The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds both saw a huge drop in ratings this season. The networks knew why the ratings dropped, and fans in both cases were quick to express and explain their dissatisfaction. Fans loved both shows but didn’t like changes made this season.
Thomas Gibson was very publically fired from Criminal Minds, whereas The Walking Dead had a major plot shift that left fans depressed and bored. Fans expressed their frustrations on Twitter.
The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere pulled 17.029 million viewers, but by November, their numbers dwindled to 10.403, according to TV Series Finale. While these numbers are still outstanding, The Walking Dead is AMC’s bread and butter, so they were alarmed by the very significant drop.
Criminal Minds ratings dropped from an average of 9.011 million average total viewers in Season 11 to 7.623 million average total viewers in Season 12, according to TV Series Finale. Drops came in the wake of Thomas Gibson’s dismissal from Criminal Minds. ABC and CBS both profit from CM and are keeping a firm poker face on during the matter.
Both Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead could be categorized as flagship shows for their networks prior to this season’s plot shift and the firing of Thomas Gibson. Both shows were pulling extremely high ratings domestically and in overseas markets.
AMC’s The Walking Dead is the most watched show on television, even though it airs on a pay cable channel. There is nothing else that compares to TWD’s ratings in the rest of AMC’s lineup.
Criminal Minds is produced by ABC, who handles their international market, while Criminal Minds actually airs on CBS in the U.S. ABC and CBS handle a lot of shows, but few of those were rated higher than Criminal Minds prior to this season.
The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds fans have made their points of dissatisfaction known in both cases. There was a significant difference in how these requests were received by their various networks.
The Walking Dead and its network, AMC, got immediate feedback from viewers who wanted more zombie action and less human-on-human oppression and violence. Although Season 7A was already complete before the season premiere aired, Season 7B was exactly what the fans wanted.
Criminal Minds producers, CBS, and ABC also knew what fans wanted. Many Criminal Minds fans have been protesting the termination of Thomas Gibson on Twitter as #NoHotchNoWatch. Furthermore, fans also mentioned missing Shemar Moore, who quit during Season 11 to make a movie. Well, the movie is finished, but Moore is not returning, and neither is Thomas Gibson.
Whether AMC changed the Walking Dead script to suit fans is unknown, but does it really matter? The fans got what they wanted, and the ratings are increasing again with each passing week. Market Watch even reports AMC stock is up 14 percent now.
CBS and ABC refuse to rehire Thomas Gibson, and it is unclear whether Shemar Moore would be willing to return — or if he has been asked. Instead, ABC has cast four new roles on the show and allowed a former star, Paget Brewster, to return. Paget has been on and off with Criminal Minds a few times, and it hasn’t always been her choice. Fans successfully petitioned to bring Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook back once as well after a senseless casting change.
Paget Brewster of Criminal Minds is quoted by Cinema Blend expressing her feelings about the experience of being fired and rehired by CBS. The situation was not unlike Thomas Gibson’s plight.
“I hated CBS. [What they did] was just scummy.”
The Walking Dead handled the situation very differently than Criminal Minds. The Walking Dead never ignored fans who were disgruntled. They made The Walking Dead better, while CBS refused to act. When asked if Thomas Gibson would ever return to Criminal Minds, though, showrunner Erica Messer teased TV Guide that if Thomas Gibson would ever come back, it would be at least a decade.
“It’s hard to do those kinds of things. I think you saw that with Mandy [Patinkin] and we were never able to see him again. If the show goes on 10 more years, who the heck knows? But there’s nothing I can think about right now because it’s not in the immediate future.”
The Walking Dead’s plot changes were necessary, according to their writers. The actors were frank about their dislike for the storyline as well, though they did see the necessity for this bleak period in the show’s history. The miserable oppression by the villainous Negan was required in order to explain their war with him in Season 8, as the Inquisitr previously explained.
Criminal Minds’ casting changes were the decision of CBS and ABC, especially in the case of Thomas Gibson, who was dismissed after an altercation with co-executive producer Virgil Williams. Virgil claims Thomas Gibson kicked him in the shin, while Gibson claims he was merely trying to get out of Williams’ way as Virgil stormed past him.
So what is the difference between The Walking Dead’s situation and the situation of Criminal Minds? First off, the plot dictated the circumstances for The Walking Dead’s changes. Casting changes to Criminal Minds were made because of network decisions and created circumstances that required awkward rewrites of previously planned episodes as well as the absence of beloved characters.
The Walking Dead started small, but the audience has grown exponentially for all six of its previous years, only losing momentum in Season 7A. Plus, AMC is highly dependent on its success. The Walking Dead is the best thing that has ever happened in the network’s comparatively short history.
Criminal Minds most highly rated episode was Season 1 Episode 1. It was huge, and ratings for the subsequent 11 seasons have been a bit lower than that first episode, but stable. ABC and CBS both have very long histories of good and bad shows coming and going.
The cast and crew of The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds were powerless to change the circumstances that were making their jobs unpleasant and risking their job security and livelihood. There was nothing they could do, except continue to do their jobs.
The Walking Dead cast could not change the plot or their roles within that storyline during the infamously horrible Season 7A. They were absolutely a captive audience, as cast members were separated and their characters were beaten and oppressed in a disturbingly depressing story.
The Criminal Minds cast got the news that Thomas Gibson was fired, and writers and cast were then forced to create a plot to explain his permanent absence. It was certainly not up to them to either fire or keep Thomas Gibson. It was a network decision.
However, The Walking Dead’s fans and the Criminal Minds’ fans felt hurt by the changes to their favorite shows. They tried to express their dissatisfaction so that the writers and networks could fix the problems.
The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds’ fans feel a lot like a motorist seeing another car with a wobbling wheel. It’s only decent to try to warn the other driver he’s about to wreck because of missing lug nuts. Yet, all too often, the other driver doesn’t seem to get the message and feels offended.
The hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch did not cause Criminal Minds ratings to drop. Casting changes brought that about. It is highly unlikely that a simple Twitter boycott is responsible for the loss of nearly 1.4 million viewers. It is far more likely that #NoHotchNoWatch is just expressing what the rest of those 1.4 million viewers feel as they quietly go away.
The Walking Dead didn’t even have a boycott. People just stopped watching, but they did complain on Twitter. They complained in the comments section of various articles, and overall, they let writers showrunners and networks know why they were unhappy with The Walking Dead Season 7.
The hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch is not a shot fired across the bow of Criminal Minds. It is a shout-out that they are at risk of wrecking a show everyone loves, over something so completely not worth the hundreds of millions in lost revenue. Most people would take a really hard kick in the shin for that kind of money.
In fact, #IfDarylDiesWeRiot similarly is fair warning. While The Walking Dead has a “nobody is safe” policy, fans won’t lose Daryl from The Walking Dead without a fight. Criminal Minds won’t tolerate losing Thomas Gibson without a fight either.
Criminal Minds fans also stood up for Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook years ago, when they were dismissed for no logical reason at all. The two beautiful actresses were returned the following season, thanks to protests. Why won’t the networks listen this time?
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
While ABC, CBS, AMC, and the writers and producers of Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead have a right to produce television programs and change the casting as they see fit, viewers have a right to complain and even worse to stop watching. People won’t watch programs they no longer enjoy watching whether they bother to complain or not.
AMC obviously appreciates the comments of fans. They listened to the pleas of the Walking Dead fan base. While The Walking Dead might have intended to switch course at the midseason anyway, they certainly did not disrespect their viewers by continuing on a failing path. CBS and ABC should likewise not turn a deaf ear to complaints about the Criminal Minds casting changes.
Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead fans only want what is best for the show, and they want to keep watching. If they cease to enjoy the Criminal Minds or The Walking Dead, is it not better to speak up rather than just quietly go away?
Criminal Minds and The Walking Dead fans care about their favorite shows, and AMC cares, but are CBS and ABC too big to be concerned with what viewers want?
[Featured Image by Pascal Le Segretain and Jesse Grant/Getty Images]