ABC's Roseanne revival continued its ratings dominance last week, even beating the season finale of perennial ratings giant The Walking Dead. The return of Roseanne Barr and her sitcom alter ego Roseanne Conner has been met with disapproval by some, but on the whole audiences have embraced the new incarnation of Roseanne. The show's premiere scored numbers that haven't been seen for a network sitcom in three years, and subsequent episodes have kept the momentum going.
The story has been very different however for AMC's once-mighty The Walking Dead. Ratings began sagging for the zombie drama early in season 7 after the debut of divisive bad guy Negan, and the declines continued throughout season 8. The show may have hoped for a ratings bump with the controversial move to kill off long-time character Carl Grimes, but the uptick didn't materialize. It seems attention-grapping death scenarios no longer have the same pull they once did with fans of the show.
As more proof that the series no longer commands the massive audience it once did, last week's Walking Dead season 8 wrap-up scored the show's lowest finale ratings since season 1. Roseanne meanwhile continued its steady performance. In what at one time would have looked like a massive upset, Roseanne actually bested The Walking Dead for the week of April 9 (via CinemaBlend), a rare ratings win for network programming over cable.
In Live+ numbers (taking into account same-day DVR and on-demand viewing) Roseanne scored 13.77 million viewers and a 3.5 in the key 18-49 demographic. The Walking Dead finale meanwhile scored 9.81 million viewers and a 3.4 in the key demo. That razor-thin .1 margin of victory for Roseanne has huge significance in the eyes of ratings watchers, who for years have seen cable audiences rise while network audiences have steadily tailed off. Many have touted the huge Roseanne ratings as proof that network programming, and especially the fading sitcom genre, are still viable on the new television landscape.
The truly surprising thing about Roseanne has been the show's strength with the 18-49 demo. One might have predicted the revival show would score big numbers with older viewers seeking a nostalgia trip, but younger viewers have also flocked to the series. The show's formula worked back in the 1990s when it was originally a hit, and evidently it still works now. Of course, some of the buzz around the show has been the result of controversies arising due to star Roseanne Barr's public comments. But even with the hate-viewing factor somewhat subsiding, audiences seem to be sticking around.
As for The Walking Dead, the numbers continue to point to a shrinking viewership. Changes are now afoot for the aging drama, with Scott Gimple out as showrunner and Angela Kang taking over that role for season 9. Last week's finale wrapped up the season 8 "All Out War" arc by bringing the conflict with Negan to a (possibly temporary) end, while setting up a possible power struggle between Rick and Maggie. After years of using character death as a gimmick, the show tried the "twist" of not killing off the bad guy in the end. In this case however, many in the audience might have preferred seeing the bad guy dispatched in as brutal a way as possible. Who knows what the future holds for The Walking Dead or Roseanne. But both shows have received renewals for at least one more season.
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