The Bastard Executioner had a somewhat modest opening in the ratings Wednesday night. The two hour premiere debuted to 2.1 million viewers and a 0.8 among adults 18–49.
By comparison, last year FX premiered The Strain to 4.7 million viewers (8 million after encores were added), Fargo opened to 2.7 million and Tyrant similarly debuted to 2.1 million viewers. The year before, The Americans and The Bridge both debuted to around 3 million in the overnights. So Bastard is firmly on the low side of FX series openers in recent years.
Obviously, these ratings will rise, and perhaps dramatically so, via DVR playback and repeats, which continue to have a growing impact on series performance.
The Bastard Executioner is creator Kurt Sutter’s follow-up series to his hit Sons of Anarchy. Set in the early 14th century, the story follows a knight (Lee Jones) in King Edward I’s army who tries to escape the horrors of war.
Bastard has taken some lumps by critics, with EW giving it a “C”. At the Television Critics Assocation’s press tour In August, FX chief John Landgraf defended Bastard and urged critics to be patient, noting Sons of Anarchy likewise had a slow start.
“With Kurt, he’s just not a guy who loves exposition and setting up these really complicated multi-layered worlds,” Landgraf said. “If you went back and watched the first half dozen episodes of Sons of Anarchy, I think you would see it’s a fairly forboding entry point for that show too. It’s really around the middle of the first season that you’re in and he’s got you. The great thing about Kurt is once you’re in his world and once you’re into his storytelling, I’ve never worked with a storyteller that was better at holding your interest. He’s Dickensian in that regard … One of the reasons we’re airing a two hour pilot on the first night of air is because we agree with you. We came to the assessment that essentially the first episode, the first 45 minutes, was not going to get you to the point where you started to really understand the breadth of the vision behind this show … If people stick with it, he’s going to get his hook into you. And I think once he does, he’s not going to let go.”
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