In 1986, CBS broke one programming tradition at the beginning of the season when the network took "the boldest scheduling risk" by creating the first prime time soap-versus-soap deadlock. For 7 Thursday nights between September and November in 1986, CBS put 'Knots Landing' face-to-face with 'The Colbys' on ABC. However by splitting the prime time soaps genre audience, fans were forced to choose between 'Knots Landing' and 'The Colbys', resulting in an immediate audience disaster for both dramas, with the sitcom 'Cheers' attracting its best ratings ever (30.0%), higher than 'Knots Landing' (14.8%) and 'The Colbys' (10.2%) combined. 

According to the 'U.S. News & World Report' at the time, the 5 prime-time programs with the highest percentage of female viewers were soap operas: (1) 'Knots Landing', (2) 'Hotel', (3) 'The Colbys', (4) 'Falcon Crest' and (5) 'Dynasty'. Studies among U.S. college students suggested soap operas were watched, not only for entertainment and escape, but also because they performed a specific social function: provided people (relative strangers) something to talk about and exchange in a non-threatening way. 

Robert Pollock told 'The Times' Louisiana, "Soaps have been good since Charles Dickens. People love a story, and they love to try and guess what will happen. They've put too much investment in the characters." As such Gerald Jaffe of NBC complained, "They generally repeat horribly, so that you either can't play them in repeats or you sit there and accept a total programming failure. You have to put in a new program in the summer to replace a 20-share show. If you want to maintain credibility in May (sweeps), you end up having to buy 33 or 34 original episodes, and that's very expensive. You always try to program for younger audiences earlier in the night." 

Robert Pollock remarked, "In the past, I've always been slightly upset by the strange programming of September and October. 'Dynasty' starts with all the other shows, then come the baseball playoffs on ABC every year and the show goes off the air for 2 weeks. That breaks up the sequence of a continued story and breaks up viewing habit. When that happens, you have to get in the groove again." 

Marvin Mord of ABC predicted, "I would think that at this point (in 1986) it's very unlikely that a new television series would come out that had the same kind of elements as a 'Dynasty'. The only reason that 'The Colbys' came on and was as successful as it is, is that it so closely related to 'Dynasty.'" Robert Pollock insisted, "The whole soap opera group is undergoing a cyclical dip that happens in television all the time." 

David Poltrack of CBS added, "I see no reason that they cannot continue on the schedule with the same type of loyal following. I think the soaps that are on now will be the ones that continue but I don't see new soaps being made." Eileen "Mike" Pollock believed, "Last year (the 1985-86 season) the show was planting seeds and now there is the reaping of the harvest. We have some good stories going. 'Dynasty' is the very emotional story of a family. 

"The show has been losing that emphasis with extraneous threads. We need to get to really textured human passions. We need to find things that have not been happening again, and get back in the kitchen with middle-of-the-night chicanery … moral wrestling and dilemmas." Stephanie Beacham saw the fall lineup 3 months earlier spoke to Bill Hayden, "Aren't they (CBS) unwise to have moved their show ('Knots Landing'). They're going to lose all their viewers. 

"All I know is our show ('The Colbys') has gotten stronger and stronger as it's gone along, and I can only hope the fans will come with it to Thursdays. It really is a shame to put two soaps opposite, but there are video recorders now." Robert Pollock pointed out, "CBS put a soap opera ('Knots Landing') against a soap opera ('The Colbys') in violation of basic tenets. We had the spot (9:00pm) already, and we're staying there. 'The Colbys' has a firm commitment for the season and solid support from ABC." 

The tenet was understood to be an unspoken "gentlemen's agreement" about prime-time soaps not running head-on. Brandon Tartikoff acknowledged, "Questionable CBS moves actually make us (NBC) look stronger from 9 to 11." By moving 'Knots Landing' up an hour to share the 9:00pm time slot with 'The Colbys', 'Knots Landing' reportedly lost some 25% of its audience from the 1985-86 season. Some disenfranchised fans switched over at 10:00pm to watch Barbara Walters and '20/20'. 

The move was said designed to build audiences and provide a good lead-in for the CBS new series, 'Kay O'Brien' ("call me Kayo"). In the aftermath of the head-to-head, Joan Van Ark spoke to the press, "I think our show ('Knots Landing') – being more reality-based than the others – has a much better chance to weather the storm. We aren't glitzy as 'Dynasty' or as melodramatic as 'Dallas'. Therefore, I feel that 'Knots Landing' will enjoy some real longevity because we are considerably more down-to-earth and closer to home for most viewers." 

In 1986, ScanAmerica used a pilot panel of 200 Denver households to track TV viewing and consumer purchases patterns. In its first 'BuyerGraphics' report, 100 advertisers were told the "Thursday night (10:00pm) lineup – 'Knots Landing', 'Hill Street Blues' and '20/20' – showed, for instance, that 14% more coffee drinkers watch 'Knots Landing' than would be expected in a typical TV audience. In a brand analysis, ScanAmerica's 'BuyerGraphics' found that 'Knots Landing' delivered a large audience of Folger's coffee drinkers – 21% above the norm."

In another case study, the report highlighted, "'The Colbys' has a TV household rating, or audience share, of 13.8%, which means that 13.8% of all TV households in Denver were tuned to the show during a given period. (18%-22% was considered to be very good.) The study further shows that 12.4% of all TV households that use heavy-duty detergents were tuned to 'The Colbys'.

"The show has an efficiency index of 90, which means 'The Colbys' is 10% less efficient at reaching heavy-duty detergent households than it is at reaching total TV households. Broken down still further, the figures show that 17.1% of all TV households that purchased Tide (a Procter & Gamble product) detergent in a particular time period also watched 'The Colbys'. The show had an efficiency index of 124, which means that 'The Colbys' is 24% more efficient at reaching Tide households than total TV households.

"Knowing this, an advertiser could decide to plug a Tide competitor on 'The Colbys' hoping to get viewers to switch brands. In the heavy duty detergents category, 9.1% of all TV households that use non-Procter & Gamble detergents watched 'The Colbys'. Here 'The Colbys' has an efficiency index of 66, which means the show is 34% less efficient at reaching non-Procter & Gamble households than at reaching total TV households."

Filmed in Toronto, Canada, respected New York theater actress Patricia Kalember, who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, played a woman surgeon at a New York City hospital in the medical drama, 'Kay O'Brien' in 1986. The series was described as a sharply written, fast-paced hour of drama. Commentator Mike Dufy noted, "The debut of 'Kay O'Brien may mark the first time in television history that a bottle of white wine (chardonnay) is used as a weapon (in a bludgeon scene)."

Patricia told the press, "I’ve done a lot of reading on women surgeons and as far back as the early '70s there were hardly any. It's a tough field and a very macho world. I also talked to some. They said you try to fit in by being a man, being tough. She's a doctor, not a scientist. She's a people person. She is with the patient, getting them ready and taking them all the way through. She's very straightforward and not a mystery to me. In fact, I really enjoy and respect her. She's a single woman and she's tough. She's trying to do so many things: Having a personal life, be a good surgeon and still be caring towards people."

With the lead-in from 'Knots Landing' (14.8% ratings), the premiere of 'Kay O'Brien' could not hold enough viewers for the network, attracting 13.1% ratings and finishing 3rd–place in its time slot. Of the 13 episodes CBS had commissioned, only 8 went on air before 'Knots Landing' returned back to its 10:00pm slot. From the outset, Robert Bianco of the 'Pittsburgh Press' reported, "CBS has a tall order for itself.

"It plans to recapture the top spot in the Nielsens next fall (1986-87 season) by winning Sunday, Monday and Friday again, taking Saturday from NBC, and coming in a strong second to NBC on Thursday and to ABC on Tuesday and Wednesday." Bud Grant of CBS elaborated, "If you're No. 1, you do your best to stay there. If you're No. 2, you have to take a few more risks, and if you're No. 3, you roll the dice."

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