In 1985, a victory against domestic abuse in a U.S. District Court brought on changes in the law regarding domestic violence and spousal abuse. Thurman v. City of Torrington was the case that had many people realize about the existence of spousal abuse, and how little reaction from the police can lead to certain death. The background of the court case was the topic of the NBC TV movie A CRY FOR HELP: THE TRACEY THURMAN STORY, which found its first airing on October 2, 1989, a Monday. Back in a time when TV movies were a regular occurrence on broadcast television, the drama starring Nancy McKeon as the battered wife and Dale Midkiff as the wifebeater (and he was such a charming ladies man on TIME TRAX) was the top program that day, even beating ABC’s MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, which had the Chicago Bears beating the Philadelphia Eagles.
29.7 million viewers (a Household rating/share of 21.5/33) didn’t bring NBC just a win for that Monday, the TV movie also landed on the fourth spot in the weekly Nielsen charts, only behind the sitcoms ROSEANNE, THE COSBY SHOW and THE WONDER YEARS – which means it wasn’t just the week’s most-watched movie, but also the week’s most-watched drama. Which can be surprising in this case, since dramas with a domestic abuse angle tend to be strong coffee for viewers. Then again, I have no idea what viewers were interested in the 1980s, and even though there were four networks and a couple of cable channels here and there (meaning: There was not much else to watch), this might have been the story everyone needed to see, to believe it really happens behind closed doors.