This. This is why we can’t have nice things, people. Last night Neil deGrasse Tyson hosted the return of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking PBS science series, Cosmos. Thanks to the Hollywood cachet of executive producer Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), the new Cosmos premiered simultaneously on 10 different Fox networks, including the core Fox channel, National Geographic, and FX. In spite of all of that, not to mention an aggressive promotional campaign in the weeks leading up to it, Cosmos’ first new episode didn’t live up to Fox’s expectations when it came to the ratings.
THR says the premiere drew 8.5 million viewers across the 10 networks, with 5.8 million of those coming via the main Fox network. Unfortunately, that only landed Cosmos in third place in its time slot, falling behind the premiere of ABC’s sort-of-zombie drama Resurrection, which dug up 13.3 million viewers. In the coveted 18 – 49 demographic, it pulled in a 2.9 share. THR says Fox execs were hoping for 40 million viewers for Cosmos’ first week.
The one saving grace may prove to be DVR numbers. More and more people are time-shifting their viewing habits, so those numbers need to be factored into the equation along with traditional Nielsen numbers before we can get an accurate sense of Cosmos’ actual success or failure. Hopefully the DVR numbers will ride to the rescue, because this is a show that’s important, and that many segments of our culture are in dire need of experiencing, and it’d be a serious damn shame if it goes down in TV history as a noble but failed experiment.
Cosmos is intended for a 13-episode run, so hopefully even if the ratings continue to disappoint Fox will at least let the show run its course. If nothing else, MacFarlane’s creations have been very, very good to Fox over the years thanks to shows like Family Guy and American Dad. Desire to keep him happy might earn at least a full-season run for what otherwise might have been whisked away by Fox’s overactive Broom of Doom. But even if it does get cut short, hopefully it’ll find a bigger audience and longer life on one of the streaming services.
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the DVR numbers will prove that there was indeed a large audience for Cosmos — they just don’t like being stuck watching commercials. You can read our review of Cosmos‘ premiere episode right here, and now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” speech on infinite repeat while I curse the television gods…