TV Ratings: 'True Detective' Opens Lower, 'Dirty John' Finishes Strong

Mahershala Ali in True Detective-Connie Britton in Dirty John-Split-Publicity Stills-H 2019
Warrick Page; Nicole Wilder/Bravo

HBO's True Detective returned Sunday after three-plus years away and collected a smaller on-air audience than its previous two premieres — no surprise, given the general erosion in linear ratings in that time.

What does qualify as a surprise is a series showing consistent growth over the course of a season. Bravo's Dirty John did that for the most part, ending its eight-episode run Sunday with its most-watched and highest-rated episode.

The two-hour premiere of True Detective averaged 1.32 million viewers for its initial airing. Replays and first-night streaming pushed the total to 2.3 million. 

The 1.32 million viewer tally for the first showing of the premiere is a good bit below the debuts of season one (2.3 million) and season two (3.2 million). On the plus side, it's in the same ballpark as the premiere of Sharp Objects (1.53 million) and ahead of every other recent HBO drama premiere that wasn't Game of Thrones.

Delayed viewing and further streaming and replays will eventually grow True Detective's audience to several times its linear numbers.

As for Dirty John, the finale of Bravo's most successful scripted series delivered 1.84 million same-day viewers, a 23 percent improvement over the previous episode's 1.49 million, which had been the high for the limited series to that point. The finale also grew by 37 percent (to a 0.59 rating) in adults 18-49 and 32 percent (to a 0.74 rating) among adults 25-54.

In the same-day ratings, the show grew in weeks two and three, slipped back a little the two subsequent weeks, then grew again starting with episode six.

Live-plus-3 numbers show an even bigger upward trajectory for Dirty John. Only episode five — which aired on Dec. 23, among the lower TV-usage days of the year — suffered a week-to-week decline, and the subsequent two episodes posted new highs in total viewers (episode seven declined slightly in demos). 

The finale is poised to move well above 3 million total viewers and could reach 1.3 million in the 18-49 demo if delayed-viewing patterns hold.