How’d They Do? Evaluating The Ratings of FOX’s Animated Comedies

Welcome to this edition of ‘How’d They Do?’. The ratings for all five of FOX’s animated cartoons are here. Note that this does not include cancelations, but rather shows that were announce to be ending ahead of time.

Credit for the ratings go to Programming Insider. Any missing numbers is a result of them not being reported.

The Simpsons (1989-Present)
The Simpsons is broadcast television’s longest running prime time scripted show. It is one of the staples of Disney+, is in constant rotation in syndication, spawned tons of merchandise, and is the face of many memes. It also had a highly successful theatrical movie adaptation in 2007. Staying in its Sunday at 8pm time slot, The Simpsons is often one of the week’s highest-rated shows in the fall. This is because of the spillover audience from the afternoon football games. After the NFL ends for the season, The Simpsons has to hold its own, airing after reruns.

There’s a big disconnect between the ratings of The Simpsons’ ratings on football nights and its ratings in the fall without the football halo. Further, there’s a disconnect between all of the show’s fall ratings with the entirety of its spring ratings.

The Simpsons did not seem to enjoy the ratings bump seen by many shows due to more people staying home due to the COVID-19 quarantine. This is especially disappointing for this show, given two things: it has proven to be a casual watch, and it starts off FOX’s animated comedy block. The latter point is especially relevant due to FOX’s emphasis on growing their animated comedy brand. Doing so will be awfully tough so long as The Simpsons leads the night and the show airing after it has little interest.

The problem is, would any other animated show really be doing any better than The Simpsons if aired at 8pm? Family Guy might, but airing it in an earlier hour could prove to be a disadvantage due to its crude humor. Bob’s Burgers has proven to excel in good time slots, but isn’t as strong on its own as one might think. And the newest cartoons are...well, you’ll see by reading below.

On the bright side, it is not proving to be a clunker when it comes to compatibility. Despite being on for over 30 years, The Simpsons still enjoys an audience that skews pretty young and male. This is true throughout the season, whether or not FOX was airing the NFL earlier in the day.

Maybe the lack of a ratings bump for The Simpsons can be attributed to the apparent success of older episodes on Disney+. But with no empirical evidence to prove that, combined with it being known to be a loss leader for FOX, The Simpsons may need to step it up if it wants to continue airing on FOX.

Grade: D

Bless The Harts (2019-Present)
Bless The Harts is the first new animated comedy from FOX in its efforts to expand their presence in the genre. With a cast full of recognizable names, the show was given the coveted 8:30pm time slot in the fall. You can’t say they didn’t try.

Bless The Harts had the luxury of only having ten episodes, all during football season, with the majority of them airing on nights when FOX had a late afternoon football game. As such, Bless The Harts ended the season with a rating slightly above the average rating of all non-sports broadcast shows, and was the #2 new scripted show, only behind 9-1-1: Lone Star. 

That’s not to say it’s one of the strongest new shows, or that it’s showing a ton of potential. One would expect relatively low DVR lifts on nights where it was boosted by the football halo; those ratings are in green. But it’s the ratings in the white and red that are truly concerning. Not only are the ratings paltry, but their weakness made this season a lot tougher for Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy. 

FOX renewed the show, likely with the hope that it grows over time. However, right now there’s not much to suggest that will happen unless it catches a cult fanbase in syndication years from now. 

Grade: F

Bob’s Burgers (2011-Present)

Bob’s Burgers didn’t look too impressive in its first couple seasons. In fact, at the start it was the lone renewal amongst similarly-rated Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory, perhaps signaling some favoritism from the network. Eventually, it was demoted to the 7pm hour, before moving back to 8:30 last season after finding newfound success on streaming and Adult Swim. In the 2019-20, FOX moved it to 9pm, where Family Guy had been for years.

If anything, the ratings for Bob’s Burgers this season were mediocre. They weren’t awful, but they also weren’t anything to be overly impressed about. Sure, it was able to grow from the Duncanville lead-in in the spring, but that’s not saying much. In the fall, it didn’t prove to be too capable of surviving a weak lead-in. Luckily for the show, FOX does have some ownership in it, but at first glance it’s a replaceable show when looking simply at the A18-49 L+SD ratings.

Still, its young male skew is not to be underestimated, and one of its biggest values to the network. As long as it continues to bring in an audience that doesn’t show up for the rest of the week, it should prove to be worthy of a time slot. Maybe not the Sunday at 9pm time slot, but a time slot nonetheless.

Next season will be the true testament to how it will do going forward. With Bless The Harts as a lead-in again in the fall, FOX is likely hoping for average declines at best, and a much healthier trend than it saw this season. The year-to-year declines are truly tough to look at for a show that was gaining a lot of momentum.

Grade: D

Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005-Present)
Family Guy is a true underdog story. It struggled in its first few seasons, likely due to airing on its own night without staples such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill surrounding it. It was canceled after just three seasons. Yet, here we are, discussing the ratings for Season 18 on the same network that originally canceled it. This season, the show left its signature 9pm time slot to slide down to 9:30. As a side note: it is fully possible that Family Guy’s comeback story inspired the renewals of low-rated Bless The Harts and Duncanville.

Like with Bob’s Burgers, the year-to-year declines for Family Guy are far from pretty. This is a combination of the time slot downgrade as well as the loss of a show at 8:30 capable of helping out the 9pm hour. Still, Family Guy does not have excuses. In Season 18, its audience decline should be minimal. 

This has been gone over before with the analysis for The Simpsons, Bless The Harts, and Bob’s Burgers, but once again it should be noted that the audience is relatively young and has a high proportion of male viewers. Given both are rarities on broadcast television, this is something that attracts advertisers. And even with the declining ratings, Family Guy is arguably still FOX’s strongest Sunday night show. Not highest-rated, but strongest, especially when taking into account DVR lifts. 

Its long-term future on the network is uncertain now that they do not profit off its syndication deals. Its biggest hope is it performs well on FOX NOW, FOX’s free, ad-supported streaming service. With the abundance of new animated comedies renewed and upcoming, it’s easy to conclude FOX is looking ahead to a future without it.

Grade: C

Duncanville (2020-Present)
Duncanville is the animated comedy FOX premiered in the spring. It was placed in the Sunday at 8:30 time slot, which is the best place they could put it outside of airing it during football season. Like Bless The Harts, it is one of FOX’s efforts to expand with animated comedies.

Also like Bless The Harts, Duncanville is showing very little interest on linear television. And also like Bless The Harts, it needs to rely on FOX NOW and FOX’s hope it’ll grow into something more to survive. Finally, as with Bless The Harts, its silver lining is a young and male-skewing audience. 

If you can call that an audience. Duncanville didn’t get sampled too well, premiering at a 0.53 in A18-49 L+SD, and adding just one tenth in the six days to follow on DVR. FOX is touting online interest as a reason for its renewal, but it is not publicly known just how well it’s doing there. 

While total viewers are mostly irrelevant when it comes to making renewal and cancelation decisions, it still should be pointed out that three consecutive episodes failed to get even one million viewers the night the episodes aired. What’s more, the tenth episode couldn’t even get a million viewers in L+7. With DVR lifts far less than a tenth in A18-49, combined with paltry numbers overall, it’s tough to give this one a pass. It will return for Season 2, but will not be on the fall schedule. With that in mind, chances seem small that it’ll see a ratings bump when it returns.

Grade: F

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