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From what I have seen in other questions, the transition from the "studio system" (actors, etc., directly under contract to the studios) to a more independent system (late 50s/early 60s) probably contributed to this a lot. See Why do movies still have credits?


I assume what you're asking about is the order the stars were listed in the credits (where the first one usually gets shown on-screen with the word "starring"). I once did a very long explanation here of how credits work, but the short answer to just about every question about TV credit structure is: That's how the stars demanded it in their contracts. ...


I thought it was because it was a better known or more popular actor. I was watching One Day at a Time reruns and noticed the last credit said "Valerie Bertinelli as Barbara Cooper"; this happened after Valerie became more popular. I noticed that on a few other TV shows also.

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