Must See TV

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Must See TV
Title card for NBC's 2002 special, 20 Years of Must See TV
LaunchedOriginal run: 1993 (1993)
Second run: September 28, 2017 (2017-09-28)
ClosedOriginal run: 2006 (2006)
Second run: March 25, 2021 (2021-03-25)
Country of originUnited States
Running timeThursday nights
Original language(s)American English

Must See TV was an American advertising slogan that was used by NBC to brand its primetime blocks during the 1990s, and most often applied to the network's Thursday night lineup, which featured some of its most popular sitcoms and drama series of the period, allowing the network to dominate prime time ratings on Thursday nights in the 1980s and 1990s. Ratings for NBC's lineup fell during the mid-to-late 2000s, and today the network ranks behind Fox, ABC, and CBS on Thursday nights. In 2015 and again in 2021, the network canceled comedy programming on Thursdays and switched entirely to dramas. However, the branding returned for the 2017–18 television season.[1]


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 the late 1990s.

As originally conceived, "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.[2] NBC itself would later adopt the more common interpretation; the 2002 retrospective, 20 Years of Must See TV, focused on NBC's overall dominance on Thursday nights from 1982 onwards, and overlooked extensions such as "Must See TV Tuesday."


First years[edit]

By 1979, NBC had fallen to third place in the Nielsen ratings. Network executive Fred Silverman, who previously led ABC and CBS to the top of the ratings, joined the network a year earlier, however, he could not bring the same ratings success he had as programming whiz at the latter two networks, resulting in a string of new programs that were derided by critics and eventually being canceled after a few showings. The 1980-81 television season was the low point for NBC; as the network had only three shows in the Nielsen top 20 (one of them, Diff'rent Strokes, would enter NBC's Thursday night lineup for the 1981-82 season). Silverman would leave NBC in the summer of 1981; and was replaced by Brandon Tartikoff. Starting with the 1981-82 season, situation comedies would enter NBC's Thursday programming, such as Diff'rent Strokes, Harper Valley, and newcomers Gimme a Break! and Lewis & Clark (the latter was canceled after one season).

Success in the 1980s[edit]

Branding the quality Thursday night lineup began during the 1982-83 season, which NBC promoted Fame, Hill Street Blues, Taxi (after being canceled by ABC after its fourth season) and new arrival Cheers, as "America's Best Night of Television on Television". When the season ended, Fame and Taxi were canceled, with the former being later revived in first-run syndication. However, though Cheers disappointed on ratings during its first season (74th out of 77 shows in that year's ratings), it was critically acclaimed, mostly due to its early success at the Primetime Emmy Awards, and Tartikoff decided to renew the show for a second season, which would premiere during the 1983-84 season, which saw none of its nine fall shows being renewed for a second season (one of them, the short-lived sitcom We Got It Made, premiered on Thursdays during most of its first season until January 1984, and later was revived for syndication). NBC decided to move both Family Ties and Buffalo Bill from Wednesdays to Thursdays during the winter of 1984, joining Cheers, Hill Street Blues and Gimme a Break!, with newcomer Night Court joining the lineup during the summer.

What marked the beginning of NBC's dominance on Thursday nights was during the 1984-85 season, when the network premiered a new show to lead that evening: The Cosby Show, receiving critical acclaim, with TV Guide listing the series as "TV's biggest hit in the 1980s", adding it "almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes".[3] The enormous success of Cosby (which became the third-most watched show of the season in the US) also helped the other shows on its Thursday night lineup increase its ratings dramatically, with Family Ties entering the top-ten for the first time; and Cheers and Night Court both entering the top-twenty; while Hill Street Blues remained steadily on the top-thirty. When Cosby debuted, it marked a major turning point for NBC as well, as the network rose to second place at the end of the season; and reached first place at the end of the 1985-86 season, with Cosby being the number-one show in the United States, which it managed to stay on that position for four more seasons until 1990.

As the decade was progressing, NBC decided to move some of their most successful shows to make room for new freshman hits. Hill Street Blues, which enjoyed success during most of its run on Thursday nights since its debut, was replaced midway through its seventh and final season, by legal drama L.A. Law, which premiered in 1986 and stayed its entire run at the 10pm slot until its end in 1994, becoming a runaway success for the network. Other hits on NBC Thursday nights included Cosby spinoff A Different World (premiered in 1987 and replaced Family Ties, which was moved to Sunday nights that year until its end in 1989), and Dear John, Judd Hirsch's starring vehicle after Taxi (premiered in 1988 and replaced Night Court, which was moved to Wednesday nights that year until its end in 1992). Eventually, Dear John, then on its second season, was moved to Wednesdays (alongside Night Court) and was replaced by the sitcom Grand, which premiered in 1990, but enjoyed moderate success, and was canceled by NBC at the end of the year after two abbreviated seasons. That same year, a mid-season replacement, Wings (created by Cheers producers David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee) saw its debut, and began to enjoy popularity among viewers on Thursday nights in the following years. As a result of this, NBC ended the 1980s decade as the number-one network on both Thursday nights and overall.

Early 1990s doldrums[edit]

However, that dominance during the 1980s, would begin to fade by the start of the 1990-91 season, as the growing popularity of ABC Tuesday and Friday night lineups and Fox's decision to move freshman hit The Simpsons to Thursdays to compete with Cosby partly contributed to its decline. Cosby slipped down to fifth place, while Cheers reached number one on the Nielsen ratings for the first time; however, NBC itself, dropped to second place behind a resurgent ABC. The 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons were two of NBC's weakest, as the network dropped to third place (behind CBS and ABC) for the first time since 1983. Ratings for The Cosby Show and A Different World decreased considerably and both were no longer inside the top-ten; while Wings continue to rise in popularity, entering the top-20 for the first time. Meanwhile, Cheers became the only NBC show (both in sitcoms and overall) to remain in the top-ten during the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. As a result of its declining ratings, Cosby ended its run in 1992; while A Different World bid farewell in 1993. That year, Seinfeld, which initially struggled from its debut in 1989 as a summer series, was moved from Wednesdays to Thursdays to join Wings and Cheers, with the latter series ending in May after 11 seasons, with its series finale being the second-highest-rated series finale of all-time behind the series finale of M*A*S*H and the highest-rated episode of the 1992–93 season in the US.[4][5]

Must See TV[edit]

The "Must See" slogan was created by Dan Holm, an NBC promotional producer, during a network promo brainstorming session in June 1993 at NBC's West Coast headquarters in Burbank, California. "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 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, Seinfeld and the then-recently-ended Cheers, which also previewed the fall premiere of its spin-off, Frasier. The advertisement ended with the sentence "Get home early for Must See TV Thursday." The "Must See TV" slogan continued in every NBC Thursday night comedy promo throughout the 1993-94 television season to promote the 8–10 p.m. comedy block. The next season, Frasier and Wings were moved to Tuesday nights, with NBC expanding the "Must See TV" brand to include the Tuesday night comedy block: "Must See TV Tuesday". Meanwhile, the flagship Thursday block acquired two new hits, Friends - which became television's second biggest comedy behind only Seinfeld - and ER, which became the number one drama on television. Seinfeld and ER would end up battling the following four seasons for the honor of number one show, before Seinfeld ended its run in 1998.

On November 3, 1994, NBC's Thursday night lineup featured the "Blackout Thursday" programming stunt, in which three of the four sitcoms on that night's "Must See TV" schedule incorporated a storyline involving a power outage in New York City.[6] The stunt started with Mad About You episode "Pandora's Box", in which Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt) accidentally causes the blackout while trying to steal cable; it continued with the Friends episode "The One with the Blackout", featuring a sub-plot in which Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) is trapped in an ATM vestibule with Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre and ended with the Madman of the People episode "Birthday in the Big House" (the Seinfeld episode that followed Friends and preceded Madman, "The Gymnast", did not have a blackout storyline though was promoted as part of the event).

As the lineup includes flagship hits such as Friends and ER, NBC dominated once again Thursday nights for the rest of the 1990s decade, with other shows joining and becoming hits for the network, such as Will & Grace, Caroline in the City, Suddenly Susan, Veronica's Closet and The Single Guy. The series finale of Seinfeld, "The Finale", became the fourth-most watched overall series finale in the US after M*A*S*H, Cheers and The Fugitive,[7] with its ninth and final season reaching the top of the Nielsen ratings, becoming only the third show finishing its runs at the top of the ratings, following I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show.[8] Consequently, Friends emerged as NBC's biggest television show after the 1998 Seinfeld final broadcast.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday nights[edit]

Seeing how "Must See TV" dominated prime time on Thursdays, NBC felt that the same marketing power could translate into success for Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday nights.

The expansion began during the 1994-95 season, when NBC added a second night comedy block: "Must See TV Tuesday", with Frasier and Wings moving to that night and being joined by The John Larroquette Show and the short-lived sitcom The Martin Short Show (which was replaced by freshman hit NewsRadio). The "Must See TV Tuesday" was created to compete with ABC's powerhouse Tuesday lineup, which includes flagship hits such as Home Improvement, Full House and Grace Under Fire.

Another hit, 3rd Rock from the Sun entered "Must See TV Tuesday" during the 1995-96 season, which also saw the debut of NBC's third night of "Must See TV" on Sunday nights, with the premiere of Brotherly Love and Minor Adjustments (both shows were later canceled by the network during the season, and were picked up by The WB and UPN, respectively), and the moves of Mad About You and Hope and Gloria from Thursdays to Sundays.

For the 1996-97 season, NBC added another "Must See TV" comedy block on Wednesdays, which included Wings (which entered its eighth and final season), Larroquette (which was abruptly cancelled midway its fourth season), NewsRadio and new arrival Men Behaving Badly, all being followed by the hit legal drama Law & Order.

However, though it received heavy promotion by the network, all three nights did not replicate the enormous success of "Must See TV Thursday", as during the 1996-97 season, the Sunday night two-hour comedy was shortened to one hour, to gave priority to Dateline NBC (3rd Rock was also moved from its original Tuesday night to Sundays), while Mad About You and Caroline in the City moved to Tuesdays. The trend would continue until the 1998-99 season, when the Sunday comedy night was officially dropped out, being replaced by two hours of Dateline, followed by the NBC Sunday Night Movie. Frasier returned to Thursday nights after Seinfeld ended its run, taking its 9:00 PM timeslot (eventually it was moved back to Tuesdays starting with the 2000-01 season until the show ended in 2004).


From a promo for "Comedy Night Done Right" in October 2007. The image features [From Left] Earl Hickey (of My Name Is Earl), Michael Scott (of The Office), John Dorian (of Scrubs) and Liz Lemon (of 30 Rock).

By the early 2000s, Friends and ER were still performing strong on Thursday nights, with the former series reaching number one on the Nielsen ratings during its eighth season. However, as the decade was progressing, 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, but NBC itself didn't develop hit shows to replace long-running staples Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, and Will & Grace.

After airing a two-hour comedy block on Thursday for 21 straight seasons, NBC broke with tradition in 2004 by replacing the 9 p.m. hour with the hour-long reality competition program The Apprentice, although its Thursday night lineup retained its top 20 position.[9]

Thursday programming has also become increasingly stronger on other networks. CBS was first to break through with its lineup of Survivor, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and later Without a Trace. For the 2010–11 season, CBS moved the highly rated comedy The Big Bang Theory, which had become the highest-rated sitcom in the United States, to the Thursday 8:00 p.m. slot, and Two and a Half Men to the 8:30 p.m. slot, which earned very strong ratings.

ABC had success on Thursday nights with its hit reality series, Dancing with the Stars, before moving the program to Mondays in 2006 (where it has remained since). In the fall of 2006, sophomore drama 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- to 49-year-old demographic, and the 2011 transfer of Fox's American Idol, regarded as the longest reigning #1 program on U.S. television from 2004 to 2011, into the Thursday timeslot adversely affected NBC's ratings for Thursday primetime programming lineup since that television season.

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, in 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 different slogan, "Comedy Night Done Right", and added another two critically acclaimed shows, Scrubs and 30 Rock, to the lineup, forming an entire lineup of comedy series without laugh tracks or the multiple-camera setup common with past "Must See TV" comedies.[10]

A promo for "Comedy Night Done Right All Night" in 2011

On January 20, 2011, NBC rebranded the night once again, renaming it "Comedy Night Done Right – All Night", adding a third hour of comedies at 10 p.m. (the network had previously run a three-hour comedy lineup once annually on Thursdays during the late 1990s and early 2000s as a programming stunt). The three-hour comedy block was discontinued in the fall of 2011, when the night reverted to two hours of comedies and one drama and, in 2012, two hours of comedy and the news magazine Rock Center.

Change and record ratings lows[edit]

Prior to the 2013 fall season, NBC cancelled or ended nine of its eleven comedies, including the long-running 30 Rock and The Office, in an effort to broaden its comedy lineup.[11] In May 2013, NBC picked up three family comedies (The Michael J. Fox Show, Sean Saves the World and Welcome to the Family) and rebranded its Thursday night lineup as "NBC's New Family of Comedies" for the fall season.[12]

The debut of The Michael J. Fox Show was the lowest-rated Thursday fall comedy series premiere in network history.[13] One week later, the debut of Welcome to the Family became the new record-holder, with Sean Saves the World ranking as the second lowest ever.[14]

On October 10, 2013, NBC tied an all-time low on Thursday nights (tied with May 17, 2012), while finishing in fourth place (or combined with programming on Spanish-language network Univision, along with Thursday Night Football on NFL Network and Major League Baseball playoff coverage on TBS, seventh) for the night.[15] On November 21, 2013, NBC averaged a 1.0 in the adults 18–49 age bracket, its lowest ever in-season average for regularly scheduled programming on the night.[16] On the same night, The CW defeated the NBC comedy block, a first for the network. All three shows were eventually cancelled (Welcome to the Family was pulled three episodes into its first season, while The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World were dropped shortly before the 2014 Winter Olympics; in the case of The Michael J. Fox Show, this was despite NBC giving a 22-episode order for the series prior to its debut) and were replaced by critically acclaimed (though low-rated) Thursday night mainstays Community and Parks and Recreation in January 2014, which were joined by Hollywood Game Night in late February.

2014–16: End of comedy programming[edit]

In May 2014, NBC announced their schedule for the upcoming fall schedule at upfronts, with only a single hour of Thursday comedy in fall for the first time since 2005. Veteran reality show The Biggest Loser would take the 8pm slot, followed by short-lived new comedies Bad Judge and A to Z and the final season of Parenthood. They also announced that breakout drama The Blacklist would take the 9pm slot at mid-season the week following the Super Bowl, hinting at the end of NBC's Thursday comedy tradition.

In December 2014, NBC announced their mid-season schedule, with three dramas scheduled on Thursday to compete with ABC.[17] This was the first time NBC had not aired comedies on Thursday since 1981, which put the Must See TV label on hiatus for three years. The final episodes of Parks and Recreation season seven were moved to Tuesdays, possibly in an attempt to burn off the last 13 episodes.[18]

In May 2015, it was announced that NBC's Thursday broke into the Top 50 most watched programming for the first time in five years, with The Blacklist being number 14. It was the night's best showing since The Office was in the Top 50 in the 2009–10 season. NBC Thursday repeated its success in the next season, with The Blacklist at 22 and new drama Shades of Blue at 35.[19]

2016–21: Revival and the End of Must See TV[edit]

In May 2016, NBC announced the return of Thursday comedy for the 2016–17 season with returning comedy Superstore and new comedy The Good Place for the first time in two years. The network also began to broadcast the second half of the Thursday Night Football season in a simulcast with NFL Network in November, effectively breaking those shows' seasons into half-seasons.

In May 2017, NBC announced the return of the Must See TV branding, with Will & Grace and Great News set to air on Thursdays for the 2017–18 season in addition to Superstore and The Good Place. Outside of holiday specials for Will & Grace and Superstore, again all four shows had their seasons broken up by Thursday Night Football.[20] With Fox merging the package into theirs in the 2018 season, this will not occur for NBC again for the next five seasons, and only the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas hiatuses will happen in future seasons. In 2021, it was announced that NBC's Thursday night comedy block would be replaced by a block of drama shows, and the Must See TV slogan was disappeared for the second time on the network.[21][22]

NBC Thursday night lineup history[edit]

  Lime indicates the #1 most-watched program of the season.[23]
  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.
Year(s) / Season 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
Pre-Must See TV (1979–1982)
1979–1980 Fall Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Quincy M.E. Kate Loves a Mystery
Winter Skag
Spring The Rockford Files
1980–1981 Fall Games People Play NBC Thursday Night Movie
Winter Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
1981–1982 Fall Harper Valley Lewis & Clark Diff'rent Strokes Gimme a Break! Hill Street Blues
Winter Fame
"The Best Night of Television on Television" (1982–1993)
1982–1983 Fall Fame Cheers Taxi Hill Street Blues
Winter Gimme a Break! Cheers
1983–1984 Fall Gimme a Break! Mama's Family We Got It Made Cheers Hill Street Blues
Winter Family Ties Cheers Buffalo Bill
Spring The Duck Factory
1984–1985 Fall The Cosby Show Family Ties Cheers Night Court Hill Street Blues
1985–1986 Fall The Cosby Show Family Ties Cheers Night Court Hill Street Blues
Spring All Is Forgiven / Night Court
1986–1987 Fall The Cosby Show Family Ties Cheers Night Court Hill Street Blues
Winter L.A. Law
Spring Nothing in Common
1987–1988 Fall The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Night Court L.A. Law
Spring The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
1988–1989 Fall The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Dear John L.A. Law
1989–1990 Fall The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Dear John L.A. Law
Winter Grand
Spring Wings
1990–1991 Fall The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Grand L.A. Law
Winter Wings
Spring Seinfeld
1991–1992 Fall The Cosby Show A Different World Cheers Wings L.A. Law
1992–1993 Fall A Different World Rhythm & Blues Cheers Wings L.A. Law
Follow-up Out All Night A Different World
Winter Cheers (R) Wings Seinfeld
Spring Crime & Punishment / L.A. Law
Must See TV (1993–2006)
1993–1994 Fall Mad About You Wings Seinfeld Frasier L.A. Law
Winter Homicide: Life on the Street
Spring L.A. Law
1994–1995 Fall Mad About You Friends Seinfeld Madman of the People ER
Spring Hope & Gloria Friends
1995–1996 Fall Friends The Single Guy Seinfeld Caroline in the City ER
Spring Boston Common
1996–1997 Fall Friends The Single Guy Seinfeld Suddenly Susan ER
Winter Suddenly Susan The Naked Truth
Spring Fired Up
1997–1998 Fall Friends Union Square Seinfeld Veronica's Closet ER
Winter Just Shoot Me!
1998–1999 Fall Friends Jesse Frasier Veronica's Closet ER
Spring Will & Grace
1999–2000 Fall Friends Jesse Frasier Stark Raving Mad ER
Spring Daddio Battery Park
2000–2001 Fall Friends Cursed Will & Grace Just Shoot Me! ER
2001–2002 Fall Friends Inside Schwartz Will & Grace Just Shoot Me! ER
Winter Leap of Faith
Spring Friends
2002–2003 Fall Friends Scrubs Will & Grace Good Morning, Miami ER
2003–2004 Fall Friends Scrubs and Good Morning, Miami Will & Grace Coupling and Scrubs ER
Winter Will & Grace The Apprentice
Spring Friends Will & Grace Scrubs
2004–2005 Fall Joey Will & Grace The Apprentice ER
2005–2006 Fall Joey Will & Grace The Apprentice ER
Winter Will & Grace Four Kings My Name Is Earl The Office
Spring My Name Is Earl
Comedy Night Done Right (2006–2012)
2006–2007 Fall My Name Is Earl The Office Deal or No Deal ER
Winter[24] Scrubs 30 Rock
Spring[25] 30 Rock Andy Barker, P.I.
2007–2008 Fall[26] My Name Is Earl 30 Rock The Office Scrubs ER
Winter1[27] The Office (R) The Celebrity Apprentice Lipstick Jungle
Spring[28] 30 Rock Scrubs The Office 30 Rock ER
2008–2009 Fall My Name Is Earl Kath & Kim The Office SNL Weekend Update Thursday and 30 Rock ER
Winter 30 Rock
Spring Parks and Recreation Southland
2009–2010 Fall SNL Weekend Update Thursday and Community Parks and Recreation The Office Community and 30 Rock The Jay Leno Show
Winter Community 30 Rock
Spring The Marriage Ref
2010–2011 Fall Community 30 Rock The Office Outsourced The Apprentice
Winter Perfect Couples Parks and Recreation 30 Rock Outsourced
Spring The Paul Reiser Show
The Office (R)
2011–2012 Fall Community Parks and Recreation The Office Whitney Prime Suspect
Mid-season 30 Rock Up All Night The Firm
Spring Awake
Follow-up Community 30 Rock
Follow-up Parks and Recreation
"We Peacock Comedy" Thursdays (2012–2013)
2012–2013 Fall SNL Primetime: Election Special and 30 Rock Up All Night The Office Parks and Recreation Rock Center with Brian Williams
Spring Community Parks and Recreation and The Office (R) 1600 Penn / Go On / Parks and Recreation Do No Harm
Follow-up Hannibal
NBC's Family of Comedies (2013–2014)
2013–2014 Fall Parks and Recreation Welcome to the Family / Parks and Recreation Sean Saves the World The Michael J. Fox Show Parenthood
Mid-season Community Parks and Recreation
Spring Hollywood Game Night
Post-Must See TV (2014–2016)
2014–2015 Fall The Biggest Loser Bad Judge A to Z Parenthood
Mid-season2 The Slap / Dateline: The Real Blacklist The Blacklist Allegiance / The Slap
2015–2016 Fall Heroes Reborn The Blacklist The Player
Winter You, Me and the Apocalypse Shades of Blue
Spring Strong Game of Silence
"Super Good" Thursdays (2016–2017)
2016–2017 Fall Superstore The Good Place Chicago Med The Blacklist
Winter Powerless The Blacklist: Redemption
Spring The Blacklist
Must See TV (second era, 2017–2021)
2017–2018 Fall Superstore The Good Place Will & Grace Great News Chicago Fire
Late Winter A.P. Bio Champions
2018–2019 Fall Superstore The Good Place Will & Grace I Feel Bad Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Winter The Titan Games Brooklyn Nine-Nine The Good Place
Spring Superstore A.P. Bio Abby's
2019–2020 Fall Superstore Perfect Harmony The Good Place Sunnyside Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Late fall Will & Grace
Winter Brooklyn Nine-Nine Will & Grace Indebted
2020–2021 Fall Superstore Connecting Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dateline NBC
Mid-Fall Superstore
Winter Mr. Mayor
Spring Manifest Law & Order: Organized Crime
Post-Must See TV (2021–present)
2021–2022 Fall Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Organized Crime
Mid-Fall The Blacklist
Winter Law & Order
2022–2023 Fall Law & Order Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Organized Crime
Spring The Blacklist Magnum P.I. (R)
2023–2024 Fall Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (R) Transplant Dateline NBC
Mid-Fall Law & Order (R)
Winter Law & Order Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Organized Crime

^1 Because of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, shows that would regularly air were replaced with reruns and unscripted programming. A few episodes of Deal or No Deal occupied the 8:00 p.m. time slot on Thursdays during the strike.

^2 During the second half of the 2014–15 season, The Slap initially occupied the 8:00 p.m. time slot; it was moved to the 10:00 p.m. time slot midway through its run after Allegiance was canceled.

Other series and specials[edit]

Several series aired on Thursdays to take advantage of the huge audience. These series include:

Specials that the network has aired on Thursdays to take advantage of the audience on that night:

  • Michael Nesmith in Television Parts (March 7, 1985)
  • Bigshots in America (June 20, 1985)
  • Phil Donahue Examines the Human Animal (August 14, 1986)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 24th Anniversary (September 25, 1986)
  • Splitting Image: The 1987 Movie Awards (March 26, 1987)
  • The Art of Being Nick (August 27, 1987)
  • Act II (September 3, 1987)
  • NBC Investigates Bob Hope (September 17, 1987)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 25th Anniversary (October 1, 1987)
  • Late Night with David Letterman: 6th Anniversary Show (February 4, 1988)
  • Heart and Soul (July 21, 1988)
  • Channel 99 (August 4, 1988)
  • Stand by for HNN: The Hope News Network (September 8, 1988)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 26th Anniversary (October 6, 1988)
  • Late Night with David Letterman: 7th Anniversary Show (February 2, 1989)
  • Jackee (May 11, 1989)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 27th Anniversary (October 26, 1989)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 28th Anniversary (September 27, 1990)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 29th Anniversary (October 3, 1991)
  • Bob Hope's Star-Studded Comedy Special of the New Season (September 1991)
  • The Funny Women of Television (October 24, 1991)
  • Late Night with David Letterman: 10th Anniversary Show (February 6, 1992)
  • The Comedy Store's 20th Anniversary (September 24, 1992)
  • A Spinal Tap Reunion (December 31, 1992)
  • Hillary: America's First Lady (June 10, 1993)
  • The Michael Jordan Special (August 5, 1993)
  • The Seinfeld Story (November 25, 2004)

Summer programming[edit]

Series airing on Thursday night during and after the run of "Must See TV" during the summer months have included Spy TV, Come to Papa, Last Comic Standing, Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, The Law Firm, Windfall and Love Bites.


  • Highest Rated Episode in the 1990s: 84.0 million viewers (Cheers: Series Finale – "One for the Road"; May 1993; 9:22 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET)
  • Highest Rated Episode in the 2000s: 52.5 million viewers (Friends: Series Finale – "The Last One"; May 6, 2004; 9:00 p.m.-10:06 p.m. ET)
  • Highest Rated Episode of the line-up (Drama): 48.0 million viewers (ER: "Hell and High Water"; November 1995; 9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. ET)
  • Highest Rated Episode of the line-up (Overall) and Peak viewership: 93.5 million viewers (Cheers: Series Finale; May 1993; 9:22 p.m.-11:00 p.m. ET)

Note: Friends's peak viewership in its 2004 series finale reached 80 million viewers as tallied by the Nielsen ratings (final 5 minutes).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Levin, Gary (May 15, 2017). "NBC sets new lineup, return of 'must-see' Thursdays with 'This Is Us' move". USA Today. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  2. ^ Schneider, Michael (May 13, 2006). "Peacock pulls back on 'Must See' revival". Variety.
  3. ^ "The Cosby Show: Cast & Details". TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  4. ^ "NBC wins May sweeps; Cheers ratings No. 2 all-time." Toronto Star May 30, 1993, SU2 ed: C4. Web. January 6, 2012. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Margulies, Lee. "TV Ratings: Surprise! 'Cheers' Finale Powers NBC to Top."
  6. ^ "Non-Crossover: "Blackout Thursday"". Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  7. ^ "All Videos—Newest—Video—". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  8. ^ Dostis, Melanie. "Looking back at 'I Love Lucy' 64 years later". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2020-05-22. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  9. ^ Crawford, Krysten (May 18, 2005). "Thursday TV: prized and in play". CNN/Money.
  10. ^ Gilbert, Matthew (January 28, 2007). "For sitcoms today, quality trumps quantity". The Boston Globe.
  11. ^ Yeoman, Kevin. "NBC Reveals Programming Shift; No More Niche Comedies". Screen Rant. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "NBC's 2013–14 Schedule: 'Revolution' Moves To Wednesday, 'Parenthood' To Thursday, 'Blacklist' Gets Post 'Voice' Slot". Deadline. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Ratings: Robin Williams's 'Crazy Ones' Easily Tops 'The Michael J. Fox Show' – TheWrap". TheWrap. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  14. ^ "NBC's Thursday Night Comedies Fall Flat". AdWeek. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "NBC Ratings — Finishes No. 7 On Night After Tying Record Thursday Low – Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 13 December 2014.
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