Girls Interrupted: Media's Favorite TV Shows Suffer Ratings Suck

The ratings are in. Shows that generate massive media buzz have flatlined well below the ratings of one show that media commentators and buzzmakers tend to ignore.

HBO's Girls, which enjoys huge media buzz for featuring nudity and casual sex, saw its ratings fall upon its 2014 return.

Last night’s Season 2 premiere of Girls at 9 PM drew 866,000 viewers, a slight drop from the 872,000 viewers the HBO show drew for its series premiere on April 15 last year. Sunday’s premiere was also down from the series-high 1 million that watched the Season 1 finale on June 17. Over three plays last night — 9 PM, 10 PM and 11 PM — Girls had a total audience of 1.6 million, up 42% from the double showing of the series premiere. HBO was happy right away with Girls,rewarding the series with a 10-episode second-season pickup April 30 after only three airings. Sunday’s premiere came the same night the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and the show won Best TV Comedy.

So, HBO is "happy" airing a show that hardly anyone is watching, and that fewer are watching now than were watching a year ago.

E!'s Keeping Up with the Kardashians did a bit better than Girls. That show, which follows the lives of a vacuous and narcissistic family who are famous for being famous, still hauls in nearly 2 million viewers. But like Girls, its ratings are down. The Kardashians were bringing in about 3 million back in 2012. So about half of those who once kept up with the Kardashians, no longer do.

These two shows tend to generate far more favorable media stories, pictorials, commentary and noise than just about anything else on the TV landscape, even though both shows' audiences are shrinking. They're politically relevant, so the media tells us. The star of Girls, Lena Dunham, is busy telling people how to vote when she isn't shedding her clothes for the cameras.

Year on year, while these two shows have declined in audience despite increasing media buzz around them, Duck Dynasty has built one of the largest audiences in all of TV. A&E's cable show about the conservative, Christian Robertson family routinely gathers an audience of around 10 million viewers, and has beaten major broadcast network programming. Its 2013 Christmas special declined a bit to 8.9 million, yet still raked in an audience about 4 times the size of the Kardashians' audience and about 10 times the size of Girls' audience.