Oh those pesky audience ratings, they do seem to get journalists into a tizzy don’t they? There is endless analysis and commentary and a level of general hysteria that even Chicken Little would be embarrassed about. Yes all right, we get it. The ratings are falling in! The ratings are falling in!
Take last night’s EastEnders - the Guardian is practically hopping with sweaty-palmed excitement over the fact that, according to the overnights, EastEnders recorded its fourth worst rating since, like January 2003! Urk! I’m not too sure what the significance of the January 2003 date is, but these things appear to be important to ratings pundits. Granted, 4.9 million isn’t great for the BBC’s flagship drama, but let’s also consider that it’s summer, the weather has been quite nice this week and an hour long Emmerdale was doing its usual business on ITV. EastEnders, in the current climate, always does badly on a Tuesday night when the soap audience is split - that should have ceased to be news about 12 months ago…
Of course, the episode pulled in another one million viewers over on BBC3 later in the evening, and once you’ve factored in iPlayer hits and ratings for the Omnibus on Sunday, things don’t look all that shabby… And of course, there’ll be no red alert news stories when ‘Enders is back up to 8 million and over by Thursday. No, because where’s the fun in that?
And it seems the charms of the ham-fisted Bonekickers have slipped even further as a further 600,000 viewers left Gillian Magwilde trapped underground this week. Actually, I’m surprised the news story wasn’t: Only 600,000 viewers abandon Bonekickers!
Sorry, I know some of you like Bonekickers, but it really is a bit of a mess. A lovable, silly kind of mess, but a mess nonetheless. With some more circumspect casting, a half decent eye editing the dialogue and a different tone and slot (I’m thinking Saturday at 7 for some reason…) Bonekickers could have been a halfway exciting adventure series. As it is, being allowed to stay up past its bedtime, it’s just comes over as rather laughable.
I promise I will stop giving this show a hard time. After three episodes, I’ve got the gauge of it and having a go has become like shooting fish in a barrel.
As for the issue of falling ratings for EastEnders (which really, they’re not), what is becoming clear is that the method of measuring TV audience numbers is rapidly being left behind by the way we consume television. It’s time the system was overhauled and brought up to speed with the rest of the TV industry. Then we might start to see the reality behind the ratings.