‘The Walking Dead’ Ratings Plummet Just Like ‘Criminal Minds’: What Do Fans Want To See And Why?

Are The Walking Dead fans wanting a do-over on Season 7? Ratings are way down following the brutal premier, which stunned even the most hardened of viewers and has others swearing off the show.

The Walking Dead premiere could be the worst TV series miscalculation since Criminal Minds fired Thomas Gibson. The violent death of favorites characters, followed by a significant plot change, and the demoralization of other beloved actors and characters, could be a recipe for disaster for both shows.

Though Criminal Minds didn’t kill the beloved character Hotch, portrayed by Thomas Gibson, they fired Gibson and publically shamed the actor. Fans are irate and actively boycotting the show.

Criminal Minds saw huge casting changes between Season 11 and Season 12, and also a significant change in the overall plot. Ratings plummeted from over 12 million to eight million viewers per episode this season.

Is The Walking Dead in serious ratings trouble after brutally killing off Glenn and Abraham, AKA Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz? After a record-breaking 17 million viewers watched the season premiere, a full 25 percent of them may have said, never again. Entertainment Weekly explained that ratings are down 25 percent for The Walking Dead. Viewers are expressing their dissatisfaction with the turn the show has taken.

The Walking Dead’s fan turned critic Byran Bishop wrote a scathing review of the premiere in The Verge accusing The Walking Dead of audience abuse.

“This wasn’t quality television, and it wasn’t suspenseful drama. It was torture porn masquerading as storytelling, and AMC should be ashamed for airing it.”

Many of The Walking Dead viewers felt the premier crossed the line according to Entertainment Weekly, and have vowed to quit the show. After a sudden rating drop and then a steady decline, only 11 million viewers watched Season 7 Episode 5. Some viewers miss Glenn and Abraham, others just couldn’t take the grisly nature of the premier. Episode 3 upset viewers who could not stand seeing Daryl degraded.

The Walking Dead fans have spoken and they are fed up. TV.Com received some bitterly negative comments.

“I have been watching this show since day one. I liked the idea of humans getting in survival mode against an ocean of zombies, but I cannot take a human having a ball bashing other people’s brain in like golf balls. And the worst part of it is that you could feel throughout this episode that the writers enjoyed it. Well, I didn’t, and as a fan, I am your money.”

The Walking Dead fans make it clear they don’t like seeing their heroes dehumanized and punked down, any more than Criminal Minds fans can endure Thomas Gibson being maligned in real life.

“If the rest of this show is about having another person come in a manipulate and dehumanize our heroes, then where’s the story that keeps our interest. It’s gone.”

“Guys, This is awful. They need to get Negan out of this show. He has made punks out of everyone. The story line is not believable and shows that the writers have no idea what it’s viewing audience likes.”

Criminal Minds fans don’t like losing their favorite actor, Thomas Gibson over a petty quarrel on set.

Criminal Minds’ solution to explaining Thomas Gibson’s absence didn’t set well with show enthusiasts, even though the measure saved the character’s life. Again, neither Criminal Minds fans nor The Walking Dead fans want to see their favorite heroic characters killed, degraded, or punked down.

The Walking Dead’s ratings for episodes 2 – 5 of Season 6, are the shows lowest since the third season. After the new villain Negan brutally bludgeoned Glenn to death, they obviously lost a lot of hard won viewers. The fan base is complaining, but will writers listen?

Criminal Minds ratings are in a crisis. This season’s episodes are being viewed by about seven to eight million viewers when their annual average is generally 12 to 14 million viewers per episode. Could The Walking Dead eventually sink to the same level? What causes popular shows to suddenly tank?

Disgruntled Criminal Minds enthusiasts are in agreement that casting changes are wrecking the show. Firing Thomas Gibson was the biggest problem, but losing Shemar Moore could have also dealt a powerful blow to previously stable ratings. Overall, casting changes can be very upsetting to viewers, but writers do not seem to agree.

Walking Dead enthusiasts are speaking out on twitter, letting writers know they are not satisfied at all with the path the show has taken.

The Walking Dead fans have a lot of ideas to improve the show, but they are not completely in agreement over what should happen, only that what is happening now should not be. A fair percentage of them are unsatisfied with the plot lately. The writers presume they know what is going to work for their viewers, but, contrary to popular belief, writers, actors, and showrunners do not get immediate feedback. The shows viewers are watching now were taped months prior to airing. The Walking Dead plotline isn’t going to change soon despite feedback.

Steven Yeun The Walking Dead
Steven Yeun portrayed Glenn Rhee being brutally murdered on The Walking Dead [Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]

Criminal Minds fired Thomas Gibson soon after Shemar Moore quit. They received a sharp rating decline and even sparked a huge twitter protest. The loss of two main characters in a season could be too much for any show to withstand. The Walking Dead fans are not happy with the loss of Glenn either. That is equally true if changes also include a major plot shift, as in the case of The Walking Dead, or if a popular actor with a huge fan base is dismissed from a show.

The Walking Dead fans, who adore Norman Reedus’ character Daryl have a saying. “If Daryl dies we riot.” Reedus likes this attitude in his fans, but Criminal Minds fans are actually trying out the philosophy on behalf of Thomas Gibson of Criminal Minds. Their boycotts and twitter protests coupled with the silent reaction of less vocal viewers is about to topple the show.

The Walking Dead writers should perhaps take notice of what is happening to Criminal Minds, and be good to Norman Reedus. They might treat Daryl with more respect as well. Fans cannot stand seeing him abused.

Criminal Minds ratings went from an average of 12 million viewers per episode to seven to eight million viewers per episode for episodes 1-6 of Season 12, after losing two major cast members. Thomas Gibson fans are especially outraged that a 12-year veteran of the show has been fired, and they are boycotting under the twitter hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch.

Thomas Gibson and Kirsten Vangsness
Thomas Gibson and Kirsten Vangsness [Image by Helga Esteb/ Shutterstock]

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds are two very different shows with very different histories. They are on different networks and have vastly different approaches to casting and show running. Still, their situations are strikingly similar this season. They are two very popular shows, suddenly faced with plunging ratings after years of success.

The problems The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds are experiencing seem to be due to changes. That could also sum up all the complaints. Changes to a long-running show do not bode well, especially if those changes include major casting changes or degrading characters or the actors.

The Walking Dead’s history is a lot different than that of Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds is into Season 12, while The Walking Dead is only in Season 7. Also, The Walking Dead’s audience started small and grew while Criminal Minds started with a tremendous premier then leveled to consistently very good but not outstanding ratings.


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The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere: Fan Reactions? ‘TWD’ Fans Are In Shock


The Walking Dead’s Season 1 Premier received only 5.3 million views and from there, the show clawed its way to the top with shocking gore and violence. Since then the show has experienced steady growth. Even though premiers and finales receive far greater viewership than average weeks, this decline is far more abrupt than in previous years, following the premier.

Criminal Minds, unlike The Walking Dead, enjoyed 19.57 million viewers for their Season 1 premiere. Although no single episode since has equaled the premier, Criminal Minds has enjoyed consistent viewership for 11 seasons, but now ratings are in an alarming decline.

So why are The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds in ratings trouble? After reading a lot of twitter posts and other viewer comments one thing becomes apparent. People need their heroes. They don’t want them abused, degraded, or murdered with a ball bat. They don’t want them chained up, beaten, and fed dog food either. They don’t want them cowering in fear.

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds writers must understand that someone like Thomas Gibson, Shemar Moore, Norman Reedus, or Steven Yeun becomes, Agent Aaron Hotchner, Agent Derick Morgan, Daryl Dixon, or Glenn Rhee, fans develop strong feelings toward both actor and character. Regular viewers identify with one or another on-screen hero. They find certain similarities between the character and their ideal self. To degrade or abuse these characters or actors is like beating the fans. It is painful to the audience.

The Walking Dead fans have certain expectations of the show, and in the early days of the series, casualties were far more accepted than they are seven years in. Also, while the show is based on a comic book, live action drama is different. It is one thing to have a two-dimensional comic book character get his head smashed in with a ball bat, his eye falling out of its socket, but it has a far different impact on an audience to see a beloved human being treated that way.

Criminal Minds fans draw a certain security from the cast of Criminal Minds. Thomas Gibson’s Hotch was a fatherly protector. Fans found him comforting and his character represented order, sorting out the chaos. This world, the fan’s real life world, is full of chaos and change. Fans want dangers and challenges in their shows, but they want heroes who are equal to those dangers. Heroes can be degraded in real life, but no one wants to see it in their favorite fiction.

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds are great shows with avid fans. These shows are worth saving. Can the writers reverse the damage before it is too late?

The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds face plummeting ratings, but it may not be too late to reverse the trend.

[Featured Image by Pascal Le Segretain and Jessie Grant/Getty Images]