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This was the television schedule on all three commercial broadcast television networks in the United States for the fall season beginning in September 1981. All times are Eastern and Pacific, with certain exceptions, such as Monday Night Football.

The highest-rated show for the year is highlighted in lime. The top 10 rated programs are highlighted in yellow. The top 20 rated programs are highlighted in cyan. The top 30 rated programs are highlighted in magenta. Rankings determined by Nielsen Media Research.[1][2]

New fall series are highlighted in bold. Series ending their original runs are highlighted in italics.

Note: A Writers Guild of America strike hindered the ability to start airing shows in a timely manner. The shows in the schedule were the first to air new episodes in their respective time periods as they bowed in between September and early December. The debut month for each new series that had been intended for a fall premiere is noted as to when it actually appeared.

PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, was in operation, but the schedule was set by each local station. On ABC & CBS, its news brief, airs all seven nights at 9:58, pm.

Fall ScheduleEdit

Sunday Edit

Network 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Code Red (Nov.) Today's F.B.I. (Oct.) The ABC Sunday Night Movie #22 19.5 rating
CBS 60 Minutes #2 27.7 rating Archie Bunker's Place #12 21.6 rating One Day at a Time #10 22.0 rating Alice #5 22.7 rating The Jeffersons #3 23.4 rating Trapper John, M.D. #16 21.1 rating
NBC Local CHiPs NBC Sunday Night at the Movies

Note: On NBC, The Powers of Matthew Star was supposed to have aired from 7–8 p.m. starting December 6, but when its star Peter Barton was hospitalized due to an on-set accident, it was delayed to the next season.

Monday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC That's Incredible! #28 18.4 rating Monday Night Football #11 21.8 rating
CBS Private Benjamin The Two of Us M*A*S*H #9 22.3 rating House Calls #23 19.2 rating Lou Grant
NBC Little House on the Prairie #25 19.1 rating NBC Monday Night at the Movies

Tuesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Happy Days #18 20.6 rating Laverne and Shirley #20 19.9 rating Three's Company #4 23.3 rating Too Close for Comfort #7 22.6 rating Hart to Hart #15 21.1 rating
CBS Specials/Simon and Simon (debut November 24) The CBS Tuesday Night Movies
NBC preliminary NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies
official Father Murphy (Nov.) Bret Maverick (Dec.) Flamingo Road

Wednesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC The Greatest American Hero Specials/The Fall Guy (debut November 4) #26 19.0 rating Dynasty #19 20.2 rating
CBS preliminary Mr. Merlin (debut October 7) WKRP in Cincinnati The CBS Wednesday Night Movies
official Nurse Shannon (Nov.)
NBC Real People #21 19.7 rating The Facts of Life #24 19.1 rating Love, Sidney (Oct.) Quincy, M.E.

Thursday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Mork and Mindy Best of the West Bosom Buddies (Sep.-Oct. 22)/Barney Miller (from Oct. 29) Taxi 20/20
CBS preliminary Magnum, P.I. #17 20.9 rating Nurse Knots Landing
official (Nov. 5) Knots Landing Jessica Novak
follow-up (Dec. 10) Knots Landing Nurse
NBC Harper Valley Lewis & Clark (Oct.) Diff'rent Strokes Gimme a Break! (debut October 29) Hill Street Blues #27 18.6 rating

Friday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC preliminary (Sep.-Oct.) Benson Making a Living ABC Friday Night Movie
official (Nov.) Bosom Buddies Darkroom (Nov.) Strike Force (Nov.)
CBS official The Incredible Hulk The Dukes of Hazzard #6 22.6 rating Dallas #1 28.4 rating
follow-up (Dec. 4) The Dukes of Hazzard Dallas Falcon Crest #13 21.4 rating
NBC preliminary NBC Magazine NBC Friday Night at the Movies
official McClain's Law (debut November 20) Local

Notes: On ABC, Open All Night was supposed to have aired from 8:30–9 p.m., but because Maggie had been canceled, it aired on Saturday instead.

On CBS, Falcon Crest was not supposed to premiere until October 1, 1982, having been delayed by the WGA strike, but it was rushed into production to fill the gap caused by the cancellation of The Incredible Hulk.

On NBC, The Devlin Connection was supposed to have premiered in the 10–11 p.m. time period on November 27, but was held back until the following season when its star, Rock Hudson, had heart surgery in early November.

Saturday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC official Maggie Making a Living The Love Boat #14 21.2 rating Fantasy Island #30 18.3 rating
follow-up (Nov. 28) Open All Night
CBS Walt Disney The CBS Saturday Night Movies
NBC Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters Various

Note: King's Crossing, which was scheduled to air on ABC from 8–9 p.m., was delayed until February 1982 as an indirect result of the WGA strike.

Mid-Season ScheduleEdit

Sunday Edit

Network 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Code Red Today's F.B.I. The ABC Sunday Night Movie
CBS 60 Minutes Archie Bunker's Place One Day at a Time Alice The Jeffersons Trapper John, M.D.
NBC Father Murphy CHiPs NBC Sunday Night at the Movies

MondayEdit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC That's Incredible! ABC Monday Night Movie #8 22.5 rating
CBS official Mr. Merlin Private Benjamin M*A*S*H House Calls Lou Grant
follow-up (Apr. 5) Private Benjamin Report to Murphy
NBC Little House on the Prairie NBC Monday Night at the Movies

Tuesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Happy Days Laverne and Shirley/Joanie Loves Chachi (Mar. 23-Apr. 13) Three's Company Too Close for Comfort Hart to Hart
CBS official Simon and Simon The CBS Tuesday Night Movies
follow-up (Mar. 23) Q.E.D. (to Apr. 27)/The Book of Lists (May 4-25)
NBC official Father Murphy Bret Maverick Flamingo Road
follow-up (Mar. 9) Bret Maverick Flamingo Road Cassie & Co.

Wednesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC The Greatest American Hero The Fall Guy Dynasty
CBS official WKRP in Cincinnati The Two of Us The CBS Wednesday Night Movies
follow-up (Mar. 17) Herbie the Love Bug WKRP in Cincinnati Baker's Dozen Shannon
follow-up (Apr. 28) The Incredible Hulk The CBS Wednesday Night Movies
NBC Real People The Facts of Life Love, Sidney/Teachers Only (Apr. 14-June 9) Quincy, M.E.

Thursday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC official Mork and Mindy Bosom Buddies Barney Miller/9 to 5 (Mar. 25-Apr. 15) Taxi 20/20
follow-up (Mar. 4) Police Squad! (to Mar. 25)/No Soap Radio (Apr. 15-May 13) Bosom Buddies/Mork and Mindy (from Apr. 1)
follow-up (May 20) Mork and Mindy Bosom Buddies
CBS official Magnum, P.I. Knots Landing Nurse
follow-up (Mar. 25) Cagney & Lacey (to Apr. 25)/Simon & Simon (from May 2) Knots Landing
NBC Fame Diff'rent Strokes Gimme a Break! Hill Street Blues

Friday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC official Benson Open All Night Best of the West Making a Living Strike Force
follow-up (March 19) Barney Miller (to Apr. 23)/Maggie (from Apr. 30) The Phoenix
CBS The Dukes of Hazzard Dallas Falcon Crest
NBC official NBC Magazine McClain's Law Cassie & Co.
follow-up (Feb.) NBC Friday Night at the Movies
follow-up (April) Specials Chicago Story McClain's Law

Saturday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC official King's Crossing The Love Boat Fantasy Island
follow-up (Mar. 13) T.J. Hooker (to Apr. 10) #29 18.4 rating/Today's F.B.I. (from Apr. 17)
CBS Walt Disney The CBS Saturday Night Movies
NBC official One of the Boys Harper Valley Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour
follow-up (Mar. 6) Chicago Story McClain's Law
follow-up (Apr. 17) Harper Valley One of the Boys Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters NBC Magazine

Summer ScheduleEdit

Sunday Edit

Network 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Code Red The ABC Sunday Night Movie
CBS 60 Minutes Archie Bunker's Place One Day at a Time Alice The Jeffersons Trapper John, M.D.
NBC Local CHiPs NBC Sunday Night at the Movies

MondayEdit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC That's Incredible! Monday Night Baseball
CBS Private Benjamin WKRP in Cincinnati M*A*S*H House Calls/Filthy Rich (8/9-8/23) Lou Grant
NBC Little House on the Prairie NBC Monday Night at the Movies

Tuesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Happy Days Laverne and Shirley Three's Company Too Close for Comfort Hart to Hart
CBS Universe The Two of Us The CBS Tuesday Night Movies
NBC official Bret Maverick Flamingo Road Cassie & Co.
follow-up (July) Father Murphy Bret Maverick Flamingo Road (to Jul. 13)/McClain's Law (Jul. 20-Aug. 24)
follow-up (Aug. 31) NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies

Wednesday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC The Greatest American Hero/The Phoenix (Aug.-Sep. 15) The Fall Guy Dynasty
CBS Mr. Merlin Specials The CBS Wednesday Night Movies
NBC Real People The Facts of Life Love, Sidney Quincy, M.E.

Thursday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Darkroom Barney Miller Police Squad! 20/20
CBS Magnum, P.I. Simon & Simon Knots Landing
NBC official Fame Diff'rent Strokes Gimme a Break! Hill Street Blues
follow-up (Aug. 26) Gimme a Break! Teachers Only

Friday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC official Benson Making a Living The ABC Friday Night Movie
follow-up (August) The Greatest American Hero Strike Force
CBS The Dukes of Hazzard Dallas Falcon Crest
NBC official Lewis & Clark Chicago Story McClain's Law (to 7/16)
follow-up (8/6) One of the Boys Cassie & Co.

Saturday Edit

Network 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC Today's F.B.I. The Love Boat Fantasy Island
CBS Walt Disney The CBS Saturday Night Movies
NBC official Here's Boomer Harper Valley NBC Saturday Night at the Movies
follow-up (8/21) Diff'rent Strokes

Pickups and CancellationsEdit

Full Season PickupsEdit

ABC

  • 9 to 5
  • Benson
  • Dynasty
  • The Fall Guy
  • Fantasy Island
  • The Greatest American Hero
  • Happy Days
  • Hart to Hart
  • Laverne and Shirley
  • The Love Boat
  • Monday Night Football
  • T.J. Hooker
  • That's Incredible!
  • Three's Company
  • Too Close For Comfort

CBS

  • 60 Minutes
  • Alice
  • Archie Bunker's Place
  • Cagney & Lacey
  • Dallas
  • The Dukes of Hazzard
  • Falcon Crest
  • Filthy Rich
  • The Jeffersons
  • Knots Landing
  • M*A*S*H
  • Magnum, P.I.
  • One Day at a Time
  • Private Benjamin
  • Simon & Simon
  • Trapper John, M.D.
  • Walt Disney

NBC

  • CHiPs
  • Diff'rent Strokes
  • The Facts of Life
  • Little House: A New Beginning
  • Fame
  • Father Murphy
  • Gimme A Break!
  • Hill Street Blues
  • Love, Sidney
  • Quincy, M.E.
  • Real People
  • Teachers Only (mid-season)

Cancellations and EndingsEdit

ABC

  • Barney Miller
  • Best of the West
  • Bosom Buddies
  • Code Red
  • Darkroom
  • King's Crossing
  • Maggie
  • Making A Living (to return in first-run syndication in 1985 under its original title)
  • Mork and Mindy
  • No Soap Radio
  • Open All Night
  • Police Squad!
  • The Phoenix
  • Strike Force
  • Today's FBI

CBS

  • Baker's Dozen
  • Herbie the Love Bug
  • House Calls
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Jessica Novak
  • Lou Grant
  • Mr. Merlin
  • Nurse
  • Q.E.D.
  • Report to Murphy
  • Shannon
  • The Two of Us
  • Universe
  • WKRP in Cincinnati

NBC

  • Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters
  • Bret Maverick
  • Cassie & Co.
  • Chicago Story
  • Harper Valley
  • Here's Boomer
  • Lewis and Clark
  • McClain's Law
  • NBC Magazine
  • One of the Boys
  • Little House On The Prairie

ReferencesEdit

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