Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding have taken their place in television history alongside Hawkeye Pierce, J.R. Ewing and Joe Montana.
Nearly half of the country watched the two figure skaters Wednesday night. The prime-time telecast of the Winter Olympics on CBS, featuring the first phase of women's competition, drew the sixth-highest national Nielsen rating of all time, 48.5. The program also had a 64 share.
At its peak half-hour, from 10 to 10:30 Eastern time, the program had a 53.4 rating and 70 share.
Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Each national ratings point represents 942,000 homes. Shares measure the percentage watching a program among homes where television is in use.
During that half-hour on Wednesday night, then, almost three-quarters of the TV sets that were on were tuned to CBS.
An anomaly of the ratings is that during the half-hour when Kerrigan actually skated, 10:30-11, the numbers were down slightly, 49.3/69.
The "M*A*S*H" finale, the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas," the last night of the "Roots" miniseries and two Super Bowls are the only shows to achieve higher ratings.
"I don't think if we sat down to try to script an Olympics we would have done much better," CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told the Associated Press. "I guess we could have scripted the medal round for the [U.S.] hockey team. I think this is as good as any fiction could be."
CBS said 126.6 million people watched the program Wednesday night, which makes the show No. 4 most-watched in television history. The No. 1 program of all time was this year's Super Bowl -- 134.8 million.
"Based on this performance and the expectation of another strong night on the ladies finals on Friday, we are now assured this will be the highest-rated Olympics ever," David Poltrack, CBS senior vice president for planning and research, said in a statement.
"I think we'll do better on Friday night, but I'm not prepared to quantify that," Pilson said. "I think the story continues to be compelling.
Through 12 nights, CBS' Olympic prime-time shows are averaging a 27.6 rating. The prime-time record for an Olympics is 24.4 for the 1972 Munich Games.
In Baltimore, Wednesday's Olympics ratings were somewhat lower than national numbers. The program drew a 43.1 rating and 54 share, according to Sharon Walz, Channel 11 research director.
One rating point in the Baltimore market represents 9,700