On January 13, the audience watching Lena Dunham accept two awards for Girls was larger than the audience watching Dunham act in Girls. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: The Golden Globes are the liquored-up prelude to the televised awards season, the rowdy tailgate party that entices viewers with the promise of nominees letting their hair down and cutting as loose as network standards and practices will allow. And this year’s Globes ceremony actually merited its 19.7-million-viewer audience: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler proved top-notch hosts while Jodie Foster’s meandering acceptance speech served as the evening’s argument for the continued existence of live television. By contrast, one of the evening’s biggest winners played to nearly 19 million fewer viewers; the second-season première of Girls drew 870,000 viewers and a .5 rating among adults under 50. (That put it between a pair of Storage Wars episodes in the rundown of cable ratings for the night; in terms of TV Club Rankings, Girls is at No. 32, surrounded by Fox comedies.) Spinning the data for that debut airing and the two encores that followed, it makes for both an increase and a decline in viewership—and putting the stats up against those of the Globes is essentially an exercise in comparing broadcast apples to premium-cable oranges.
Nonetheless, it’s a crucial illustration of the diversifying factors that go into programming a television in 2013. NBC and its advertisers sink a lot of money into the Golden Globes, and if it’s not among the week’s most-watched telecasts, the ceremony is a flop. Girls, meanwhile, is partially underwritten by HBO subscriber fees, so as long as it hovers around that 870K mark, sells DVDs, picks up awards, and keeps people talking, the network will keep it around. It’s a “hit” at viewership levels that would get an award show like the Globes permanently canned. And that’s why, among the mass TV audience, Lena Dunham’s bound to be more famous for winning awards than writing, directing, and starring on a very good show.
THE TOP 10
- The Big Bang Theory (20 million viewers, 6.4 18-49 rating, 67 TV Club Power Ranking)
- How I Met Your Mother (10.4 million viewers, 3.8 18-49 rating, 55 TV Club Power Ranking)
- Person Of Interest (15.7 million viewers, 3.3 18-49 rating, 47 TV Club Power Ranking)
- Modern Family (11 million viewers, 4.3 18-49 rating, 42 TV Club Power Ranking)
- Elementary (11.5 million viewers, 2.4 18-49 rating, 36.6 TV Club Power Ranking)
- Once Upon A Time (8.2 million viewers, 2.8 18-49 rating, 17.7 TV Club Power Ranking)
- The Good Wife (10 million viewers, 1.9 18-49 rating, 16.4 TV Club Power Ranking)
- The Middle (8.2 million viewers, 2.3 18-49 rating, 16.3 TV Club Power Ranking)
- Family Guy (6 million viewers, 3.2 18-49 rating, 16.4 TV Club Power Ranking)
- 30 Rock (3.8 million viwers, 1.5 18-49 rating, 15.6 TV Club Power Ranking)
DEBUTS: Enlightened is still far from a blockbuster for HBO (and it’s such a singular, niche work that it’ll never really be one)—but pairing the Mike White-Laura Dern team-up with Girls did boost the ratings for the show’s second-season première. It was up to 300,000 viewers from 210,000 for its 2011 debut.
DECLINES: It certainly wasn’t helped along by competition from the Golden Globes, but ABC’s grand experiment of goosing the ratings for Happy Endings and Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 ended poorly for both shows, with Sunday telecasts dipping below a 1 in the 18-49 rating (a 0.9 for Happy Endings and a 0.8 for Apartment 23) and no ratings bump for the regularly scheduled Tuesday-night airings. Why must the network kill shows it insists that it loves? Because there are holes to fill, that’s why—black holes left behind 666 Park Avenue that just might suck better series into the void as well.
HOLY FUCK, HOW DO THESE NUMBERS KEEP GETTING BIGGER?: 20 million people watched that “girls in the comic shop” episode of The Big Bang Theory. That’s up from 19.25 million the previous week (which built from 16.8 million for the final episode of 2012). It’s like the show is bulking up in order to clobber Community or something.