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Why The Bastard Executioner's Ratings Were A Disappointment

On Tuesday night, FX debuted the violence-heavy new series The Bastard Executioner from violence-heavy creator Kurt Sutter, and while it seemed to me like the show should have brought in mass audiences from all over the map, the initial ratings totals don’t seem to reflect that. The series premiere brought in 2.1 million viewers, and while that’s definitely a solid (and possibly expected) number of people to rope into a brand new cable series, it was disappointing that the number wasn’t far higher.

Within The Bastard Executioner’s 2.1 million-strong audience, which was reported by TV By the Numbers, the rating for the key adult demo was 0.8, which also isn’t too strong, but isn’t that terrible. (In comparison, the episode had worse overall ratings than five TBS repeats of The Big Bang Theory that evening, and had a lower demo rating than two of those eps.) Honestly, though, I don’t understand how the entire audience wasn’t squared within the 18-49 demo, as this is a series very much meant for that crowd, and doesn’t seem like it would appeal to people in their sixties or to sixth graders.

This is Kurt Sutter’s follow-up series to the monstrously successful Son s of Anarchy, and though the two series are vastly different in their subject matter, the central benchmarks of vengeance and violence are ever-present, which I thought might have given The Bastard Executioner a bigger built-in audience. Plus, we’ve got a couple of Sons stars in the cast, such as Katey Sagal and Timothy V. Murphy (as well as Sutter himself). And Stephen Moyer has a huge enough fanbase that could have made a big difference here, even though he’s looking a bit rougher than in his True Blood days.

As well, The Bastard Executioner is basically a historical drama with bits of fantasy and religiousness strewn throughout. While it’s not that comparable to something like Game of Thrones or Vikings when the details are looked at, it easily fits into the same kind of sub-genres that those two shows’ audiences would find interesting. Yet it didn’t match either of those shows as far as ratings go.

Again, it isn’t so much that these ratings are awful, or that Sutter & Co. should be depressed by them or anything. Outside of rarities like Fear the Walking Dead’s record-breaking numbers, cable debuts don’t usually garner giant audiences initially, and it sometimes takes time to grow a fanbase. I mean, Sons of Anarchy debuted with around 2.5 million viewers, dipping to around 2 million at several points during its first season, but then went on to gain a larger audience each season after that. So we certainly hope that the same thing happens with The Bastard Executioner, because we’d love to see Lee Jones’ Wilkin Brattle putting his sword to good use for years to come.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.