What's My Line? Forums

CBS (ended 1967)

Popularity of What's My Line?

  • Avatar of lovewml

    lovewml

    [1]Jul 8, 2005
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    Just curious if anyone has info on the ratings of the original run of What's My Line? When did it peak in popularity? My guess would be some time in the late '50s. Does anyone have any info such as the Nielson ratings?
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  • Avatar of lovewml

    lovewml

    [2]Jul 10, 2005
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    Anyone? Surely, you tv experts out there would have some idea. Astorino? Factotum?
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    W-B

    [3]Jul 10, 2005
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    Let's see . . .
    1953-54: 28th place, 29.6 rating
    1956-57: 26th place, 28.9 rating (tied with Climax)
    1959-60: 27th place, 23.9 rating
    1960-61: 22nd place, 23.1 rating
    1962-63: 13th place, 25.5 rating
    1963-64: 24th place, 22.6 rating (tied with To Tell the Truth)

    All per Nielsen Media Research, as cited in Tim Brooks & Earle Marsh's The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows - 1946-Present. Which would mean that in terms of rating (percentage of homes tuned in), the peak would be 1953-54, and in terms of position, it would be 1962-63 (not 1960-61 as erroneously assumed when this was first typed). * EDIT *
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  • Avatar of jimarnone

    jimarnone

    [4]Jul 10, 2005
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    Thanks for posting this info.

    I don't understand what these ratings indicate. Are they the position/percentage of the audience for all programs in the same time slot or for all programs in all time slots?

    If it's for the same time slot, I'm surprised the program never reached the top ten. If my memory serves me, there wasn't much to watch late on Sunday nights, unless the ABC Sunday Night Movie ran long. What kind of programs beat it out?
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  • Avatar of lovewml

    lovewml

    [5]Jul 10, 2005
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    Thanks for the info WB. But what about ratings for '58 & '62? Anyway, my guess would be these ratings pertain to all prime time programing, not just for the WML time slot. I don't see how the '53-'54 season would be it's peak season when there weren't as many homes with tv sets back then. I'm skeptical of the accuracy of the ratings system.
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  • Avatar of W-B

    W-B

    [6]Jul 11, 2005
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    That's the thing about statistical data year-by-year. Also, as the years went on, more households had TV's, so the percentage (rating) of WML? dwindled in proportion even with the position peak cited. Also, in terms of what was on NBC, the highest they ever achieved in that time slot may have been equivalent to WML? at best.

    You must've read the same book too, however, being as double-checking my copy, I detected that in 1962-63, WML? was 13th with a 25.5 rating. (1958-59 was the period when Westerns were at their peak.) In their time slot, competing against them was Howard K. Smith on ABC and the second half of DuPont Show of the Week on NBC. How I missed that figure, I'll never know. But it now appears that in terms of highest position attained, it would be 1962-63.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [7]Jul 11, 2005
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    jimarnone wrote:
    Thanks for posting this info.

    I don't understand what these ratings indicate. Are they the position/percentage of the audience for all programs in the same time slot or for all programs in all time slots?

    If it's for the same time slot, I'm surprised the program never reached the top ten. If my memory serves me, there wasn't much to watch late on Sunday nights, unless the ABC Sunday Night Movie ran long. What kind of programs beat it out?


    Being on at 10:30 instead of 10 PM probably hurt WML's ratings. People watching a one hour show at 10 would rarely leave it half way thru to watch something else. If you did not like what CBS had on at 10 you would also be less likely to come back at 10:30 to watch WML. Given the low cost of putting on the show, the ratings were more than high enough for CBS to keep it on.
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [8]Jul 11, 2005
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    The two main TV rating systems were Nielsen Research and Arbitron. Both were represented as WML contestants over the years. EPISODE #700 from February 1964 featured Arthur C. Nielsen, Jr. and EPISODE #785 from October 1965 featured a man from Arbitron who discussed the specific Arbitron ratings for What's My Line? He said that in November 1950, WML had a 20.4% share which represented 4.5 million viewers - and in March 1965, WML had a 21% share which represented 20 million viewers. The show's ratings were very consistent over a large number of years! There really wasn't any peak of popularity.

    It's interesting that the Nielsen Ratings data shows WML was #13 in the 1962-1963 season, because on EPISODE #688 from November 1963, Bennett mentioned that WML was in the Top 10 Nielsen Ratings because they had scored the 8th position.

    The CBS network canceled WML after it fell to 79th place in the Nielsen Ratings for the 1966-1967 season.

    Suzanne
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  • Avatar of julesmontenier

    julesmontenier

    [9]Jul 12, 2005
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    i would imagine that an episode scoring at #8 one week could easily be 13th overall for the season. the season ranking is just an average of every week's number.

    today, if a network show had the same rating as a "what's my line" --even in its declining years-- it would be a huge hit.

    i wonder who chose that strange howdy doody picture that shows up by our names.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [10]Jul 12, 2005
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    With the hundreds of cable channels availble now, there is no way to compare ratings from today with those of the 1950's and 60's when there were just 3 networks. While a mainstay at 10:30 PM on Sunday I really feel that if WML was on during the week at an earlier time, say 8 PM on Tuesday it would have had much higher ratings.
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  • Avatar of Factotum1

    Factotum1

    [11]Jul 12, 2005
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    Of course there were local ratings, too, and sometimes in those years when a local station showed something special that would beat the big three's programing.(For instance, when one station got the color AAP cartoon package, they might (like Channel 6 in Philadelphia) premiere them in prime time, or debut important films.(like channel 9 in New York, who got the RKO-Radio features and the biggest, like KING KONG or TOP HAT, were run every night for a week!)
    This of course, would skewer the ratings in that market. So much for scientific polling.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [12]Jul 12, 2005
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    You are refering to Channel 9's "Million Dollar Movie" This was one of my favorite shows in the late 50's and early 60's. Every film played was on for one week, just like a local theatre. My first taste of "King Kong" & "Godzilla" was from this film series.
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    cudaus1

    [13]Jul 12, 2005
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    We had a Million Dollar Movie in the Detroit Area where I grew up in the 50's and 60's. It came form CKLW in Windsor Ontario Canada. CKLW was at that time, an RKO station. They must have used the same format with all RKO stations at the time.
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  • Avatar of Stopette

    Stopette

    [14]Jul 12, 2005
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    Factotum1 wrote:
    Of course there were local ratings, too, and sometimes in those years when a local station showed something special that would beat the big three's programing.

    David Susskind's talk show "Hot Line" might have done that when WPIX Channel 11 scheduled it against Petticoat Junction. But it's impossible to know how many people watched which show. What matters is that "Hot Line," like nearly all local programming in the 1960s, no longer exists. You can watch the B movie "Detour" today, but you can't see the "Dialing For Dollars" local cutaway in San Francisco that showcased the movie. It's just as well. Live in the present.

    (For instance, when one station got the color AAP cartoon package, they might (like Channel 6 in Philadelphia) premiere them in prime time, or debut important films.(like channel 9 in New York, who got the RKO-Radio features and the biggest, like KING KONG or TOP HAT, were run every night for a week!)
    This of course, would skewer the ratings in that market. So much for scientific polling.


    That's right, but there's something to be said for common sense. Common sense tells you that when a mass TV audience responds to the wardrobe and music in Top Hat or the special effects in King Kong, those audience members will remember the movie itself, not the TV channel that showed it.

    Right now as we speak, people watch "A Beautiful Mind" on Cinemax, and a week later they can't remember if they saw it on Cinemax or HBO 3. And they don't care. That makes sense. Artistry reaches people who don't care too much about a licensing agreement.
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [15]Aug 11, 2005
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    In its day, I wonder how popular the BBC version was?
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  • Avatar of The1Factotum1i1

    The1Factotum1i1

    [16]Aug 12, 2005
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    Well, it didn't last as long as the US version, only eleven years, but that's a great run for an English show. They could not attract as many big names for the mystery guest. If we were to see a rostor of them, we'd see they were mostly known only in the British isles, though a fair number of visiting Hollywood stars made it a stop on european publicity tours.
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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [17]Aug 12, 2005
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    11 years for a British show most be some sort of record. Most of their shows only last a few years (except for Dr. Who) at best even if they are popular.
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  • Avatar of lovewml

    lovewml

    [18]Aug 12, 2005
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    ymike673 wrote:
    11 years for a British show most be some sort of record. Most of their shows only last a few years (except for Dr. Who) at best even if they are popular.


    A good example of this is Fawlty Towers, one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. They only made like 12 episodes.
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  • Avatar of lovewml

    lovewml

    [19]Aug 12, 2005
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    I heard that the British version of WML used mimes on the show to give clues to the panelists. No wonder it didn't last. God, I hate mimes! I'm so glad they didn't try it on our WML- I think I'd rather watch Beat the Clock.
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [20]Aug 13, 2005
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    lovewml wrote:
    I heard that the British version of WML used mimes on the show to give clues to the panelists. No wonder it didn't last. God, I hate mimes! I'm so glad they didn't try it on our WML- I think I'd rather watch Beat the Clock.


    It was just a short segment after the guest signed in. So, instead of a panel walk-by, the contestant did a very short mime. You can see an example in this Real Player video file of the BBC version from the whirligig-tv site.

    Web Site:
    http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/tv/adults/quiz/whatsmyline.htm

    BBC WML Video Clip:
    http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/tv/adults/quiz/whatsmyline.ram
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