Must See TV
"Must See TV" is an advertising slogan used by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to brand its prime time blocks of sitcoms during the 1990s, and most often applied to the network's Thursday night lineup, which featured such popular sitcoms as The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, A Different World, Seinfeld, Mad About You, Wings, Frasier, Friends, and Will & Grace (as well as such drama series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and ER) and allowed NBC to dominate prime time ratings on Thursday nights in the 1980s and 1990s. Ratings fell in the mid-to-late 2000s, and today the night is weekly behind the competition on FOX, ABC, and CBS.
In popular culture the phrase is most strongly associated with the network's entire Thursday night lineup, including both sitcoms and dramas, which dominated the ratings from the 1980s through late 1990s.
However, contrary to popular belief, "Must See TV" originally applied to sitcoms only (dramas would normally be promoted separately), and for much of the 1990s the phrase was used several nights a week as an attempt at brand extension. At one point in the fall of 1997, the brand was used five nights a week, with four sitcoms a night from Monday to Thursday, and two on Sunday. NBC itself would later adopt the more common interpretation; the 2002 retrospective, 20 Years of Must See TV, focused on NBC's overall Thursday-night dominance from 1982 onwards, and overlooked extensions such as "Must See TV Tuesday."
Thursday nights are coveted by advertisers due to the large proportion of young, affluent viewers who tune in. Of particular interest, movie advertisers promote their titles to this target demographic on Thursday night, in hopes of influencing what movies they see on the following Friday night, the traditional opening night for most films outside of holiday periods.
The "Must See" slogan was created by Dan Holm, a NBC promo producer, during a NBC promo brainstorming session in June 1993 at NBC Burbank. "Must See TV" made its first appearance in NBC promotions in August 1993 and included the day of the week: "Must See TV Thursday." In late summer of 1993, NBC wanted viewers to tune in an hour prior to the popular Seinfeld, and created the "Must See TV" slogan to brand the comedy block. The first "Must See TV" block promo aired during late summer repeats and promoted Mad About You, Wings, and Seinfeld – Frasier had not yet premiered. It ended with the words "Get home early for Must See TV Thursday." The "Must See TV" slogan continued in every NBC Thursday night comedy promo throughout the 1993 television season to promote the 8 – 10 p.m. comedy block. When Frasier and Wings moved to Tuesday nights, NBC expanded the second season of the "Must See TV" brand to include the Tuesday night comedy block: "Must See TV Tuesday."
Branding the quality Thursday night line-up began as early as the 1982 fall slogan, "America's Best Night of Television on Television."
On November 3, 1994, NBC's Thursday night lineup featured the "blackout Thursday", where three of four sitcoms on primetime had a storyline involving a power outage. Starting with Mad About You episode "Pandora's Box", where Paul Buchman accidentally causes the blackout while trying to steal cable; continuing with Friends episode "The One with the Blackout", where Chandler is trapped in an ATM vestibule with Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre; then a Seinfeld non-blackout episode "The Gymnast"; and ending with Madman of the People episode "Birthday in the Big House".
By the early 2000s, the "Must See TV" slogan had fallen by the wayside in NBC's promotions; more importantly, NBC had gone from the top-rated network on Thursday nights to second behind CBS, eventually third behind ABC and ultimately a distant fourth behind Fox. NBC failed to develop hit shows to replace long-running staples Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld and, to a lesser extent, Will and Grace.
After airing a two-hour comedy block on Thursday for 21 straight seasons, NBC broke with tradition in 2004 by replacing the 9pm hour with hour-long reality show The Apprentice, although its Thursday night lineup retained its top 20 position.
Other networks' Thursday programming have also gotten increasingly stronger. CBS was first to break through with the Thursday-night schedule of Survivor, CSI, and later Without a Trace. In Fall 2012, CBS moved highly rated comedy, which had become the highest rated sitcom in the US, The Big Bang Theory to the Thursday 8:00pm slot, and Two and a Half Men to the 8:30pm slot, which have earned very strong ratings. ABC had success on Thursday nights with its hit reality series, Dancing with the Stars. In fall 2006, Grey's Anatomy was moved to Thursdays to counter CSI; ABC's lineup of Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy has proved successful in the 18-49-year-old demographic.
The "Must See TV" slogan reappeared briefly in early 2006 with the addition of two critically acclaimed and ratings-successful comedies, My Name Is Earl and The Office. This was an attempt to re-establish a four-sitcom block after the rise and fall of The Apprentice, which was moved to Monday nights.
In November 2006, NBC rebranded the Thursday format with a new different slogan, "Comedy Night Done Right", and added Scrubs and 30 Rock to the lineup, forming an entire lineup of comedy series without laugh tracks or the multiple-camera setup typical of past Must See TV comedies.
In January 2011, NBC rebranded the night once again, renaming it "Comedy Night Done Right - All Night", adding a third hour of comedies at 10pm. The three hour comedy block was disbanded in the fall of 2011, when the night reverted back to two hours of comedies and one drama and, in 2012, two hours of comedy and the news magazine Rock Center.
NBC Thursday-night lineup history 
- Lime indicates the #1 most-watched program of the season.
- Yellow indicates the top-10 most-watched programs of the season.
- Cyan indicates the top-20 most watched programs of the season.
- Magenta indicates the top-30 most watched programs of the season.
- Orange indicates the top-40 most watched programs of the season.
- Silver indicates the top-50 most watched programs of the season.
- Schneider, Michael (May 13, 2006). "Peacock pulls back on 'Must See' revival". Variety.
- Lamonica, Paul (October 16, 2006). "NBC's Heroic Return". CNN/Money.
- Crawford, Krysten (May 18, 2005). "Thursday TV: prized and in play". CNN/Money.
- Gilbert, Matthew (January 28, 2007). "For sitcoms today, quality trumps quantity". The Boston Globe.
- "Die Season ist vorbei: Amerikas heißeste Liste". quotenmeter.de. 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- "'Scrubs' Returns as NBC Remakes Thursdays". Zap2It. 2006-10-25.
- Andreeva, Nellie (2007-03-13). "NBC switches "30 Rock," "Scrubs"". Yahoo!.
- "NBC Orders Extra 'Office,' 'Earl'". Zap2It.com. 2007-05-14.
- "NBC Slots 'Medium,' Firms Up Schedule". Zap2It.com. 2007-12-07.
- "'30 Rock,' 'Scrubs' Swap Timeslots". Zap2It.com. 2008–5-22.
- Timeslot Source
- “MUST SEE TV”: THE RISE AND FALL OF NBC’S THURSDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
- "Must See TV" creator exits
- How Must See TV Lost Its Way