Lucky 'Bastard': Solid Start for Kurt Sutter's New FX Series

Historical Drama Holds Its Own in Tuesday Debut

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While it didn't exactly run roughshod over its competition like a horde of medieval marauders storming a castle, the series premiere of FX's "The Bastard Executioner" delivered some bloody promising ratings.

The violent historical drama averaged 2.12 million live-plus-same-day viewers and a 0.8 rating among adults 18-to-49, tying its lead-in "Iron Man 3" and the Oprah Winfrey Network's prime-time soap "The Haves and the Have Nots" for cable's best performance Tuesday night among 18-to-49-year-olds.

Year-to-date, "Bastard" now stands as cable's No. 2 original drama premiere, trailing only AMC's formidable "Fear the Walking Dead." The zombie-apocalypse origin story scared up a record 4.9 in the demo in its Aug. 22 debut.

Produced and written by "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter, "Bastard" held its own against two of FX's most recent drama premieres, matching the April 2014 debut of "Fargo" and topping the 0.6 rating "Tyrant" delivered in its June 2014 opener. That said, "Bastard" didn't match the series premieres of "The Strain" and "The Americans," both of which arrived to a 1.2 in the demo.

If nothing else, historical precedent suggests that "Bastard" could build up a greater following as the narrative unspools. After a modest launch -- "Sons of Anarchy" bowed in September 2008 to 2.53 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo -- Mr. Sutter's flagship series was steady, if unspectacular, throughout its first season. The season two average jumped 73% to a 1.9 rating, and after that there was no looking back.

As word of the outlaw motorcycle club spread and latecomers increasingly caught up via the binge, "Sons" continued to build. The show's seventh and final season averaged 4.65 million viewers and a 2.4 rating, beating all but five broadcast dramas in the all-important demo.

Heredity aside, "Bastard" faces what may prove to be a rather undemanding time slot, as the only broadcast drama competition on the horizon is CBS's upcoming "Limitless." (ABC won't launch its lurid neo-noir "Wicked City" until Oct. 27, at which point "Bastard" should have established its place in the Tuesday night pecking order.)

Among the biggest brand spenders in the "Bastard" pilot were Audi, which threw down for two spots in the premiere and another in FX's 1 a.m. encore presentation; Twentieth Century Fox, which aired a promo for its upcoming Matt Damon-in-space movie "The Martian"; Touchstone Pictures ("Bridge of Sighs"); Expedia; Verizon; Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz.

While brand integrations are an increasingly effective way to lift impressions, don't look for "Bastard" to get in on the placement bandwagon. Barring some sort of inexplicable rent in the time-space continuum, the show's 14th century setting effectively precludes the tituar executioner from swilling a Coca-Cola or Budweiser after he's done his dirty work, nor are we likely to see him get a bloodstain out of his tunic with a liberal dollop of Tide.

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