TNT was crying “Eureka!” Thursday over the ratings for the premiere of the new “Dallas” Wednesday night.
The debut of the new version of the storied old CBS series about wealthy Texans drew 6.863 million viewers, TNT said. In announcing the tally Thursday, TNT noted that the premiere episode was the highest-rated debut of an original, scripted series — drama or comedy — on cable TV all year (on both basic- and pay-cable).
The cable channel also ballyhooed the show’s ratings in two major demos — adults 18-49 (1.926 million) and the slightly older 25-54 group (2.482 million).
And yes, to give TNT its due, 6.863 million is a mighty fine viewership total for “Dallas” and cable television.
But it also demonstrates that what passes for high ratings today would have amounted to chicken feed in the days when the original “Dallas” held sway.
The original “Dallas” was the nation’s No. 1 show for three seasons and No. 2 for two others. Back then, when audiences were measured in “shares” (the percentage of TV sets in use that were tuned to a particular show) and the broadcast networks had no competition except for each other, “Dallas” enjoyed an average share of 34.5 in the 1980-81 season, a 28.4 in 1981-82 and a 24.6 in 1982-83. How does that translate in total viewers? We estimate, roughly: 30-40 million people.
Of course, the 1980-81 season began with an episode that drew an estimated 90 million viewers — the episode titled “Who Done It?” in which J.R. Ewing’s assailant was identified. The previous season had ended with Ewing (Larry Hagman) getting shot in the famed episode titled “Who Shot J.R.?”
The original “Dallas” lasted 14 seasons. Will the new one last as long? We don’t know, but we wish ’em luck.