At the start of the 1984-85 TV season, NBC took out a 3-page advertisement in 5 major newspapers to launch its 8 o'clock prime-time hour campaign, "Nine reasons why American families are spending more time together." Associated Press observed, "The ad was not aimed at the public in general since it appeared only in 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The New York Times', 'The Washington Post', 'USA Today' and 'The Los Angeles Times' – important links to the business and advertising communities."

Bud Rukeyser clarified, "What we're saying is that our schedule has a strong family feeling, and that it fits in with the kind of company that we are and want to be. We're also saying that NBC has moved up a little bit (in the ratings), and we've done it with programming we're proud of." Associated Press noted, "The ad did not cite 'Hill Street Blues' or 'St. Elsewhere', the more adult series." 

Since the 1983-84 season (its 5th on the air), the slow-building 'Knots Landing' had become a "silent hit on television" consistently winning its Thursday 10:00pm hour against 'Hill Street Blues' and '20/20'. Its success led CBS to commission 30 instead of the standard 22 episodes for the 1984-85 season. In the 1984-85 season, Barbara Walters joined Hugh Downs to host '20/20'. "It's very difficult going against 'Hill Street (Blues)'. It's the darling of the critics," Michael Filerman told Gail Shister of the 'Philadelphia Inquirer'. 

On network television at the time, shows such as 'Dynasty', 'Knots Landing' and 'Falcon Crest' had mass appeal attracting good demographics with its original episodes. Michael Filerman theorized, "It's the escapist mentality. People form emotional ties to characters on continuing dramas. You never know what will happen to them. People want to see what Alexis is wearing; if Karen will beat Abby this week; if Chase and Maggie are working things out."

Steven Bochco created 'Hills Street Blues' told the press in February 1984, "I learned a long time ago not to worry about things I couldn't control, and I genuinely believe that this is a situation that is not within my control. I don't program the network, and I don't schedule the programs. The only thing that I can take the responsibility for and blame for is the product. I think we're still making a first-rate show. 

"We are a fiction. I can only say that people grow, people evolve, people get divorced, people get married, people have children, people die. People change, and you simply have to reflect that. The degree to which you get comfortable and allow a character to play out the same gag over and over is the degree to which, more and more, you take away the reality of the character.

"I think people instinctively tend to be conservative, if not even reactionary. They like something a certain way, and they are threatened by its changing – and that's on both sides of the TV set. Most people who are doing a show, if they find something that works, don't want to tinker with it, but it's exciting to let people continue to change and become other things. I think that's simply good storytelling."

The 1983-84 season of 'Knots Landing' began with the murder of rock star Ciji Dunne solved. Michael Filerman made known at the time, "Lisa Hartman will be back on the show but she won't really be Ciji. She'll just look like Ciji. She'll be believable. She'll be somebody that Gary meets and brings back to the ranch he and Abby have bought. He tries to develop her into a rock singer, although she isn't a singer. He tries to make her over in Ciji's image. We all liked her (Lisa). She added a lot of spark to the show."

Traditionally prime-time viewing was dominated by female audience. Ted Shackleford told 'United Press International' at the start of the 1987-88 season, "This is our 9th season on the air and for 9 years I've pleaded with the writers to give the male characters some backbone." It was revealed the soap-opera formula decreed women must be strong. "Donna (Mills) agrees that … they don't have to make men weak to make women strong. It ain't my show and the ratings are high, so they think they know what they're doing."

Of the 3-page advertisement in the 5 leading newspapers, David Poltrack of CBS pointed out, "NBC has become No. 2 by taking away ABC's franchise of kids and young adults. All the shows (in the ad) appeal to kids, teens and young adults (comprised 8 comedies 'The Cosby Show', 'Family Ties', 'The Facts of Life', 'It's Your Move', 'Diff'rent Strokes', 'Gimme A Break', 'Silver Spoons', 'Punky Brewster' and the drama 'Highway to Heaven')."

Bob Igiel of NW Ayer ad agency remarked, "'Cosby' turned things around for NBC on Thursday night. That's the key element. 'Cheers' and 'Hill Street Blues' used to be self-starters. Now (in the 1984-85 season) 'Cosby' brings in the kids and their parents watch, too. Then the kids go to bed (at 9:00pm). The adults, who were brought to the set as a secondary audience, end up staying the night (9:00pm-11:00pm). The same thing happens on Tuesday night. The risk with the kids' strategy is that kids are fickle. They grow up and change their taste. ABC is seeing that now."

Grant Tinker acknowledged, "I used to say (production company) MTM-quality a little too loudly. Now, I'm no longer apologizing for shows that go after 35 and 40 share (percent of the viewing audience)." At the time John Severino of ABC conceded, "I think if you go back now and look at all the forecasts that the advertising agencies did going into the year (1984-85 season), the one show that everybody thought was gonna be a runaway hit, myself included, was 'Paper Dolls' and for whatever reason, it didn't work and that caused us to really fall out of favor on all of Tuesday night."

Back in the 1982-83 season, 'The New York Times' reported, "Although 'St. Elsewhere' attracts an average audience of 14.5 million viewers, that's not nearly enough for success on prime-time television." Brandon Tartikoff argued, "If we saw an active rejection of the show, we would be worried but we have been seeing a show holding and building on its lead-in."

Reporter Sally Bedell continued, "Moreover, 'St. Elsewhere' has been improving its 'Q' score, an indicator of popularity that is based on viewer surveys conducted by the network. The 'Q', which is registered on a scale of 0 to 100, measures the degree to which viewers like a show. A 'Q' of 22 is regarded as average, and one of 40 is regarded as very high, according to Gerald Jaffe, vice president of research projects at NBC. Since the beginning of the season, the 'Q' for 'St Elsewhere' has risen from 15 to 23."

By the 1986-87 season, Brandon Tartikoff told Associated Press his first priority was to fix Sunday night. Against the top-rating '60 Minutes', NBC would schedule its family drama, 'Our House' starring Wilford Brimley. Brandon disclosed Wilford Brimley had scored higher with test audiences than Bill Cosby and Michael Landon did when 'The Cosby Show' and 'Highway to Heaven' were first evaluated.

Of the newsmagazine '20/20', Bill Hayden of 'Gannett News Service' offered, "If '60 Minutes' is the medium's equivalent of 'Time', then '20/20' is 'Newsweek'. This season (the 1984-85), Hugh Downs has started sharing the hosting duties with Barbara Walters. The result is a solid weekly program that is successful in more than holding its own in the ratings against 'Knots Landing' and 'Hill Street Blues'.

"It is a good, credit news hour that mixes aggressive reporting, visually interesting investigative pieces and bright personality features. Like '60 Minutes', it didn't achieve this success overnight, but over a period of several years (since its second airing in 1978 with Hugh Downs). It followed the same evolutionary process as '60 Minutes' keeping those elements that worked and throwing out those that didn't."

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