In the overhyped, must-see presidential debate between two former New York friends now vying for the nation’s most powerful desk job, the very thinkable happened: 84 million people tuned in to the presidential debates, breaking a record set by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan back in 1980.

That’s according to Nielsen, who tracks television consumer habits even in an age of cord-cutting and digital streaming.

The 80 million people the 1980 contest drew had withstood eight election cycles as the most-watched debate, even as the iconoclastic Ronald Reagan went on to campaign for a second term, and then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton took his swagger on a national tour, just a few years before a sophisticated former law professor named Barack Obama attempted to become the nation’s first black president.

It only took all that time for Donald Trump to finish re-shaping the New York City skyline and cast himself as an entertainer on reality TV before the record had a chance to be broken.

When records fall


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The first big earth-shattering television event happened back in 1983, when the final episode of “MASH” defeated former ratings champion “Dallas,” who had the dutiful task of answering to everyone out there — who shot J.R.? The “MASH” season finale in 1983 crushed the viewership record with 105.97 million viewers, a record that lasted all the way until the beginning of this decade. It took a dominant New Orleans Saints offense beating Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV to finally topple that, when 106.5 million viewers tuned in.

WATCH: Debate highlights from the first presidential debate