Normally a Season 2 pickup is a cause for celebration and trepidation. While Stephen Falk, Chris Geere and Aya Cash should certainly crack some bubbly tonight over getting another year of “You’re the Worst,” they may also wonder, in the back of their brains, if they’re capable of pulling off another season as creatively satisfying and commercially rewarding as the first.
Yet Falk & Co. may have more to worry about than just fan expectations — they might also be concerned about fans finding them at all. While “You’re the Worst” and “Married” (which was also picked up for Season 2 today) made for a formidable duo on FX this summer, the network is splitting them up for Season 2 — and not just on the schedule. “You’re the Worst” is being transferred to the year-old FX extension FXX for its second season, and it’s not clear whether that’s good or bad news.
On the one hand, “You’re the Worst” could be the new crown jewel of a network currently only hosting two other original shows. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is certainly a well-known draw, and a show popular enough to force people to find FXX on their channel guide. But it’s less popular now than it was five years ago, and many consumers wait to watch it on Netflix rather than seek out the gang from Paddy’s Pub on a new network.
“The League,” the only other original show on FXX, is a more intriguing entry to dissect, if only because it’s in the middle of its second season on FXX, while “Sunny” doesn’t make its sophomore debut on the network until January. Before Season 5 of “The League” premiered in September 2013, one of its stars expressed concern over his show’s new home: In an interview with Splitsider, Paul Scheer said, “I’m sure that there are smarter people making these decisions than me, but I think it’s dumb! […] I mean, I hope that our fans follow us, and I hope that people figure out where we’re on, so that we’re not cancelled. […] But we’re the pioneers — we might die from dysentery, or we might discover gold.”
Right now, it appears as though dysentery is setting in. Ratings indeed dropped when “The League” moved from FX to FXX, plummeting from a Season 4 average of 810,000 to around 500,000 for Season 5 on FXX. But the show was renewed anyway — FXX stood by its fantasy football comedy, as many expected it would considering the circumstances of the fallout.
But so far the decision still hasn’t paid off. Season 5 averaged just over 641,000 viewers through its first four episodes, while Season 6 is averaging only 550,000 total viewers at the same count. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” also performed poorly after transferring; it averaged 1.07 million viewers in its last season on FX, and just 580,000 in its debut season on FXX.
Still, FXX hasn’t been all doom and gloom. Yes, “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” didn’t survive the transfer, but the big marketing dollars recently pumped into “The Simpsons” marathon resulted in a big ratings boom. On its first Thursday, the six “Simpsons” primetime episodes averaged just over 1 million overall viewers, setting a record for FXX and beating out its cable competitors for the night (including FX, TNT, and USA). It appears viewers knew where to find FXX, after all.
At least, for “The Simpsons.” Launching a new network takes time, and clearly 21st Century Fox, the parent company of both FX and FXX, is trying to establish its new baby’s importance to the typical TV consumer by luring them in with big shows. People may not have tried to find the dial for “The League,” but they made sure to track down FXX when they wanted to go to Springfield.
Will they do the same for “You’re the Worst”? It averaged a mediocre 1.65 million in its first season on FX, so “You’re the Worst” would still be the highest-rated show on FXX even if ratings dipped to half that. Obviously, the execs have made their play. Now we’ll see if viewers follow.