A Christmas Story
Debut: 1983 (in theaters)
Current network: TBS
Air date: From 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve to 8 p.m. on Christmas Day each year.
Nielsen couldn't even pull the ratings data for Jean Shepard's holiday mainstay because the constant re-airings just make it a nightmare to track. It's been run marathon-style by the folks at Turner since 1997, switched from TNT to TBS in 2004 and has been ratings gold ever since.
The audience for the entire marathon grew from more than 38 million people tuning in at one time or another more than a decade ago to roughly 54 million watching Santa kick Ralphie down the slide or Flick stick his tongue to the flagpole in 2009. The first showing on Christmas Eve regularly registers between 4.3 million and 4.5 million viewers. Last year, the 10 a.m. showing on Christmas Day drew more than 4.5 million viewers, making it the second-most popular cable program of the day behind TNT's noon showing of NBA Basketball. Of the Top 10 programs on cable television last Christmas, showings of A Christmas Story accounted for six of them. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/12/28/sunday-cable-ratings-nba-a-christmas-story-marathon-dominate-christmas-leverage/114774/It's absolute genius on the part of TBS and its parent company, Time Warner (TWX - Get Report). They provide a full day of holiday programming with minimal effort and in return they become the Christmas default for millions of households. This has spawned a bunch of surly haters who bristle at the mere mention of the line "You'll shoot your eye out," but why get so mad? It appears on exactly one channel -- one that's usually filled with reruns of Seinfeld, Friends and Tyler Perry shows. If you want to avoid it, you know what channel to block. If you just want to complain about it, you're pretty much letting people know you have nothing better to do on Christmas than watch old sitcoms. Two solutions: go blog about it; or do what U.S. television watchers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have been doing for 15 years, and use Jean Shepard's dulcet tones as your excuse to take a nap. -- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.