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Top Television Shows Over the Years

Since 1952, Nielsen Media Research has kept track of TV audiences in the United States. Here are the 15 most-popular American TV shows.

1. "M*A*S*H" finale/special, Feb. 28, 1983, CBS. The Korean War finally ends, and some 60 percent of all the TVs in America are tuned in - 50.2 million people.

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2. "Dallas," Nov. 21, 1980, CBS. The first show of the new season reveals "Who Shot J.R.?" (His wife's sister, Kristin.)

3. "Roots, Part VIII," Jan 30, 1977, ABC. The final night of this ground-breaking miniseries about American slaves.

4. Super Bowl XVI, Jan 24, 1982, CBS. The San Francisco 49ers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

5. Super Bowl XVII, Jan. 30, 1983, NBC. The Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins, 27-17.

6. XVII Winter Olympics, Feb. 23, 1994, CBS. Skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan finally hit the ice in Lillehammer, Norway. Some 45.7 million people watch.

7. Super Bowl XX, Jan. 26, 1986, NBC. The Chicago Bears crush the New England Patriots, 46-10.

8. "Gone With the Wind," Part I, Nov. 7, 1976, NBC. The TV premire of the 1939 film attracts 34 million fans.

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9. "Gone With the Wind," Part II, Nov. 8, 1976. About 250,000 fewer people tune in for the conclusion.

10. Super Bowl XII, Jan. 15, 1978, CBS. Dallas Cowboys beat Denver Broncos, 27-10.

11. Super Bowl XIII, Jan. 21, 1979, NBC. Pittsburgh Steelers over Cowboys, 35-31.

12. "Bob Hope Christmas Show," Jan. 15, 1970, NBC. Nielsen cannot say for certain why a Christmas show aired in January. Perhaps it was taped in Vietnam? Twenty-seven million curious viewers tune in.

13. (tie) Super Bowl XVIII, Jan. 22, 1984, CBS. Los Angles Raiders thump Washington, 38-9.

13. (tie) Super Bowl XIX, Jan. 20, 1985, ABC. San Francisco beats Miami, 38-16.

15. Super Bowl XIV, Jan. 20, 1980, CBS. Pittsburgh defeats Los Angeles Rams, 31-19.

*Source: Nielsen Media Research, 1995

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