only one to move up in the rankings in Season 2, but the rating was identical to the year before.

GREEN ACRES as noted stayed the same, F TROOP's rating dropped 6 percent over the entire season (second half was less than 1 percent below its 1965-66 rating), HOGAN'S HEROES 11 percent, GET SMART 14 percent, JEANNIE 13 percent. In that context, F TROOP seems less disappointing in its second season than perceived, since all of its peers sans one fell further from season one to season two.

What might have been:

Since the 8 P.M. Thursday slot was promised to THE FLYING NUN long before schedules were announced, the most likely landing spot for F TROOP in Fall 1967 would have been in the 7:30 to 8:30 hour on Wednesdays, opposite LOST IN SPACE and THE VIRGINIAN.  It's hard to see F TROOP failing to improve on CUSTER, which was off the air before January 1968 with an anemic 11.7 rating.  As for the competition, well, F TROOP did post a higher rating than LOST IN SPACE in the first and second seasons for each:

1965-66: F TROOP 20.4, LOST IN SPACE 20.3

1966-67: F TROOP 19.2, LOST IN SPACE 18.8

Just sayin'.

With Ben Kalmenson holding the cards at Warner Brothers, and the Seven Arts sale announced in November 1966, it is likely that F TROOP was a goner no matter how high the ratings. For sure, though, ABC was too quick to deem it a disappointment in its new timeslot when THE FLYING NUN was promised the 8 P.M. Thursday slot for the following Fall by January.  (Why, exactly, when even those "disappointing" Fall 1966 F TROOP numbers improved on those for Sally Field's GIDGET the season before?  But I digress.)

F TROOP's second half performance helped give ABC ratings of 20.2, 20.3 and 24.7 for the 7:30 to 9 P.M. period on Thursdays over the season's second half, with all three shows benefitting.  One would think this would have solved the "Thursday problem" from the Fall, right?  We can only wonder what might have happened to it, and to BATMAN, if the fates would have allowed a return of all 3 that Fall unchanged.  Television history is full of what-ifs, and F TROOP suffered from poorer timing that most successful series.  We can all be thankful the fates allowed us the 65 episodes we have--imagine if the Seven Arts sale had gone through a year earlier.  Miracles do happen--HONDO eventually got rediscovered with only 17 episodes--but without that syndication exposure, we might still be waiting for F TROOP to get its due.  There'd have been no five years on Nick at Nite, no three years on Me-TV, etc.

The closest comparison to F TROOP ratings-wise among its peers is I DREAM OF JEANNIE, which ranked 27th and 40th during the two seasons in which F TROOP ranked 36th and 39th.  The two shows were two tenths of a percentage point apart at the end of 1966-67, but JEANNIE had support from NBC and Screen Gems, and three more seasons of life in it, returning to the top 30 in its fourth season.  

How many more Emmy nominations would this man have received with two or three more seasons?

Hope you've enjoyed my ruminations on F TROOP and the Nielsens of the mid 1960s.  Now, back to reviewing it and all the other shows you've been enjoying episode guides for here at The Section.  I still reserve the right to return to the ratings in the future, so be warned!


John said...

Excellent work, sir. Bravo!

Walter S. said...

Hal, Bravo! I really enjoyed reading your four-part series on F TROOP and the Nielsen ratings. This four-parter is a very good revisionist take on the Nielsen ratings of the time.

What might have been? Who knows when it comes to network television, but it's always fun to speculate on the what ifs. Anyway, I think F TROOP deserved a third season. I think F TROOP's success in syndicated reruns proved that clear enough.

I look forward to your next write-up.