July 31, 2012



Several networks opted not even to try and compete with Sunday’s Olympics coverage, and the effect of the games on the shows that remained was mixed.

HBO:  TRUE BLOOD didn’t miss an artery, as its craziest season ever continued to roll on with a 2.6, making it the highest-rated non-Olympics programming to air on Sunday night.  THE NEWSROOM, though, was hit fairly hard.  Sunday’s was a strange episode, with an overcomplicated structure and a storyline that felt like it was more of an Aaron Sorkin psychodrama than part of the series’ narrative arc (given Sorkin’s attention span, will we ever see that shrink again?).  It was also sad to see that it had come time for Olivia Munn’s character to join the show’s other women in making a fool of herself in public.  None of that, though, was as powerful as the Olympics, which lowered the show’s 18-49 rating to a 0.7, and shot the episode from last week’s 61% viewers under 50 to 54%.  (True Blood‘s viewers remained over 75% under 50.)

AMC:  BREAKING BAD slipped a tenth of a ratings point to 1.1, and lost about 100,000 viewers for an episode largely concerned with establishing the nuts and bolts of this season’s version of the meth cooking business.  2 chilling moments, though:  Walt’s calm lies to his sister-in-law, and especially his brief avuncular moments with the little boy he’d poisoned.

USA:  Half-way through its 6-episode run, POLITICAL ANIMALS lost half a million viewers and fell to a 0.4 in the 18-49 demo (70% of its viewers are 50 or older), and it’s probably wise not to get too attached.  The show is fatally dull, especially compared to the nutty, go-for-broke commitment to melodrama that the Washington politics-set Scandal showed once it got rolling.  Animals boils down to whether Sigourney Weaver’s Secretary of State character will run for President or not, and really, who cares?  Not even the addition of Vanessa Redgrave to the stellar cast made the show more compelling.

SHOWTIME:  The ways in which pay-TV networks are different from those supported by advertising were demonstrated again this week, as Showtime announced at TCA that it expected to renew EPISODES, even though the show scored a tiny 0.1 in 18-49s on Sunday, and was watched by fewer than a quarter of a million people in total.  (Those numbers go up once additional runs and platforms are figured in, but not enough to make it any kind of popular success.)  It’s a prestige show with a big name attached–and actually a better, funnier series in this 2d season, now that it’s eased up on the “isn’t American television stupid?” agenda–and that gives it value for Showtime.  Comparatively speeaking, WEEDS, in its valedictory 8th season, looked downright vibrant with an 18-49 rating that approached 0.3 and half a million total viewers.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."