In this weekly column, I monitor the viewership levels for the currently airing #scifi and #fantasy shows as well as their renewal and cancellation prospects. Also check out This Week In Sci-Fi TV on Fridays (sometimes Saturdays), which delivers news and updates on genre television. Ratings Source: The Nielsen Company.
NOTE: Ratings results were delayed this week because the Nielsen center located in Florida was closed due to the hurricane.
#TheOrville Has Decent Debut, But Will FOX Stand By The Show?
On Sunday, FOX's new sci fi series The Orville debuted with an impressive 2.8 rating based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic and 8.6 million total viewers (adjusted up from the 2.3 rating / 7.3M tot viewers reported in the preliminaries). That's a very good debut, and these days anything at or above a 2.0 score on the broadcast networks counts as a hit, but The Orville did get a strong push from the NFL lead-in to its debut. The show will air on Sunday again next week where it will continue to benefit from football bleed-over, but then it moves to Thursdays at 9 PM EST where it will go against Grey's Anatomy on ABC and Thursday Night Football on CBS. I expect the show's ratings to drop notably once it shifts to its new timeslot.
So with that in mind, the question at this point is how committed FOX is to this show? The network execs likely believed that they could capitalize on the build up to the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery launch, and The Orville has definitely drawn some early curious onlookers early. But they have to know that this Star Trek-like comedy will ultimately be a cult show at best, and that the timeslot they are moving it to is a brutal one for any show. That hour only averaged a 0.8 rating last season, and my assumption is that this show will only do slightly better than that as a best case scenario. FOX previously moved Fringe to that hour during the show's second season knowing that it would hurt the show's ratings. But they stuck with that one all the way through its fifth season (after moving it to Fridays midway through its third season).
The Orville was stung by tepid reception from critics prior to its debut, but the early buzz among the sci fi community is much warmer toward the show. If it can pull just mediocre ratings on Thursdays, then FOX should stand by this show just like they did with Fringe. It has the chance to become a well-regarded cult show with plenty of future promise and the network should not cut that short simply because of low (and increasingly unrepresentative) ratings results. They notoriously made that mistake with Firefly, they should not do the same with another new and promising sci fi series.
'Class' Is Cancelled
Coming as no big surprise, the BBC has cancelled their Doctor Who spin-off series Class after one season. That show barely registered in the ratings in the U.S. on BBC America, averaging only a 0.08 rating during its first season run. Of course, the numbers in the States were not as important to its survival, but it did little better across the Atlantic in Britain. It started out in its home country pulling one million viewers for its premier, but it had dropped to 300K by the end of its run, which was well below the 800K number that timeslot typically averages. The series focuses on the students and staff of Coal Hill Academy (long part of the Doctor Who mythos) who frequently have to deal with temporal intrusions. Peter Capaldi appeared as the Doctor in the first episode.
Ratings Delays Due To The Hurricane
The Sunday cable and final broadcast network ratings are still not available due to the fact that the Nielsen ratings center in Florida was impacted by Hurricane Irma. We already have the preliminary numbers for The Orville's debut, and the other Sunday numbers of interest are the Season 3 premiere of Starz's Outlander and the mid-season return of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead. I will cover those plus any other ratings numbers of interest for the week in the Friday This Week In Sci-Fi TV post.
Cancelled Before It Began: Earth II (1971)
Not to be confused with the short-lived 1994 NBC series Earth 2, this 1971 pilot for a TV series that never materialized starred Gary Lockwood (who had infamously appeared as Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey only a few years prior) as well as perennial genre guest star Mariette Hartley (Star Trek, Logan’s Run TV series, The Incredible Hulk, etc.). It takes place in the near future and focuses on a space station named Earth II that has received recognition as an independent nation and that is dedicated to the peaceful exploration of space (its pacifist manifesto does not even allow the presence of toy guns on the station). However, these ideals are quickly challenged when the station personnel discover that Red China (this was made in 1971, remember) has put a nuclear warhead in an orbital path above Moscow that can be employed for a first strike on the Russians. Earth II is a rare gem from a simpler television era and it has flown completely under the radar but is worth a look as a decent example of hard science fiction on TV. It definitely has that 70’s cheesiness about it (exemplified by the trailer above) and the special effects are less than overwhelming, but they’re still not too bad for television at that time, and this might have turned into a decent science fiction series if given the chance.
- Previous Column: Fans Campaign To Save 'Dark Matter' And 'Zoo'
- See a list of past columns at this link
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