Torchwood Debut Ratings Not Stunning
July 13, 2011

Variety reports that Torchwood: Miracle Day “bowed to modest numbers on Friday. Heavily promoted preem drew a combined 1.5 million viewers across two airings.” That’s about the same as the previous debut of Camelot, which Starz cancelled. I guess it’s a good thing that Miracle Day is only a limited 10 episodes, although it doesn’t bode well for seeing another series later.

John Barrowman and Eve Myles in Torchwood

I wasn’t sure whether to sample the show, since I don’t have Starz and wasn’t sure I wanted to be tempted if the first episode was great. I asked on Twitter, and I heard absolutely nothing back. Now, I might have been asking at the wrong time, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen any discussion of people enjoying the show. Did you watch it? Did you like it?

I’m still considering picking it up as a complete run on DVD. Since the series ends in September, it should be on sale right around the holidays.

Update: I was wrong. BBC America mentioned that the DVDs are planned for “next year”, i.e. 2012. Starz must expect some rerun potential.

19 Responses  
MRB writes:  

Frankly, the reason I (and I would presume many other people) am not watching it on Starz is because it is an additional cost that I am not willing to pay for a couple of months. I am watching it on their website, and while it is not as good quality as I want, I would rather choose $ over quality at the moment.

Michelle writes:  

I’m with MRB. Plus, I’ve been using it as a carrot to get me to finish other projects. So that’s why I’ve not personally been talking about it. :)

ADD writes:  

My family and I are slowly making our way through the first series of Torchwood, so I can’t say anything about the quality of the new series as of yet. But so far I am really enjoying it, and finding that the very best moments match or exceed the quality of Doctor Who, which is a pleasant surprise.

David Beard writes:  

The premiere feels big and splashy, which is not what I was hoping for, but it also feels promising.

Cindy writes:  

I loved it, but I’m a Doctor Who/Torchwood junkie. I think it’s going to a loud, brash and fun ride. I missed Captain Jack so much! I can’t wait to see how the Danes storyline plays out and how he’s tied into Miracle Day.

I didn’t watch it on Starz because I can’t afford the premium cable channels. I think that is the problem with the ratings numbers game. I don’t know a soul who has Starz or wants it after subscribing to HBO/Showtime. I just don’t think they have the viewership to support huge ratings. Had Torchwood been on HBO, I think the ratings would’ve been through the roof simply because they have more subscribers.

Jay Faerber writes:  

I felt a little let down by the premiere. I hadn’t actively sought out spoilers or anything, but if you know anything at all about the plot of Miracle Day, there are no surprises at all in the entire first episode. It simply spends 45 minutes establishing everything I already knew from a tiny synopsis. I’ll definitely be back for the next episode, but I felt that the premiere was disappointing.

Mark S. writes:  

I enjoyed the pilot. Not having seen previous episodes of Torchwood (although I found Children of Men is streaming on Amazon for free if you have Prime), I was intrigued enough to want to see more.

What it did best was set up the ongoing mystery, introduce us to the characters and show enough to grab attention. That’s a successful pilot in my view. My review is at my blog (http://whatmarkread.blogspot.com/2011/07/torchwood-miracle-day-review.html).

Johanna writes:  

Michelle: Ha! good incentive. I do the same thing.

I agree with those who aren’t looking for more spending costs right now. I suspect Starz might have thought this kind of devoted fanbase might drive up their subscriptions — but scifi fans are technically and culturally savvy, and they know that there will be other options down the road. I spend summers catching up on my “I really should get around to watching that” DVD stack, so it’s not just that Torchwood is competing with Royal Pains or other summer shows, but it’s competing for my time with EVERYTHING else. And that’s a high mountain.

Chris G writes:  

I only have Starz because I called my cable company a and asked if there were any way to lower my bill. So they gave me more movie channels for less money for six months as a promotional thing. Might be worth a try for other folks!

Lyle writes:  

Just thought I’d throw a few nuances into the story:

– Starz contends that Camelot was canceled over the production complexity and the season’s ratings did look like it might justify renewal, so the comparable numbers might not be a bad thing, if Starz is being truthful about Camelot

– Starz being a premium channel, ratings doesn’t determine how much money they make on a show, that might give a clue if the show is getting people to subscribe

– Since Starz is new to original programming, they’re also working to get their name associated with original programming, so one more factor will be how much the media talks about Torchwood as the season continues. Spartacus got a lot of press (partly because people were watching it on Netflix) right down to plenty “OMG, incredible season finale!” reviews while Camelot got largely ignored. So, if Torchwood can get Spartacus-like buzz throughout the season, will Starz be disappointed if that all that publicity doesn’t turn into ratings or will they decide the publicity (and what it does for their branding) was enough?

– Of course, Party Down also got a good amount of press coverage and terrible ratings, so it’s a mix of factors.

chickwithmonkey writes:  

I hated it, and I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. The first Torchwood series were hit or miss for me, with more hits in the later episodes. I turned the first ep of “Miracle Day” off after about 25 minutes of no plot and terrible characters. It felt like Russel T wanted to get as far away from the awesome (and now dead) Owen, Tosh, and Ianto, so he set up a handful of characters who are selfish, useless, and/or irredeemably evil. How is that fun to watch?

Johanna writes:  

Thanks for adding that knowledgeable background, Lyle. I didn’t pay attention to Starz much before this, so I wasn’t aware of those additional factors affecting their shows.

Bill D. writes:  

Most other Starz shows have ended up on Netflix Instant Watch (as have the past three seasons of Torchwood), so I’m waiting for that.

Grant writes:  

As a die hard Who fan, I really tried/wanted to like Torchwood. I struggled through the first season but I just didn’t like it. It just doesn’t have the fun and magic of Who (nothing on TV can top Amy Ponds plight). Plus, it’s just kinda boring IMO.

lane writes:  

I watched it on Direct TV’s Audience channel( formerly Direct 101).
If you have Direct TV you may see it rerun on that channel.
That channel is free if you have Direct TV.

Courtney writes:  

I can see Torchwood Miricle day going a long way. The first episode was bound to be lesser ratings and for those american viewers to know what Torchwood is and to get to grips with the program! I belive that John barrormwan is a A class actor and his charm will get viewers. This show is fundamentally British that may be why America is getting less views as wellvas it being on a paid American Chanel that it will get much less views. But torchwood miricle day episode one was amazing

Thad writes:  

I thought the first two eps were okay. The first one was largely hamstrung by feeling a need to introduce the premise and cast to the Starz audience; the second developed things a bit but it still doesn’t feel like much of anything has happened. Could still go either way.

I didn’t care much for the first two seasons of the show; it had its flashes of brilliance (Out of Time was pretty great) but much of the time it just felt like…well, sex, violence, and cursing for the sake of sex, violence and cursing, with the result that the “mature” spinoff was often less mature than the children’s entertainment that spawned it. This being a comics blog, I’m sure we can all come up with a few more examples of that phenomenon off the top of our heads.

Children of Earth was a perfect example of Russell T Davies’s work, in that it worked really well for most of it and then totally stuck the landing. I loved the first four parts of it and hated the finale; there were dramatic scenes where I was literally laughing, and the big climax was just one improbable reductio ad absurdum too many.

But I left it with a positive enough impression that I’m watching this, so I guess on the whole I must have liked it.

As for Miracle Day: well, it’s a decent enough premise and there’s a whole lot they can play with. It’s at its best when it examines logistics like population growth, disease incubation, and hospital procedure being turned on its head; and Pullman’s legal argument that his sentence was carried out was pretty clever even if his subsequent release sails far past believability. (Though maybe that’s how the Brits see the US justice system?)

Speaking of Pullman, I think he’s really been the highlight so far; he’s really playing his part to the hilt. I’m very curious to see where they go with his character. I’ve got a pretty good idea what Rex and Jack’s character arcs are going to be, but Pullman could go in any number of directions. The trick would be to have him save the day while still remaining thoroughly contemptible, AND leave him alive at the end of the story.

Sally writes:  

Lyle makes some great points, and at the moment Torchwood is certainly getting a lot of press, so I think people will be curious. I’ve also seen a lot of buzz about this season on Twitter, searching under both the #Torchwood and #Miracleday hashtags.

I’m a longterm Whovian and have loved every version of Torchwood. It is constantly changing and that’s refreshing to see in the age of characters being stuck in the same scenario for years on end without any progress.

Ralf Haring writes:  

They put this season up for streaming on Netflix last week and I just finished watching the ten episodes. Torchwood has always been a show where I needed to roll my eyes a tad and suffer through the bad bits. As a series, I’ve found it infrequently compelling, but generally watchable with some memorable characters. This season was not great. Just as with Children of Earth, there is a need to introduce a whole slate of new characters, but too often the existing characters (Jack and Gwen) are sidelined and I found myself impatient for their return.

As with the third season all the episodes form one giant plot instead of being one-offs like the first two seasons. I prefer the variety as season-long plots can too easily fall into the trap of feeling padded. It can also mean that the viewer is out of luck for a long time if the plot doesn’t particularly engage them. I’d rather chance the occasional episode feeling rushed and have a higher rate of stories in case one is a dud. That’s not to say that this one is a dud, but I did feel more intellectual interest in the more-thorough-than-usual ramifications of the event that propels the series instead of any real emotional investment. There is an episode in the middle that focuses almost exclusively on Jack and Gwen that was very satisfying and the series does end on a good note.


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