The Ratings & Rivals of Eddie Shoestring
A brief summary for those who understandably may wish to skip this
potentially dry section:
Shoestring was highly popular: how about a new series?
Okay, the rest of you -- read on! Shoestring's first broadcast ratings…
"KNOCK FOR KNOCK"
"AN UNCERTAIN CIRCLE"
"LISTEN TO ME"
"NINE TENTHS OF THE LAW"
"FIND THE LADY"
"I'M A BELIEVER"
"ROOM WITH A VIEW"
"THE TEDDY BEARS' NIGHTMARE"
"THE MAYFLY DANCE"
"THE FARMER HAD A WIFE"
"UTMOST GOOD FAITH"
"LOOKING FOR MR WRIGHT"
"ANOTHER MAN'S CASTLE"
"WHERE WAS I?"
"THE DANGEROUS GAME"
Some clarification is needed. Prior to the formation of BARB in 1981
(Broadcasting Audience Research Bureau, the primary source of television
audience data in the UK for all broadcasters), there were several methods of
calculating ratings used - including the BBC's own (their Audience Research
Department was established in 1938).
BBC Information kindly sent me their figures for the two series of Shoestring,
but back then the media journal Broadcast published those of Audits of Great
Britain (AGB, formed in 1967), precursors to BARB. I tried to get both sets of
figures for the purposes of completion. As you can see above, results differed
slightly. As Paul Gambaccini and Rod Taylor say in their 1993 book
"Television's Greatest Hits, "the BBC figures and those produced [by AGM]
were often in considerable conflict" . So...take your pick I guess. [The
ratings contained within the episode pages on this site use the BBC
figures, by the way, since they are complete]. You will doubtless be
disappointed that I am not in possession of the different methods of calculation
to help your decision!
The reason I do not have all the AGB figures incidentally, is because I was tied
to the programme's placing in the 'Top 20' of the week, as published by
Broadcast back then. If it wasn't in, it's not there unfortunately.
A glance at the above table would indicate two things:
(i) the programme was an immediately phenomenal success story, and
(ii) there was a considerable drop in its popularity for series 2.
But this is a little misleading. In the first case, Eddie had a good start in the
ratings due to the fact that for his first 4 episodes, ITV was off air (it was in fact
off due to industrial action for 11 weeks in 1979, from 6 August to 24
October!). Of course I'm not saying that the wonderful Shoestring would have
otherwise died, but the very high figures from the off shouldn't be cited out of
Eddie's competition when they did come back included the short-lived US
detective series Mrs Columbo (starring Kate Mulgrew) and the 2nd series of
Arthur Lowe sitcom Bless Me Father. He easily saw them off.
But it was during the last three weeks of Shoestring's first run that ITV was
finally able to fight back. Their greatest victory was not surprisingly that year's
Royal Variety Show, 17.3 million opposite "FIND THE LADY". Then came a
couple of action movies: Operation Crossbow (1965) and Murphy's War
(1971), on 9 and 16 December respectively.
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