Fiction vs. Reality

Twenty years ago, not only were we watching a different set of TV shows—we were watching TV very differently. Back in 1992, we were paying attention to the fictional career travails of Murphy Brown and the travails-in-general of Roseanne. By 2012, both shows were long gone—as was the notion that you have to watch a particular program at a particular time.

Today, Nielsen tracks two sets of ratings: the top prime-time shows and the top time-shifted ones. In prime time, we’re most likely to tune in to football and reality-based fare like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. The shows we record to watch later tend to be edgy dramas like Mad Men,
Breaking Bad, and Justified.


1992Top ten shows Top ten prime-time shows 2012Top ten time-shifted shows*
60 MInutes NBC Sunday Night Football Breaking Bad
Roseanne American Idol—Wednesday Mad Men
Murphy Brown American Idol—Thursday Warehouse 13
Cheers Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick Covert Affairs
Home Improvement Dancing with the Stars Suits
Designing Women Dancing with the Stars Results Justified
Coach NCIS White Collar
FullHouse The Voice Fringe
Murder, She Wrote NFL Regular Season Sons of Anarchy
Unsolved Mysteries Vegas American Horror Story



* Recorded and watched later

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