BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
Scheduling history: The whole Boardwalk Empire run has aired on Sunday at 9/8c in the fall.
See (who saw) how it all began: Boardwalk Empire may not have realized the kind of ratings dominance seen in HBO's strongest shows, but the potential was there early on. It opened its run on 9/19/10 with an impressive 4.81 million viewers and 2.0 demo rating, a far bigger start than shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones enjoyed. But the show's weaker level was realized almost immediately; the show dropped 25% to a 1.5 in week two and was all the way down to 1.1 by week four. From there, it rebounded a bit and settled in the 1.3 area for the rest of season one.
The best of times: Nothing in Boardwalk Empire's ratings history came even close to the 2.0 premiere demo, and the season one average was also easily the series' highest. If you throw out the inflated opening couple weeks of the series, season two's 1.13 average was not that far away from where it settled in season one.
The worst of times: Season three was almost certainly the series' biggest disappointment, taking a huge 27% drop. It started at a 1.2, almost even year-to-year, but it dropped in six of the subsequent seven weeks an ended on a 0.6 that would forever remain the series low. It was consistent in the 0.7 to 0.9 range across the last couple seasons.
Then vs. now: For some of the critically-acclaimed shows airing during the Golden Age of Cable TV Drama, the ratings growth has seemed endless and limitless. But there's another tier of shows similarly acclaimed but for whatever reason unable to pick up on the Nielsen heat. Justified and Boardwalk Empire are two of the best examples of this club. They've stuck around for sizable runs, but they're not exactly the cash cows keeping their networks afloat. The end for Boardwalk was announced for season five. The good news is that unlike Justified, this show remained quite steady even in its last couple seasons.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.