Coming off a season opener that hit a five-year, premiere-over-premiere low in viewership, the second episode of The Walking Dead in Season 8 has set a similar benchmark with one that might be a little creepy, as it were, for AMC executives and showrunners, plus the cast and crew.
According to Deadline Hollywood, Sunday night’s presentation, which included the surprise return of Morales from Season 1, apparently failed to inject any life into the zombie apocalypse drama.
“Down to the worst the series has done in adults 18-49 since back on March 11, 2012, this Sunday’s TWD delivered 4.0 rating in the key demo. With a total viewership of 8.92 million, ‘The Damned’ episode was damned to fall below any episode since its Season 2 finale of March 18, 2012, which had an audience of 8.99 million.”
Making matters worse for the network, viewership for the longtime most popular scripted drama on cable declined 22 percent (20 percent in the under age 50 demographic that advertisers target) from the debut episode, “Mercy.”
Nielsen data indicated that 11.4 million total viewers watched “Mercy,” with a 5.0 rating in the demographic. While a big number given the fragmented nature of the TV universe, the 2016 opener, by comparison, drew about 17 million viewers and an 8.4 rating in the 18-to-49 age cohort. “Mercy” was the third-lowest premiere since The Walking Dead launched, beating out only Seasons 1 and 2.
Fans and former fans have consumed an enormous amount of social media bandwidth discussing the issues with the TWD storyline, which, for some, has removed the series from the category of must-see TV. Among the issues, viewers object to the way The Walking Dead seems to sprinkle in a few action-packed episodes over the course of the season, while most of the rest of the content seems to do little to move the narrative forward.
Ironically, the first two episodes this season were action-oriented. That said, with so many nondescript soldiers on both sides, it was difficult to tell — apart from the prominent characters — the good guys from the bad during the hostilities, as Rick’s group waged a counterattack against Negan and the Saviors. Moreover, in the middle of a gunfight in which their colleagues were in grave danger, Tara and Jesus inexplicably engaged in an extended, moralistic dialogue about a Savior they had taken into custody.
While killing off key characters for shock value or other reasons comes with the territory, The Walking Dead seems to have lost some momentum from the demise of fan favorites Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Hershel (Scott Wilson), and even Shane (Jon Bernthal), who was killed off back in Season 2. Glenn’s death at the hands of Negan and Lucille particularly didn’t sit well with Walking Dead fans on the Internet. Even if AMC wants to keep them in the fold, other actors will likely want to move on to new projects, which could pose challenges for the storyline.
The rinse-and-repeat nature of finding and then losing a safe haven as a result of the actions of menacing humans and zombies, combined with bad decision-making by the survivors, is also an issue for many fans.
Barstool Sports once described The Walking Dead as “the worst show everyone can’t stop watching,” and that premise remains to be tested if the ratings continue to decay, as it were.
Presumably, The Walking Dead ratings in Season 8 so far are prompting discussions in the writer’s room and within the AMC hierarchy. In a conference call today with Wall Street financial analysts, AMC’s CEO Josh Sapan claimed, however, that The Walking Dead could run for decades and that the show is “in great shape,” Deadline Hollywood separately reported.
[Featured Image by Jackson Lee Davis/AMC]