Top TV Show the Year You Finished School

One of the main aspects that’ll make or break the chances of your favorite TV series returning after ending the season on a big cliffhanger is the viewership ratings. While the traditional rating system may soon be a thing of the past due to new technology,  we can’t ignore its importance in keeping around our favorite shows from the last 50 years. Here are the highest-rated TV shows from the years 1950 to 2019!

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2019 - THE BIG BANG THEORY, SEASON 12

When the season came out in 2007, it surprisingly wasn’t that popular, only bringing in 8.31 million viewers. The fact that the show even continued after that is incredible but CBS continued to take a chance on the series which grew to its incredible 12-year run that ended in May 2019.

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2018 - THE BIG BANG THEORY, SEASON 11

The season finale was wholesome, to say the least. In “The Bow Tie Asymmetry,” Sheldon makes the scientific breakthrough that he needs to introduce the possibility of imperfection into his string theory research. This inspires him, Amy, and Leonard to explore the breakthrough further before their wedding, until Sheldon realizes they have the rest of their lives to figure it out.

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2017 - THE BIG BANG THEORY, SEASON 10

In the season finale of season 10, Sheldon Cooper makes a brash decision that shocked most fans. After Ramona kisses Sheldon on the lips, he promptly leaves and takes a cross-country flight to Amy’s front door and immediately proposes to her. The series finale leaves the question open for viewers to guess for a year. 

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2016 - NCIS, SEASON 13

“Family First” was the last episode with Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, played by Michael Weatherly. When the actor left, fans speculated that they would replace Tony. Executive Producer Gary Glasberg put the rumors to rest saying, “We have no intention of trying to replace Tony. We can't. He was, and always will be, a huge part of this show.”

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2015 - THE BIG BANG THEORY, SEASON 8

The season 8 release was affected when CBS acquired the rights to Thursday Night Football games. Originally having the Thursday slot since 2010, the show had to shift to the Monday time slot until the football games were over. The neverending war between nerds and jocks.

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2014 - NCIS, SEASON 11

This is the last season that we see Special Agent Ziva David as the main character. She became an NCIS agent after being rescued by the team after being caught by Somalian terrorists. Her last episode in the season as a main character was the episode “Past, Present and Future” which aired in 2013 bringing in 19.98 million viewers.

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2013 - NCIS, SEASON 10

The season starts with the active pursuit of Harper Dearing who planted a bomb in the Navy Yard that nearly killed the whole squad. Season 10 walks us through some intense cases the crew hasn't seen before like a washed-up helicopter crew, an elite cybercriminal, and the kidnapping of some of the NCIS team.

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2012 - NCIS, SEASON 9

While earlier seasons of NCIS were criticized for being too “procedural,” season 9 sets us up for an intense lead up to the finale where the team has to stop a terrorist bomb attack. The season finale ends with a cliffhanger that made us all question whether we would see the same cast in season 10.

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2011 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 10

In 2011, Scott McCreery became the youngest Idol winner at the age of 17. He swooned audiences with his guitar and smooth baritone vocals. The finale also featured the show’s first all-country showdown. McCreery released his debut album Clear as Day the same year of his win. Since then, he’s released a Christmas album and two more studio albums.

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2010 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 9

The season 9 winner was DeWyze who won with a 2% difference with his competitor. In 2010, Simon Cowel stepped away from judging American Idol after claiming that the show set age caps to their contestants. He shared with HollywoodLife, “Why isn’t a 35-year-old as great as an 18-year-old? I just got to the point where this is not real.” 

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2009 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 8

When Kris Allen won against Adam Lambert, it really split fans of Idol. In 2009, Rolling Stone criticized Lambert for his “extreme stage persona,” but also pointed out how Lambert was a judge favorite for most of the season. Allen has released 5 albums and 5 EPs since his Idol win.

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2008 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 7

It was the season of the two Davids! Between David Cook and David Archuleta, Cook won the competition with roughly 12 million votes against his competitor. Cook was never in the bottom three and his finale performance was of “The World I Know” by Collective Soul.

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2007 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 6

Jordin Sparks has had a busy career since her Idol win. Her finale song was “This Is My Now,” which won over the judges. After releasing her self-titled debut album to her sophomore album, she became the lead for Sparkle, a drama musical film.

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2006 - AMERICAN IDOL, SEASON 5

Taylor Hicks became the 5th winner of Idol when it reached the top spot of Nielsen’s ratings for the first time. “Do I Make You Proud,” was his finale song which was his first single after his big win. Simon Cowell praised him for his finale performance and also predicted that he would win the season.

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2005 - CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, SEASON 5

William Peterson and Marg Helgenberger are CSI Level 3 Supervisors who overlook the team of investigators solving murders, bomb threats, and kidnappings in Las Vegas, Nevada. From Area 51 aliens to the kidnapping of CSI Nick Stokes, this season takes us on a serious ride with every episode.

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2004 - CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, SEASON 4

Airing from September 25, 2003 to May 20, 2004, the season starts off with a serial killer couple who both end up dead. This causes the gang to believe that the killings were an inside job. Throughout the season, the team handles car bombings, vampires, clowns, and several murders at different casinos.

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2003 - CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, SEASON 3

The plot starts to thicken for the team. Some of the high stakes cases they take in this season include a famous actor who is accused of a double homicide which features Chad Michael Murray. The season also introduced new main characters Greg Sanders and Dr. Al Robbins.

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2002 - FRIENDS, SEASON 8

Airing 10 seasons, the six friends living as neighbors in a Manhattan apartment made their mark on situational comedy. Season 8 starts with Rachel showing her positive pregnancy test to the girls. Ross is the dad but they both decide to keep it platonic as they raise the baby together. But c’mon, we know they get together in the finale.

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2001 - SURVIVOR: THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK, SEASON 2

Set in Australia, the sixteen contestants are split into two tribes: Ogakoy (crocodile) and Kucha (kangaroo). The words are derived from an Australian Aboriginal Language. Third-degree burns, shifty alliances, and betrayal followed all of the contestants and ultimately led to a jury vote between Tina and Colby. Tina won as Sole Survivor.

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2000 - WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE

For over 2 decades, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has given contestants to win up to $1,000,000 based on their ability to answer questions as fast as possible. The show’s first-ever millionaire was John Carpenter using none of his lifelines until the final question. He phoned his dad to let him know that he’s a millionaire.

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1999 - ER, SEASON 5

This groundbreaking medical drama brought together a cast who would later go on to be some of the most notable actors in Hollywood, including George Clooney and Julianna Margulies. In season 5, the clinic runs through a lot of legal issues. By the end of the season, Carol is forced to step down from her job at the clinic.

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1998 - SEINFELD, SEASON 9

The final season of the beloved sitcom began airing on NBC from September 25, 1997 to May 14, 1998. On the final broadcast, NBC hosted a 3-part finale with the last 2-part episode and “The Chronicles” which was a lead-in to the series finale that features interviews and the most memorable moments from the show’s 9 years on the air.

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1997 - ER, SEASON 3

This season had several guest appearances from notable actors like young Ewan McGregor who starred in episode 15 “The Long Way Round” as Duncan Stewart. He’s not a patient or an assistant, but a leader in a hostage situation of a grocery store.

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1996 - ER, SEASON 2

Season 2 brings us back to the struggles of Dr. Greene and explores more of the character dynamics within the physician’s office set in Milwaukee. Green’s wife cheats on him causing a rip in their marriage, Dr. Doug shows his true heroism treating an HIV-positive child, and Hathaway gets romantically involved with Shepard, a paramedic.

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1995 - SEINFELD, SEASON 6

Seinfeld followed the lives of 4 apartment neighbors living in New York and navigating through their romances and careers in the big city. This was the first season directed by Andy Ackerman, who later worked on the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The first 5 seasons were directed by Tom Cherones.

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1994 - HOME IMPROVEMENT, SEASON 3

Between his endless banter with wife Jill and his harsh but harmless criticisms towards his assistant Al, make this one of Tim Allen’s most iconic sitcom series. In season 3, we no longer see Pamela Anderson as the tool assistant. She was replaced by Debbe Dunning who became a recurring cast member and later a main character.

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1993 - ROSEANNE, SEASON 5

The first episode of season 5, takes us through quite the loop. Roseanne and Dan sadly lose their bike shop and struggle with bills for the rest of the season. Additionally, Becky decides to elope and leave with Mark who got a job offer in Minneapolis.

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1992 - ROSEANNE, SEASON 4

Originally broadcast for ABC, Roseanne was known for its realistic depiction of the blue-collar American family. By season 4, the Conners own their own bike shop, Becky is getting really close to her boyfriend, Mark, and Roseanne starts smoking again. It seems the stress catches up to the whole family.

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1991 - CHEERS, SEASON 9

In the series’ 200th episode, the Cheers locals took a seat while John McLaughlin hosted a special recap of the first 199th episodes. The success from Cheers would move onto its spin-offs, Frasier and The Tortellis, which all aired on NBC. 

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1990 - THE COSBY SHOW, SEASON 6

From getting bad grades to dating in high school, the Huxtables were one of the first portrayals of an upper-class black family after The Jeffersons. Reaching a 23.1 Nielsen rating, it tied with Roseanne for the #1 ranking. We’re focusing less on Bill Cosby and more on the family members we all saw growing up: the 5 Cosby kids.

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1989 - THE COSBY SHOW, SEASON 5

There were some changes to the Huxtables this season. “Out of Brooklyn” was the last episode in season 5 with Denise, played by Lisa Bonet, who quits her job to become a photographer’s assistant in Africa. The actress left on maternal leave to have her daughter, Zoe Kravitz.

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1988 - THE COSBY SHOW, SEASON 4

In the season 4 episode “Theogate”, the Huxtables have a comical take on the Watergate scandal from the 70s. Theo comes home late from track practice and lies about why he’s late. His parents decide to “sue” Theo for telling half-truths and they hold a mock court in the living room. He’s found guilty but learns a lesson about honesty. 

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1987 - THE COSBY SHOW, SEASON 3

The show covered a lot of adolescent problems. In season 3, episode 5, Vanessa starts to wear makeup but gets in trouble because her parents say she has to wait until she’s 15 years old. It’s throughout this season that Phylicia Rashad is hiding a real-life baby bump

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1986 - THE COSBY SHOW, SEASON 2

This was the first season with the iconic opening theme with the whole cast dancing to with the grey background. It’s in this season that the Huxtables celebrate Russell and Anna Huxtable’s 49th Anniversary. The whole family breaks into their impressions of Ray Charles’ Night Time is the Right Time with Margie Hendrix.

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1985 - DYNASTY, SEASON 5

When ABC released Dynasty, it was a clear competition to Dallas. The stories were practically the same except Dynasty was set in Denver, Colorado. In the season 5 plot, Steven Carrington leaves his wife Claudia for another man and realizes that he is homosexual. He’s considered one of the first openly gay characters on a prime time drama series.

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1984 - DALLAS, SEASON 7

From Venezuelan cartels to murderous ex-mistresses, Dallas was a typical audacious soap opera that followed the drama of owning an oil company in Dallas, Texas. This also marked the first season when Jenna Wade is played by the late Elvis Presley’s wife, Priscilla Presley.

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1983 - 60 MINUTES

Lenell Geter was a black engineer who was wrongly convicted for an armed robbery. When Geter was imprisoned, there were conflicting eyewitness reports and unmatched claims that motivated 60 Minutes to spend half of its broadcast on the case. Their investigative reporting found new witnesses and criticized prosecution errors which eventually led to the innocent man’s exoneration.

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1982 - DALLAS, SEASON 5

Dallas was best known for its nail-biting season finale cliffhangers. The first episode of season 5 brought us back into the story of a missing heir whose corpse is seen in the Southfork pool. The season also featured a 21-episode guest appearance from Howard Keel.

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1981 - DALLAS, SEASON 4

After the season 3 finale “A House Divided,” when J.R. is shot, fans we’re ready to tune into season four. We’re taken on a full-ride of the Ewing Oil company battle as it shifted between the three brothers. We find out in the episode “Who Done It” that J.R.’s ex-mistress is the one who shot him.

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1980 - 60 MINUTES

Before the 1980s, people weren’t that interested in long-form documentary series. Ratings were plummeting until its 11th season when the show moved its programming time and added Dan Rather, then-White House correspondent to the team. It changed the dynamic of the prime time news show and moved its Nielsen rating to #1, which was unheard of for a news station.

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1979 - LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, SEASON 4

Before the girls moved to California in Season 5 (and ABC moved the show to a more competitive timeslot), they gave us the hilarious female duo comedy season. The fourth season had an average rating of 30.5, the best of its 8-season run.

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1978 - LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, SEASON 3

If you watched Happy Days, you know that this was a spin-off that was started by a double date with Fonzie. The titular characters, Laverne and Shirley go out with The Fonz and Richie Cunningham in season three. The producers loved them so much, they both were asked to do the spin-off which lasted for 8 seasons.

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1977 - HAPPY DAYS, SEASON 4

The ABC show that brought us all the Fonz, played by Henry Winkler. From his jukebox smacking to his Hound Dog dance, this season continued to bring us big laughs before bringing us to the edge of our seats. Near the end of the season, Fonzie is in a serious stock car accident during a race that he miraculously survives.

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1976 - ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEASON 6

When the first season originally aired on the 9:30 Tuesday timeslot, ratings were frail with the show only reaching #34 on Nielsen’s ranks. CBS moved their time slot to Saturday at 8pm and the television show became a #1 hit, easily raking in over 20,000,000 households to see what exactly was going on in the Bunker neighborhood.

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1975 - ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEASON 5

The fifth season is the last season with the Jeffersons. George and family move on up to Manhattan after his dry cleaning business takes off. In “The Jeffersons Move Up,” Louise, played by Isabel Sanford, and Edith share a heartfelt goodbye and cry together. This explains why Louise is crying in the opening credits of The Jeffersons sitcom series.

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1974 - ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEASON  4

While they were far from perfect, the Bunker’s stories and hardships drew us closer to a better understanding of the blue-collar family in America. Season 4 explored more of the family dynamics between interracial relationships like in “Lionel’s Engagement,” when the young Jefferson marries Jenny.

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1973 - ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEASON 3

All in the Family was especially known for its commentary on relevant social issues prevalent in the 70s, specifically racism. Archie was the patriarch of the family almost all of us consider a “lovable bigot.” During his hospital visit, he immediately bonds with his roommate and later is shocked to find out his new friend is black.

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1972 - ALL IN THE FAMILY, SEASON 2

The most notable episode of this season is when Archie, who’s a taxi driver, comes home to tell everybody that the iconic Sammy Davis Jr. was one of his passengers. When Sammy realizes that his suitcase is still in Archie’s cab, he returns to the Bunker house and gets a picture snapped of him kissing Archie on the cheek.

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1971 - MARCUS WELBY, M.D., SEASON 2

This medical drama series ran for 7 seasons and was revered for its portrayal of generational gaps between medical partners. During the mid-70s, the show and many other medical series like CBS’s Medical Center and even daytime dramas including General Hospital dropped in ratings.

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1970 - ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN, SEASON 3

The name “Laugh-In” was a response to the many civil rights protests happening around the nation. This was the first year the show introduced the hilarious comedian and actress Lily Tomlin. She entered the cast halfway through the series and as the hilarious Ms. Powers, a call operator at a telephone company with an amusing snort.

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1969 - ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN, SEASON 2

The second season introduced a handful of comedians, including Alan Sues, Dave Madden, and Chelsea Brown. Most of the cast takes their leave except Sues who stayed on until 1972. He is most remembered for his role as the troubled clown Uncle Al who sometimes loses his temper. 

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1968 - THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, SEASON 8

Who doesn’t remember that delightful whistle? All 8 seasons of the Andy Griffith Show graced the top 10 rankings. The CBS show ran from October 3, 1960 to April 1, 1968 and finally reached #1 for the final season. The show ended as an introduction to the spin-off Mayberry RFD which had 3 seasons.

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1967 - BONANZA, SEASON 8 

Bonanza is just one of the legendary western shows released for most of the 60s. The show ran for 14 years (1959-1973) and is the longest-running western show on NBC. In season 8, the Cartwright family handled phony fortune-tellers, murder plots, and outlaws ruining the lives of the townsfolk.

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1966 - BONANZA, SEASON 7

In 1966, Bonanza was seeing some serious competition with “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” a CBS variety show. It still kept its spot at the top. The show is still remembered today for broadcasting the beautiful Lake Tahoe scenery in full color.

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1965 - BONANZA, SEASON 6

Ratings for Bonanza began to take over the charts during the 3rd season when NBC moved its time slot to Sunday nights at 9pm. This marked the first year that Bonanza topped the Nielsen TVRatings chart with a 36.3 rating.

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1964 - THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, SEASON 2

The sound of a bluegrass banjo in the backdrop of Hollywood seems offbeat, but The Beverly Hillbillies was an American favorite for 2 years. The second season marked the series’ peak rating at 39.1. It was loved and hated throughout its entire 9 season run. 

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1963 - THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, SEASON 1

Airing from 1962 - 1971, this sitcom marked the beginning of two other classic spin-offs: Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. After striking oil in his backyard, Jed and his extended family move to Hollywood, CA. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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1962 - WAGON TRAIN, SEASON 5

Inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master, each episode of Wagon Train was a self-contained storyline about the many travelers and cities the crew encounters on their way to California. Robert Horton, who played Flint McCullough, exited the show after this season and continued to make guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mark Dolphin, and A Mac Called Shenandah.

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1961 - GUNSMOKE, SEASON 6

From bank robberies to damsels in distress, Gunsmoke was ranked in the top 20 television shows since its second season aired in 1956 up until its last season. From 1955 to 1961, the CBS show ran as a half-hour special on Saturday at 10pm. 

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1960 - GUNSMOKE, SEASON 5

Gunsmoke was the longest-running show on television. It’s incredible that for years, Les Crutchfield, Marian Clark, and John Meston continued to whip out these Western stories for years to come. While many TV shows were making their switch to color television, Gunsmoke remained black and white until 1966.