Last Saturday something bordering on the miraculous happened. Laura sat down with me and watched a sporting event. It happened again last night, which means maybe we’ve turned a corner, but it’s more likely that these events are outliers.
What we watched on Saturday was Michael Phelps winning his 8th gold medal. Truly amazing. Of course we were not alone in our viewership. I know this because a.) duh and b.) NBC posted their ratings the next day. 31.1 million people tuned in to watch it, making it the highest rated Saturday evening event on NBC in over 18 years.
So, what was on in 1990 that made even more people tune in than watching someone do something that has never been done in the history of sports, and may never be done again?
A sweeps month episode of the Richard Mulligan helmed Golden Girls spin-off.
By no means do I wish to undermine the quality of Empty Nest. Hell, it ran for 7 seasons and I remember watching it ad laughing. But what kind of a world do we live in, or did we live in, I can’t decide whether to be angry at us now or us then, where a once in a lifetime event draws 31.1 million viewers while that cold February night 31.4 million people tuned in to watch Empty Nest.
Who knows, maybe there was a big blizzard throughout much of the country on whatever date that episode aired, I’m far too lazy to find out, or maybe there was a big guest star, like Rue McClanahan in a rare Golden Girls crossover event, but regardless. How is it possible that more people didn’t tune in to watch Phelps?
We can take some comfort, I guess that he outdrew every episode of Empty Nest that aired after February, 1990, and that was a lot, as it was only season two at that point.
Anyway, congrats to Michael Phelps, and I guess to Kristy McNichol.