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Friday June 16, 2006 3:00 pm

HBO Ratings Musings: Entourage Up, Deadwood Down

HBOSunday night saw the third season premieres of HBO Originals Deadwood and Entourage. The former had about 2.4 million viewers, which is something of a let-down for the show. On the other hand, Entourage‘s numbers represent that shows continued steady building of an audience. By the way, that night’s premiere of Lucky Louie, the network’s first “traditional” sitcom, managed only a paltry 1.5 viewers.

With The Sopranos winding down, and with the loss in the past couple of years of hits like Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, one has to wonder if HBO is finally losing steam, artistically. Sure, Entourage and The Wire still get buzz, and Rome has a small-but-devoted following.
But the network is giving up on Deadwood after this season (though it will wrap up the story lines with two, two-hour movies), though the show is still artistically vital and exciting as ever, if Sunday’s premiere was any indication. The show’s almost baroque use of language and multi-layered plot threads perhaps make it very hard to follow for the casual viewer perhaps, but time was when HBO didn’t seem to care about that stuff so much. Heck, even the meandering, introspective (read: fewer whackings ) recent season of The Sopranos seemed to bore most viewers, though David Chase’s evolving artistic vision impressed a vocal minority even further; the ratings dipped a bit, but were still better than anything else on Pay Cable, of course.

With the financially-induced demise of Deadwood imminent, and the advent of a more traditional show like Lucky Louie (which I have not seen, but hear was nothing special), I am starting to wonder if HBO is losing some of its creative edge and becoming more, well, network-y. I also have to wonder how much they take things like repeats and On Demand into consideration when looking at their ratings, since many people now don’t see these shows right when they first air. I’d love to see some other opinions on this issue. Also, I have to tell people: if you’re not on the Deadwood bandwagon yet, it’s never too late to get on. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best three shows on TV, period.

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