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Nielsen Report: Nostalgic Comedies Saw a Pandemic Viewership Boost

Jeff Kotuby

While contemporary comedies saw a decline in viewership during the pandemic, classic shows such as “Friends,” “Family Matters,” and even “The Andy Griffith Show” saw a rise in popularity.

According to a Nielsen report, beloved older comedies saw a resurgence in watch minutes from 2019 to 2020. Popular shows like the “Friends” and “The Andy Griffith Show” saw a slight uptick in viewership year-by-year (30 percent and 29 percent, respectively), and shows like “Family Matters” and “George Lopez” saw huge boosts in popularity. Gross minutes viewed for “George Lopez” grew 113 percent from ‘19 to ‘20, while “Family Matters” grew 392 percent — by far the largest growth on the chart. You can view a selection of nostalgic comedy programs below:

Select Nostalgia Comedy, Gross Minutes Viewed

Program 2019 2020 % Difference
Friends 74,818,083,891 96,962,475,889 30%
The Andy Griffith Show 45,265,171,514 58,292,939,519 29%
Roseanne 11,810,943,194 20,137,102,531 70%
Family Matters 2,311,974,248 11,369,944,708 392%
George Lopez 5,154,797,256 10,957,567,936 113%
I Love Lucy 8,625,779,928 9,275,410,368 8%
Full House 5,338,416,616 7,221,218,366 35%
Good Times 5,520,346,824 6,871,305,416 24%
Fresh Prince of Bel Air 5,952,199,945 6,713,843,070 13%
The Bernie Mac Show 1,962,669,240 3,346,974,922 71%

Nielsen also reported “The Office” remains king of comedy — in traditional viewership and in streaming. Viewers watched 87.28 billion hours of “The Office” across traditional broadcast TV and Netflix, its former streaming home. It will be interesting to see how “The Office’s” move to Peacock, combined with “Friends’” availability on HBO Max will affect numbers going forward.

“In times of disruption and uncertainty, few would argue that the comedy genre is a welcomed diversion. Disruption makes viewers reach for the tried while uncertainty drives us toward the true. And generally speaking, good comedy is timeless, as evidenced by notable viewership spikes in programs as diverse as the Golden Girls, George Lopez, Full House and Hogan’s Heroes,” the Nielsen report said. “After a year of isolation, with the road ahead brightening, but still unsure, as more nostalgic programs find their way to new platforms and channels, there’s little doubt that along with our hopes, viewership will continue to rise.”

Favorite Comfort TV Streaming Options

  • Vänner

    22 september 1994

    Vänner handlar om Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler och Joey – sex personer som bor på Manhattan i New York – och deras förhållanden, deras lycka, sorg och allt däremellan.

  • The Andy Griffith Show

    3 oktober 1960

    The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom first televised on CBS between October 3, 1960 and April 1, 1968. Andy Griffith portrays the widowed sheriff of the fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina. His life is complicated by an inept, but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife, a spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee, and a precocious young son, Opie. Local ne’er-do-wells, bumbling pals, and temperamental girlfriends further complicate his life. Andy Griffith stated in a Today Show interview, with respect to the time period of the show: “Well, though we never said it, and though it was shot in the ’60s, it had a feeling of the ’30s. It was when we were doing it, of a time gone by.”

    The series never placed lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings and ended its final season at number one. It has been ranked by TV Guide as the 9th-best show in American television history. Though neither Griffith nor the show won awards during its eight-season run, series co-stars Knotts and Bavier accumulated a combined total of six Emmy Awards. The show, a semi-spin-off from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show titled “Danny Meets Andy Griffith”, spawned its own spin-off series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a sequel series, Mayberry R.F.D., and a reunion telemovie, Return to Mayberry. The show’s enduring popularity has generated a good deal of show-related merchandise. Reruns currently air on TV Land, and the complete series is available on DVD. All eight seasons are also now available by streaming video services such as Netflix.

  • Roseanne

    18 oktober 1988

    A working-class family struggles to get by on a limited income in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois.

  • Family Matters

    22 september 1989

    A long-running dramedy centering on the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, and their pesky next-door neighbor, ultra-nerd Steve Urkel. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers.

  • George Lopez

    27 mars 2002

    George Lopez is an American sitcom starring comedian George Lopez. The show originally aired on ABC from March 27, 2002, to May 8, 2007.

  • I Love Lucy

    15 oktober 1951

    Cuban Bandleader Ricky Ricardo would be happy if his wife Lucy would just be a housewife. Instead she tries constantly to perform at the Tropicana where he works, and make life comically frantic in the apartment building they share with landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz, who also happen to be their best friends.

  • Full House

    22 september 1987

    After the death of his wife, Danny enlists his best friend and his brother-in-law to help raise his three daughters, D.J., Stephanie, and Michelle.

  • Good Times

    8 februari 1974

    Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until August 1, 1979, on the CBS television network. It was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, and developed by Norman Lear, the series’ primary executive producer. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, which is itself a spin-off of All in the Family along with The Jeffersons.

    The series is set in Chicago. The first two seasons were taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood. In the fall of 1975, the show moved to Metromedia Square, where Norman Lear’s own production company was housed.

  • Fresh Prince i Bel Air

    10 september 1990
  • The Bernie Mac Show

    14 november 2001

    The Bernie Mac Show is an American sitcom that aired on Fox for five seasons from November 14, 2001 to April 14, 2006. The series featured comic actor Bernie Mac and his wife Wanda raising his sister’s three kids: Jordan, Bryana, and Vanessa.

  • The Office

    24 mars 2005

    Mockumentär som följer den tidvis absurda vardagen för en grupp kontorsarbetare, på jobbet och privat. Egon krockar, folk beter sig olämpligt och tristess bryts av galna upptåg och spratt.

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