Could AMC's 'Rubicon' Give 'Mad Men' a Run for Its Money?

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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Some notes about, and context for, the latest weekly Trendrr chart, a collaboration between Advertising Age and social-media tracking service Trendrr Pro:

  • There was pretty serious pent-up demand for the fourth season of AMC's "Mad Men," so it's no surprise that it blew up as a Twitter meme with its season premiere July 25; in one peak hour, 4,960 tweets name-checked the show.
  • James Badge Dale as Will Travers in AMC's 'Rubicon.'
    James Badge Dale as Will Travers in AMC's 'Rubicon.' Credit: AMC
  • "Rubicon," AMC's third original series ("Mad Men" was first, "Breaking Bad" was second), debuted this past Sunday and became the network's highest-rated original series premiere, with 2 million total viewers. ("Mad Men" came on right after it and snagged 2.5 million viewers.) AMC describes it as "a modern-day political conspiracy thriller that taps into the collective paranoia of a post-9/11 era," and has been giving it a major push, with the first hour of the two-hour premiere available in advance on Hulu, iTunes and VOD.
  • As you'd expect, "Mad Men" fell, in its second week, as a Twitter meme -- to a one-hour peak of 1,281 tweets. "Rubicon" is already closing in on half that level, with a one-hour peak of 537 tweets the same night. Those aren't huge numbers, of course, but they're decent for a network like AMC, which has its sights set on a very specific demographic -- including the media chattering class that has made AMC's other original series seem much bigger than they actually are. Witness Katie Roiphe's "Style" section piece in this past Sunday's New York Times, which began, "The nation is once again transfixed by 'Mad Men,' by the pouring of cocktails in the office, by the lighting of cigarettes, by the extramarital carousing of elegantly dressed advertising executives in hats, and ah, the mixed feelings!" Um, yeah, not exactly. Viewership of 2.5 million is awesome for AMC, but it does not a "nation" make. So (elegant) hats off, once again, to AMC for its brilliant mass-marketing of its niche programming.
  • In the coming weeks I think "Rubicon" is going to blow up as a Twitter meme because it's perfect for social-media conversations. As Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker wrote in his review of "Rubicon" (he gave it an A-minus), the show creates "an eerily quiet world in which small moments can generate great suspense. The discovery of a spy's clues planted in crossword puzzles, or [one character's] insistence that a guy is following him while we are shown that two different men are tailing him -- these carry more dramatic weight than a score of car chases or martial-arts fight scenes." As "Inception" has demonstrated this summer, artful opacity is catnip for the Twitterati.

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Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service, and Curatorr, a social media filtering and publishing platform. More background here. Trendrr offers a free trial account; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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