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M*A*S*H finale appears to be top-rated TV program in history here

The greatest ever local Super Bowl rating for New England’s 34-28 overtime victory over Atlanta led WUTV, the local Fox affiliate, to declare it was the highest-rated program in Buffalo television history.

It wasn’t.

The 57.2 household rating for the game made it the highest-rated program in Buffalo TV history since meters began measuring ratings here in April of 2000. Before then, ratings were measured here by diaries.

That led me to seek the help of Bob Gallivan, the veteran researcher for WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate. He discovered that the series finale of the CBS drama “M*A*S*H” on Feb. 28, 1983, had a 62 household rating here. That would appear to be the highest-rated program in Buffalo television history.

But there is no way to confirm that 100 percent since programs were only rated here before 2000 during the four sweeps periods and Gallivan doesn’t have all the sweeps ratings books to check.

[RELATED: WNY has best Super Bowl rating ever, ranks No. 2 nationally]

You might think that one of the four Buffalo Bills Super Bowls was the highest-rated program in Buffalo TV history. But they were played outside of sweeps periods and there are no traditional ratings for them.

The “M*A*S*H” finale also reached more households and viewers than the 2017 Super Bowl since a rating point 34 years ago was worth more households because Western New York's population was larger in 1983.

The “M*A*S*H” finale had 800,000 viewers age 2 and over here, while Sunday’s Super Bowl had 618,349 viewers age 2 and over.

One other prime time entertainment program with a rating here that approached this year’s Super Bowl was the Jan. 30, 1977 finale of the ABC miniseries “Roots.”

It had a 54 rating on WKBW-TV, the local ABC affiliate, the Sunday of the Blizzard of ’77 week when almost everyone in the area was stuck at home.

What about “The Who Shot J.R.”? episode of “Dallas” that was carried on Nov. 21, 1980? It did extremely well here but it wasn’t in the ball park of the 2017 Super Bowl or “M*A*S*H.” It had a 43 rating on Channel 4.


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