Wednesday, June 12, 2024

TV: “Genius Aretha” Is A Hit for Nat Geo, Opening Night Ratings Tie Series’ Top Ratings for “Einstein”


Aretha Franklin should be happy about the ratings, if not the content of “Genius” mini series on Nat Geo.

“Genius Aretha” scored a whopping 1.38 million on Sunday night in two consecutive hours. Nat Geo’s Genius Einstein series hit that same number only once, when it debuted four years ago. The subsequent “Genius” series, about Pablo Picasso, did a fraction of those numbers, even with Antonio Banderas as the artist.

“Genius Aretha” continues tonight and tomorrow night at 9pm for two hours each. The show is strong on performances from stars Cynthia Erivo and Courtney B. Vance, but light on facts and an accurate depiction of just about everyone in it. Aretha’s family is protesting the series, and with good reason. Their family history and their famous aunt’s life are not exactly on target.

But that works both ways. Sadly, Reverend CL Franklin and Aretha’s husband, Ted White, were worse in real life than their on screen characterizations. But Aretha herself, and her sisters, were a lot better.

Insiders are also aghast the depiction of Aretha’s long time manager, Ruth Bowen, as a hefty woman. She was far from it. The real Ruth Bowen was such a powerhouse, but she was physically on the small side, trim, and very pretty. Ruth can’t be happy about the way she looks in this movie. I’m sure she and Aretha are in deep talks in heaven.

Still, it’s a tribute to Aretha and to Erivo that the series did so well on Sunday night. We’ll see tomorrow if the audience stayed.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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