Since this week I had an extra blog post reviewing Project Blue Book and sat through two hours of Ancient Aliens, and my son has an ear infection, I will make only a brief blog post today to report the results of the Nielsen ratings for this week’s premiere of Project Blue Book. The program had a disappointing debut, fumbling 1 million viewers from its Curse of Oak Island lead-in. The show had 2.2 million viewers, with a 0.43 rating in the 18-49 demo. This compares unfavorably to Curse of Oak Island in the preceding hour, which attracted 3.2 million viewers and scored a 0.8 in the demo—all while airing against Pres. Trump’s prime time address in the Eastern Time Zone. Blue Book, which did not have presidential competition, returned remarkably low numbers given its extensive promotion across television, extending even to a fake newspaper wraparound on last Sunday’s New York Times.
Blue Book’s numbers were still sufficient to earn it twelfth place in the Tuesday cable race, and it was the highest rated scripted series on Tuesday cable. At the same time, the vast majority of its 2.2 million viewers were over the age of 50, suggesting that the period drama is most attractive with firsthand memories of the period it covers. I bring this up because the show’s creators explicitly stated that they hoped to use the show as propaganda to convert viewers into UFO conspiracy believers. Since older adults are less likely to change their minds in response to media persuasion, it looks like the show’s influence will be less than its creators hoped.
All in all, it was a bad week for aliens on TV. Against competition from professional wrestling, History’s Ancient Aliens sunk to near series-low ratings for an original episode on the main History Channel. Its Monday 2-hour special brought in just 822,000 viewers, down around 40% from the 1.4 million who watched the previous 2-hour special in its regular Friday time slot. It turns out that there are limits to the audience for Ancient Aliens, and the show’s relatively and consistently high ratings are due primarily to the weaker Friday competition and the audience’s lack of better things to do.
History’s other attempts at capturing the same audience for its “History’s Mysteries” week also led to failure. Saturday’s Vanished drew just 677,000 viewers, and Sunday’s UFO Cover-Ups disappointed on TV’s most watched night, doing no better than a Friday Ancient Aliens with 1.2 million viewers and losing out to rival Discovery’s Last Alaskans by a million viewers.
While we are on the subject of bad UFO TV, it’s worth mentioning that the CW chose an unfortunate way to promote the upcoming debut of its new Roswell, New Mexico series, the second TV adaptation of the Roswell High young adult book series, which centers its teen drama on aliens and the supposed Roswell UFO crash of 1947. The CW commissioned a quasi-documentary—itself unusual for the fantasy-oriented broadcaster—“investigating” the Roswell Incident. The show aired on Thursday and featured commentary from some familiar cable and internet TV UFO talking heads, including Ryan Sprague, who was one of two lead investigators, and Ben Hansen.
According to the CW’s press materials, the special was produced by the same team that failed spectacularly in 2017 with Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, the History Channel documentary that falsely alleged that that a Japanese photograph published before Earhart crashed depicted her as a captive after her crash.
There is virtually nothing that producers can put on the air that won’t get them more work and a bigger platform. What incentive is there to tell the truth when making shit up is so profitable?
Fortunately for everyone involved, the Roswell pseudo-documentary failed spectacularly, attracting just 940,000 viewers, with a 0.2 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic. The only anomaly is that it actually built on the 780,000 viewers who tuned in for a Supernatural rerun in the preceding hour.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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