The Lifetime movie Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig never wanted you to see put up strong numbers Saturday night, as the puzzling drama "A Deadly Adoption" averaged 2.06 million viewers.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the two-hour flick delivered a 0.6 rating in the adults 18-to-49 demographic, making it the night's highest-rated cable program. "Adoption" also out-delivered nearly everything on the broadcast dial, falling only to Fox's third-round coverage of the U.S. Open (0.8) and NBC's "Premier Boxing Champions" card (0.7).
"Adoption" tied a repeat of CBS' "48 Hours" in the demo, although it didn't draw anywhere near as big of an overall audience. "48 Hours" averaged just under 4 million total viewers.
Saturday night -- once the highest-trafficked evening (CBS' 1973 comedy lineup featured the ratings powerhouses/American classics "All in the Family," "M*A*S*H," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show") -- has since become like TV's Witness Protection Program and a place where HUT levels go to die. But Lifetime has carved out a niche for itself on Saturday night with its original movies. For example, the June 13 airing of the melodrama "I Killed My BFF" averaged a wholly respectable 1.41 million viewers and a 0.4 rating, while the previous week's screening of the schlocky "Double Daddy" averaged 1.66 million viewers and a 0.5 demo.
To put "Adoption"'s ratings in context, the premiere delivered a 23% bigger overall audience than the four previous Lifetime movies, which averaged 1.68 million viewers. It also outpaced the earlier titles by 50% in the demographic.
While the prospect of a Ferrell-Wiig sendup of Lifetime's signature women-in-peril movies may have been irresistible to a certain post-modern, meta-camp-smartass sensibility, "Adoption" plays it straight—and more's the pity. The big joke is that there is no joke, if that kind of thing floats your boat [insert shruggie emoticon here].
The "SNL" alums' participation in "Adoption" was meant to be a secret, but someone back in April let the cat out of the bag. The leak displeased Mr. Ferrell so much that he reportedly asked Lifetime to mothball the movie. The network's promotional efforts were slight, limited to a rash of on-air promos and a few Los Angeles billboards that listed an incorrect premiere date.
Speaking of confounding high-concept projects, HBO's premiere of the second installment of its "True Detective" anthology series put up big numbers on Sunday night, averaging 3.17 million viewers and a 1.4 in the 18-to-49 demographic. The Colin Farrell-Vince Vaughn incarnation of Nic Pizzolatto's angsty psychodrama improved on the year-ago series premiere by 36%.
The return of HBO's neo-noir proved to be a significant launch vehicle for the series debut of the Dwayne Johnson comedy "Ballers," which drew 2.16 million viewers and a 1.1 in the demo at 10 p.m, retaining 68% of its lead-in while nearly doubling the deliveries of a year-ago repeat of "Girls." A half-hour later, the series premiere of the Jack Black-Tim Robbins satire "The Brink" drew 1.6 million viewers and a 0.7 rating.