Not much to talk about Wednesday’s ratings with CBS’ Survivor and Big Brother winning the night among broadcast networks in the adult 18-49 demo (though A&E’s Duck Dynasty won overall with a 4.3) – but there was a lot to talk about with these two shows besides the ratings.
Survivor nabbed a 2.6/8 and was the highest rated program of the night, but was down 19 percent from its premiere last year, and the lowest rated debut in its history. Big Brother’s finale dropped from its Survivor lead-in and dropped to a 2.4/7, down 4 percent from its finale last year, and was the lowest-rated ever.
Other first-run programming results Wednesday included Million Dollar Quiz (1.2), the America’s Got Talent season finale (2.5 and 10.6 million viewers) and X Factor (2.2).
While some point to the numbers as still strong, their decline reveals many fans of both shows are fed up with the poor casting and other elements, like Survivor bringing back Redemption Island.
Many viewers were put off by the racist, ethnic, sexist, and homophobic slurs made on the Big Brother’s live Internet feeds, including all three finalists. It got so bad at one point, you’d think it was a job fair to recruit a future co-host for Rep. Joe Walsh’s WIND-AM show.
The houseguests’ antics drew the ire of CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves at the TCA Press Tour in August. But what was more interesting was who wasn’t outraged. Throughout this whole controversy, usual loudmouth pieces including politicians, the Parents Television Council, the Rev. Jesse Jackson – who engineered a boycott of CBS’ WBBM-TV in Chicago in 1985 after the demotion of African-American anchor Harry Porterfield – and the Rev. Michael Pflager – who went after Jerry Springer during its fists-flying, chair-throwing heyday and laughably went after The Bachelor a few years ago – were notably silent.
Despite the controversy, CBS did not experience advertiser nor affiliate defections. In fact, one of the contestants accused of racist comments was seen with products from a major advertiser (what we call “product placement”.)
As for Survivor, its Blood and Water edition has been knocked by fans for bringing back past contestants – a gimmick they’ve relied on for the last few cycles, and not surprisingly, brought back villain Colton Cumbie to compete. As you may know, Cumbie made racist remarks on Survivor: One World and was instrumental in getting rid of one of the edition’s two African-American contestants.
Back in March 2012, yours truly wrote about Survivor, the casting of Colton, and the lack of diversity in the industry. With perhaps the exception of the first-run syndication business (Arsenio Hall and Queen Latifah both recently returned with new talk shows and Byron Allen churning out fare for his Entertainment Studios), it seems things are getting worse on the diversity front, at least on the bigger stage. It’s a sobering reality in this “post-racial” America.
All you have to do is look how Colton got back on Survivor and how the Big Brother controversy was handled by the press and that tells you all you need to know.