Justin Halpern
Waiting For The Ratings

What you see above is what is sent to me each day at 8:04 a.m.  It’s what’s referred to as “The Fast National Ratings,” and I use it to define my self-worth as a human being see how many people watch the show I co-created, Surviving Jack.  The networks use it to show advertisers the audience they’re reaching, as thus use it to decide what shows they’re going to renew.  The demographic they care the most about is 18 to 49-year-olds. If you’re fifty, FUCK YOU. EAT A DICK AND DIE. YOU MEAN LESS TO AN ADVERTISER THAN A DUMB SHIT 18-YEAR-OLD WHO HAS NO MONEY AND LIKES TO GET DRUNK AND FIND THINGS TO STICK IN HIS ASSHOLE AND LIGHT ON FIRE. 

(“Wait, you still care about us, right?  We’re 50-year-old white people with all our hair.”  NOPE FUCK YOU)

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it’s pretty close.  Maybe I take back the eating the dick and dying part.  Anyway, here’s the first thing you need to know about ratings numbers: They can be spun any fucking way you want.  Let me give you an example.  Surviving Jack premiered last Thursday night to 5.1 million viewers and a 1.3 rating in the key 18-49 demographic.  Below are all accurate ways to talk about our ratings.

  • Surviving Jack had over one million more live viewers than any of Fox’s other live-action comedies.
  • Surviving Jack only held 68% of it’s American Idol lead in.
  • Surviving Jack debuted with 5.1 million viewers, a 38% lift from Fox’s prior average in the 9:30 post-Idol time slot.
  • Surviving Jack debuted with only a 1.3 in the 18-49 demo.
  • Surviving Jack was Fox’s second highest rated live-action show, comedy or drama, in the 18-49 demo that week.

Seeing as how I spent every day for the last two years working on this show, it would be easy to get caught up in the ratings, which I can’t control.  And because it’s easy, that’s exactly what I fucking do.  If you’re the kind of zen motherfucker who can not obsess over the fate of your show, then why are you writing T.V. shows?  Go change the world, you god damn amazing human.

(If they made a statue of Buddha after his TV show debuted, it wouldn’t look like this.  It’d be him driving his wife fucking insane while he drinks a can of Pringles.)

So, every Thursday night, I will toss and turn in my bed, and run through each possible scenario.  “Maybe we’ll gain a ratings point because we have good reviews and word of mouth!”  “We’ll probably drop.  Everyone drops.  Nobody even knows this show exists.  My brother asked me if it was on Saturday.  SATURDAY!  REALLY, DAN? A NEW SHOW DEBUTS ON FUCKING SATURDAY?” 

Then the next morning I wake up at 6:30 and then spend the next hour and a half refreshing my e-mail even though I KNOW the ratings will come in at 8:04, because they always do.  (Except for this one time they came at like 7:40!  That’s why I check, guys!)  Then finally the e-mail comes, my stomach turns everything inside of it, into diarrhea, and I open the e-mail.  Good news or bad news, here’s the first thing you hear from your agents and network executives: “It’s all about how you do next week.”  THE CYCLE CONTINUES.