"Prime time TV is like a relay race," David Bianculli reminded. "The main thing to remember in television's case is a block of viewers (audience share), not a baton (lead-in audience), that is being handed over. When a show holds the audience of the show preceding it or increases it, the show is doing its job. If not, it deserves either a new time slot or cancellation. 

"If 100 households with TV sets turned on at a particular time and 30% of the total TV sets in use are tuned to 'Dallas', that's a 30 rating. Of those 30 TVs, 15 watched 'Dallas' at that time, that gives 'Dallas' a 50% share of the audience. Since fewer TV sets are usually in use on Thursdays than Wednesdays, it's possible for a greater share of total viewers to watch a show on Thursday than a show on Wednesday, even though the show on Wednesday has a higher rating." 

Bob Hayden added, "The country's most popular programs from the national ratings aren't necessarily the shows viewers watching locally. A program like 'Dukes of Hazzard', for example, might attract more viewers in rural areas of the country than it does in big cities. As a result, the shows most watched in the highly urban Philadelphia market might be different from those most watched in Idaho. 

"Local viewers have a stronger preference than their national counterparts for comedies and detective-adventure shows, about the same interest in televised movies, slightly less interest in prime-time serials, and a great deal less interest in public affairs shows. Using the ratings figures, it is possible to determine what we were most likely to be watching on television at a given time any evening. 

"As far as the networks and ratings services are concerned, prime time runs from 8 to 11 each night except Sundays, when it starts at 7. For years, the networks worked under the assumption that once a viewer turns on a set at night, he is more likely than not to stay tuned to that same channel until the set is turned off. That's no longer true." 

In the 1986-1987 season, 'ALF' (Alien Life Force), made its television debut. Watched by over 40 million viewers each week, the TV sitcom centered around the 3-foot-tall, 225-year-old, furry, pointy-earred alien with an anteater nose. It was reported Paul Fusco first created Alf in 1982 but had trouble getting a deal off the ground. As a refugee from the planet Melmac who moved in with an average American human family, Tom Patchett said of 'ALF', "Alf is an alien, and he's as real to us as he seems on television." 

Max Wright played Willie Tanner observed, "Although Alf's character is extremely sophisticated and complex, I like to think of the show as basically being for kids. It's fairly sophisticated, for a simple idea, so that a parent can watch with his children and be satisfied. Alf is a mature character with a wonderful kind of everyday appeal. He has that kind of proletariat earnestness and good humor and ribaldry."

Clifford Terry remarked, "There's a kind of idealistic innocence to Willie Tanner that balances against Alf's earthbound cynicism. They're a kind of a team in a way, although certainly not Abbott and Costello." 'ALF' could be seen in over 60 countries when the show first went on air. Max Wright  told the 'Chicago Tribune', "It seemed to me the perfect time - you know, the Me Generation taken to an extreme.

"Anyway, I travel a lot, and people always speak very highly of the series. Unfortunately, the cult wasn't big enough. We couldn't have had a better spot - after 'Cheers' and before 'Hill Street Blues' - but people switched off when we came on. We worked on the same MTM lot with the other shows, and there was a feeling that we brought down the tone of Thursday evenings - like some unpleasant relative who's spoiling your dinner party."

'ALF' finished the 1986-1987 season averaging 16.5% households ratings. The show attracted 24% audience share. In the 1987-1988 season, 'ALF' averaged 18.8% households ratings. In the 1988-1989 season, 'ALF' averaged 17.7% households ratings. And in the 1989-1990 season, 'ALF' averaged 21.9% households ratings and 13.7% audience share.

In December 1987, Nancy Reagan invited Alf to the White House to entertain at a children's Christmas party. Tom Patchett told the 'Los Angeles Times', "If Alf ran for President - and he's a lot like Mario Cuomo at this point (in 1987), I'll bet he would get over 3 million votes." On reflection, "I think more adults are giving themselves permission to like the show. At first there was a resistance on the part of adults to watch something that they perceived to be either a children's show or a show with a puppet, and maybe a great number of them rejected it out of hand. Now (in 1987) parents are spreading the word that this is funny and hip - that you can watch 'ALF' and enjoy it."

Paul Fusco noted, "He (Alf) says what we all are thinking in the back of our minds but are always afraid to say out loud. And it's a novel idea. People always say, 'Where are the new shows?' Well, last year (1986) we gave them an original series that's not a cop show or a basic sitcom, and the large audience is our reward for doing that. So many people want to believe he's real. Alf is in fact very real to me. He has his own dressing room. He speaks for himself. I prefer to preserve that. When you know how it's done, it's just not as fascinating anymore."

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