Its 3,450,000 viewers yesterday is way down from its debut but it is nowhere near the crash-and-burn Seth MacFarlane has just experienced with A Million Ways to Die in the West. The good news is that, like with his western comedy, Cosmos did not have a high budget and people who stuck it out this long are going to buy the DVDs - but it has already made a lot of money.
Religious people and any climate skeptics who didn't want to be told they are dumber than Tyson's dog stopped watching long ago, but they were never the target market anyway. As Abby Ohlheiser at The Wire puts it, there has been a bit of straw man arguing going on."Tyson repeatedly asked questions of himself that came straight from a Sen. Jim Inhofe floor speech on a cold day, and then proceeded to provide answers. But as we’ve learned from other, similar, controversial non-controversies, that doesn’t really work terribly well as a method to change minds."
Right, there are no minds watching at this point that don't already agree, he was just bringing up global warming denier talking points so he could show viewers how to knock them down. You think Discovery Institute and Climate Depot don't do that same thing? Of course they do, and that is the problem Cosmos has had. It was not trying to be a trusted guide for the public on complex issues because it never addressed any of the awkward questions about science. It was preaching to the (liberal atheist) choir.
Still, even though the numbers have dropped, MacFarlane is proud that it won its timeslot and he should be:
How so? Well, it didn't have the most viewers, it was still 4th of 4, like it has been every week, but it tied in the key 18-49 demographic rating and share, with a 1.3 and 4 respectively. That has to make advertisers happy, it was even with The Bachelorette and solidly beat out a repeat and an already-canceled show burning its remaining episodes off during rerun season.
COSMOS was the top-rated show in it's timeslot last night! Thank you to all who watched! A very big deal for a science show.— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 2, 2014
Hey, that counts.
And as I have defended it in the past, it's a science show, and a partisan one at that. When you factor in those two things, its share among the audience it wants watching it is positively unreal. That's 3.5 million really devout believers, a much different audience than the people who would simply move on to some new show if The Good Wife got canceled.
When is the last time a science show got a GQ photo shoot? Whatever audience they were trying to reach clearly includes GQ readers. Photo by Art Streiber. Link: GQ magazine
As usual, it also clobbered the other shows on Fox that evening. Enlisted is a truly funny show - no one misses Bob's Burgers in that 7 PM time slot - but it is likewise burning its remaining episodes in rerun season before never being seen again. Family Guy and The Simpsons didn't even come close. Cosmos has consistently been the big winner for Fox on Sunday nights for months. Is that enough to make Fox the network for a recurring prime-time broadcast science show? Maybe.
What could have been better about it, in hindsight? With one episode left, there is a little chance that Cosmos will tackle science denial that is actually a lot more urgent; they have been terrific about slamming the tiny percentage of Young Earth Creationists, though they went to the well one too many times in trying to make all things about science versus religion. Global warming got plenty of screen time, as you would expect. Yet energy science, medicine and food science have gotten nothing, even though they are actually far more pressing short-term concerns. We are fixing global warming, it looks like things are headed in the right direction policy-wise, and no one is harmed at all if cranks don't accept evolution. GMOs, energy science and vaccines are all short-term, crucial, life-saving issues, and their denial skews as hard left as global warming does on the right. Yet those have gotten no mention in a show about science that for some reason devoted 25 percent of episode one to creating a secular fantasy about Giordano Bruno.
Still, it was probably wise not to alienate the hardcore fan base by mentioning the anti-science beliefs on their side of the aisle. However, if Fox put on a science show that goes after anti-science hippies the same way that Cosmos went after religion and global warming deniers, it would truly be impressive - but unlikely. Hollywood is short on producers who accept biology and medicine.