To say that HBO’s new sci-fi drama series Westworld has traveled a rough road to make it to TV screens would be an understatement. First ordered to pilot by the network back in 2013, Westworld has been subject to several delays on the way to the finish line, with the plan originally being to premiere the series last year. History suggests that these type of production hiccups rarely lead to a great finished product, but Westworld appears to be bucking that trend with both fans and critics.
On the critical side, Westworld currently sits at an 87% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. On the viewership end, the preliminary numbers are in, and Westworld’s debut looks to have attracted HBO’s biggest series premiere audience since the January 2014 debut of True Detective’s Emmy-winning first season. For those wondering, Westworld did not manage to outdo the 2011 premiere of Game of Thrones. The two series have repeatedly been compared by many, due to their shared status as high-concept, big-budget, fantastical dramas.
According to Deadline, Westworld’s premiere brought in 3.3 million total sets of eyes, when one takes into account viewership from both HBO’s linear channel broadcasts and the premium cable giant’s companion streaming services HBO Go and HBO Now. For the record, True Detective’s launch drew 3.3 million total viewers as well, with the beginning of Game of Thrones’ epic tale drawing in some 4.2 million watchers.
Westworld’s early success likely comes as a huge relief to HBO brass, who recently saw their heavily promoted music industry drama Vinyl fail to resonate with subscribers, and subsequently come to a close after a single season. Westworld and Vinyl actually share more in common than one would think, with both series boasting a group of recognizable names in front of and behind the camera, and both series’ 10-episode first seasons costing $100 million to produce. By comparison, Vinyl kicked things off to the woeful tune of a mere 1.4 million total viewers, and only went downhill from there.
While it’s too soon to tell if Westworld will sustain these types of high ratings numbers and/or critical sentiment for the duration, the large amounts of positive word-of-mouth going around concerning the premiere definitely suggest that HBO might have found its next big hit show. While Westworld may have taken three years to finally air, that doesn’t seem to be stopping it from shattering expectations now that it’s arrived.
Westworld continues this Sunday with ‘Chestnut’ at 9pm on HBO.