The second season of Merlin debuted on BBC1 on Saturday night with an audience viewing figure of 5.08 million, and a general thumbs up from critics and internet forums.
Although in this day and age, 5.08 million is a fairly respectable figure for a drama, it does set alarm bells ringing. The latest season of the BBC’s Robin Hood and ITV1’s Primeval and Demons all kicked off with higher viewer figures earlier this year (5.6 million, 5.3 million and 5.7 million respectively) and all were ultimately cancelled. With TV broadcasters tightening their financial belts, expensive, FX-laden dramas need decent viewing figures to justify their existence
However, Hood, Primeval and Demons suffered from disastrous ratings slumps as the series went on. Even as early in the runs as their second episodes, all three shows saw figures well down on their premieres (4.19 for Hood, 4.37 for Primeval, 4,9 million for Demons). So the real test for Merlin will be next week’s figures.
Hopefully the entertaining first episode will make sure that a similar fall doesn’t happen, and good word of mouth and bad weather would even help (it was still very sunny at 6.40 on Saturday, so the kids were still outside). Also, the show was number one on its slot, beating ITV’s The Cube, and healthy overseas sales must count for something, surely?
SFX would certainly be sad to see Merlin go the way of the dinosaurs. And Demons. It doesn’t deserve that.