Fall television season marked by stellar ratings for AMC
Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 02:12
From the successes at CBS, to the ratings woes at NBC, to the triumphs of cable channels like AMC and FX, this year’s fall television season has seen its share of highs and lows. As midseason finales begin to air, it’s an apt moment for a look back at the past few months of TV.
It’s been quite a fall for the network behind the critically acclaimed shows “Mad Men” (2007-present), “The Walking Dead” (2010-present) and, of course, “Breaking Bad” (2008- 2013). AMC’s shining moment began in July when it racked up an astounding 34 Emmy nominations — the most for any basic cable network this year. It fared reasonably well at the awards ceremony itself, with “Breaking Bad” taking top prize for Outstanding Drama Series. Although Bryan Cranston and Jon Hamm both failed to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Anna Gunn managed to snag a trophy for her role as Skyler White in “Breaking Bad.”
The network’s ratings have been consistently high as well. “The Walking Dead” broke cable channel records when it brought in 16.1 million viewers for its season four premiere and followed up with another 12.1 million for its midseason finale. The final episode of “Breaking Bad” raked in an astounding 10.3 million viewers. But these numbers — impressive as they may be — are not guaranteed to stay. With “Mad Men” entering its final season and “Breaking Bad” now off the air, AMC must find another hit or two in order to sustain its remarkable success.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been doing so well in the ratings. NBC’s Thursday lineup has seen tepid viewership for the past few months. New shows “Sean Saves the World” and “The Michael J. Fox Show” have received mixed reviews, and viewers have stayed away, preferring the all-star CBS comedy block of “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-present), “Two and a Half Men” (2003-present) and newcomers “The Millers” and “The Crazy Ones.” “Big Bang” is the most watched comedy on television — it regularly sees over 18 million viewers — and easily beats the competition.
Meanwhile, critically acclaimed shows like “Parks and Recreation” (2009-present) and “Parenthood” (2010-present) get very little love from the ratings — an unlucky trend, as both shows feature stellar casts that continue to give funny, poignant performances week after week. Perhaps “Sean Saves the World” and “The Michael J. Fox Show” are not worth sticking around for, but it is truly regrettable to see top-notch shows like “Parks” and “Parenthood” with such miserable ratings.
“The Voice” and “The Blacklist”
Despite Thursday night disappointments, NBC isn’t a black pit of ratings despair. Its singing competition, “The Voice” (2011-present), draws in almost 15 million viewers on average each week (including those who tune in through DVR playback), giving a solid lead-in to the new James Spader-led drama, “The Blacklist,” which has a comparable viewership. This success, though, isn’t necessarily shocking when one considers that “The Voice” has been doing fairly well for the past few years and “The Blacklist” was touted by critics as one of the fall’s best new shows. What is surprising, however, are the robust numbers “Chicago Fire” (2012-present) sees. The firefighter drama, now in its second season, airs right after “The Blacklist” and has averaged about 10.9 million viewers: more than the combined ratings of “Sean Saves the World” and “The Michael J. Fox Show.”
When “Homeland” premiered in 2011, it was hailed as one of the best shows on television and has since scooped up a pile of Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series, and awards for leads Claire Danes and Damien Lewis. Its sophomore season, while less universally acclaimed, was still a hit.
It would seem, though, that “Homeland” has hit a creative slump this year. The Showtime drama concluded its second season with a bang — literally and figuratively — and the writers have struggled to follow up on that game-changing conclusion. The show’s pace has slowed considerably — a significant change since “Homeland’s” trademark was its plot’s breakneck speed — and Lewis’s character, ex-Marine Nick Brody, has been almost entirely absent this season. The upside of this, however, is more screen time for Mandy Patinkin, who is consistently captivating as acting CIA director Saul Berenson.
The success of the wild and silly new series “Sleepy Hollow” was not exactly expected. Yet the fantasy drama — which tells the story of a small New York town terrorized by a headless horseman and the unlikely pair trying to stop him — has quickly accumulated a rabid fan base, partially due to the two leads. The show’s heroes are police officer Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane (Tim Mison), formerly a solider in the Revolutionary War and newly awakened from a more than 200-year slumber. The frequently bantering duo is engaging — not to mention attractive — and somehow make the drama’s highly unrealistic elements a treat for viewers. Fox apparently agreed; “Sleepy Hollow” was the network’s first new show of the fall to be renewed.