We're still two Fridays away from the full return of regular programming and therefore the full return of regular Friday night ratings reports. However, with FOX's “Utopia” having a premiere for a time period it is scheduled to occupy for six weeks — with an emphasis on “scheduled to occupy,” because it's hard to predict how long it will actually be there — it seemed worthwhile to look at the numbers, especially since FOX has also released Live+3 DVR figures for Sunday's launch.
Let's check out those numbers.
On Friday (September 12) night, “Utopia” drew 1.98 million viewers in its time period premiere, also averaging a 0.7 rating among adults 18-49. Those are Fast National ratings, but the Final Live+Same Day ratings for Tuesday's premiere were a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.48 million viewers.
You'd say “Oh, but it's Friday night, of course the numbers are down,” but for the hour, “Utopia” finished below ABC's pair of “Last Man Standing” repeats in the 18-49 demo and tied with a repeat of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” on NBC, while finishing significantly below both shows overall. Among adults 18-34, “Utopia” tied for the hour lead with a weak 0.5 rating.
[For those curious, NBC won Friday night both overall and among adults 18-49 on the strength of two hours of “Dateline.” The CW's “Masters of Illusion” continued to be another small summer success for the network, averaging 1.47 million viewers and a 0.4 key demo rating, perhaps illustrating the difference in expectations between a low-cost CW summer-only pickup and a high-priced reality series that FOX wants to have running for the full calendar year.]
For those who want a little bit more optimism in their “Utopia” prognosis, on Friday, FOX released the first Live+3 Day ratings for the Sunday launch of the series. If you'll recall, “Utopia” premiered out of FOX's powerhouse NFL and NFL postgame coverage and drew 4.63 million viewers and a 2.0 rating among adults 18-49 for Live+Same Day viewership.
Well, when it comes to Live+3, “Utopia” rose 20 percent among adults 18-49 to a 2.4 key demo rating and 19 percent overall to 5.53 million.
Since we know the steep drop on Tuesday and the drop on Friday, isn't that a bit like looking at the Titanic slipping below the surface and saying, “Well, five days ago the Titanic was cruising confidently”? Perhaps a tiny bit, but FOX correctly notes that those DVR bumps are reasonably good for an unscripted show, since viewers tend to watch unscripted programming live and eschew holding off. So maybe it gives FOX hope that Tuesday's show will get a similar bump, though that would only bring the numbers up to a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.95 million viewers.
In an interview after the Tuesday drop, new Fox Television Group co-chairman and co-CEO Dana Walden promised that the network will have patience with “Utopia” and suggested that maybe viewers just weren't ready for a new fall show. That was a confusing statement given that “Utopia” premiered early for the express purpose of not getting lost in an avalanche of fall programming. It also assumes that viewers were able to look at “Utopia,” know it was a “fall show” and ignore it, rather than just giving in to curiosity as audiences did with myriad other new scripted and reality shows this summer.
Certainly those Friday numbers actually aren't so dire (relatively speaking). Friday's ratings would have been on the high side for what both “Enlisted” and “Raising Hope” were doing on Friday through much of the spring.
The Tuesday numbers are big more problematic. Walden may promise patience, but if “Utopia” is averaging under 2.5 million viewers and a 0.9 key demo rating against “Big Brother” and “Food Fighters,” what will it be doing against “The Voice” and “NCIS”? And how will the total lack of a viable lead-in impact the 9 p.m. FOX comedies?
We'll see how long the patience lasts…
[Friday night's episode of “Utopia” featured less reprehensible behavior from the men — Fifth Avenue Dave quit in a huff, but wanted to return to be baptized — and included more societal progress, with the acquisition of a fridge and the successful addition of a flushing toilet. It still featured very little forward progress and relied heavily on the notion that viewers are going to be willing to tolerate the entirely intolerable Bella and that viewers are going to be wicked excited by the Bri/Chris relationship and the burgeoning fling between Mike and Polyamorous Dedeker. With the addition of two pioneers in the next week — One replacing the pre-show bootee and one presumably replacing Dave — I'll stick around to see if the chemistry changes at all, but I'm not anywhere near invested enough to keep watching after the competition returns. At least not yet.]