Times Staff Writer

NBC’s bid to unseat CBS as the prime-time ratings champion got off to a zippy preseason start last week as three of its new series placed first, third and 13th in the audience popularity ratings, figures from the A.C. Nielsen Co. showed Tuesday.

The premiere of “The Golden Girls,” dubbed by many critics as the best new comedy of the season, was the most watched program of the week, attracting viewers in 21.5 million homes on Saturday night.

“The Golden Girls,” which stars Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as single women living together in Miami, scored the highest premiere ratings for any NBC comedy since the 1974 debut of “Chico and the Man,” the network said.

The new comedy that followed it on NBC Saturday, “227,” finished third, with a rerun of “The Cosby Show” coming in second. “Hell Town,” the other NBC series that debuted last week, ranked 13th among the week’s 61 prime-time network programs.

In all, NBC captured the top four spots and 11 of the top 15 on Nielsen’s weekly ratings list. Its programs were seen in an average of 12.6 million homes, compared to 12 million for ABC and 10.7 million for CBS.


CBS’ presentation of “Death of a Salesman” on Sunday night, with Dustin Hoffman recreating his Broadway performance as Willy Loman, ranked 25th for the week, drawing an audience of about 12.1 million homes.

CBS has won the prime-time ratings race for six years running but this year expects a strong challenge from NBC, which moved up to second last season after nine years in third.

NBC has now captured 16 of the last 17 weeks, including one tie. CBS’ ratings typically dip during the summer, however, in part because its popular soap operas--"Dallas,” “Falcon Crest” and “Knots Landing"--do not perform well in repeats.

The 1985-86 TV season doesn’t begin officially until Monday, even though NBC unveiled three of its new series last week and another nine are debuting this week, including four tonight on CBS. So, much of the programming is still reruns, meaning that the preseason ratings for new shows are not necessarily indicative of how well they will do against regular competition.


Here are the ratings for national prime-time television last week (Sept. 9 through 15), as compiled by the A. C. Nielsen Co. Each rating point is said by Nielsen to represent 859,000 homes, or 1% of the 85.9 million U.S. households that have TV.

Network Rating Program 1. The Golden Girls NBC 25.0 2. The Cosby Show NBC 24.6 3. 227 NBC 23.8 4. “Miss America Pageant” NBC 23.7 5. Monday Night Football ABC 20.7 6. “Barbara Walters Special” ABC 20.3 7. 60 Minutes CBS 19.6 8. “Lady Blue” ABC 19.2 9. Cheers NBC 19.1 10. Family Ties NBC 18.8 11. Facts of Life NBC 18.7 12. “Back to Next Saturday” NBC 18.1 13. Hell Town NBC 17.5 14. Highway to Heaven NBC 16.8 15. Gimme a Break NBC 16.7 16. “Gambler--Adventure Continues,” Part II CBS 16.4 17. Who’s the Boss? ABC 15.3 18. “Love Child” NBC 15.1 19. Newhart CBS 15.0 20. Kate & Allie CBS 15.0 21. NFL Football (Thu.) ABC 14.8 22. Hill Street Blues NBC 14.7 23. Moonlighting ABC 14.7 24. NFL Football CBS 14.5 25. “Death of a Salesman” CBS 14.5 26. Three’s a Crowd ABC 14.1 27. Scarecrow & Mrs. King CBS 14.0 28. Remington Steele NBC 13.1 29. Simon & Simon CBS 13.0 30. “Life’s Embarrassing Moments” ABC 12.9 31. Hotel ABC 12.9 32. “Brass” CBS 12.9 33. Miami Vice NBC 12.8 34. OceanQuest NBC 12.8 35. “ABC All-Star Spectacular” ABC 12.7 36. Cagney & Lacey CBS 12.6 37. “The Cannonball Run” CBS 12.5 38. Webster ABC 12.3 39. Knight Rider NBC 12.2 40. A-Team NBC 12.2 41. “American Almanac” NBC 12.0 42. Mr. Belvedere ABC 11.8 43. “Secrets of a Married Man” NBC 11.6 44. TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes NBC 11.6 45. Hometown CBS 11.2 46. Silver Spoons NBC 11.2 47. West 57th CBS 11.1 48. Magnum, P.I. CBS 11.1 49. Riptide NBC 11.1 50. “J.O.E. & the Colonel” ABC 11.0 51. Hardcastle & McCormick ABC 10.6 52. Benson ABC 10.5 53. I Had Three Wives CBS 10.5 54. Airwolf CBS 8.6 55. Punky Brewster NBC 8.5 56. “In Like Flynn” ABC 8.4 57. Love Boat ABC 8.2 58. “Illusions” CBS 7.8 59. Ripley’s Believe It or Not ABC 7.7 60. Motown Revue NBC 7.1 61. “Saturday Morning Preview” CBS 5.1