Monday, April 15, 2024

Sunday Night: “Billions” Returns and Beats Cult Hit “Euphoria,” Which Struggles to Attract Audience


“Billions” was back on Showtime Sunday night to the delight of its many fans.

It turns out those fans number 321,000, at least in its first viewing. It’s not great but not terrible either. This is the sixth season for the intelligent soap opera about money and power in New York. That number is consistent with last season. It’s hoped that there will be a 7th season to wrap up this story.

“Billions” did do one important thing: it beat “Euphoria” on HBO. “Euphoria” is a cult show and it’s on the border of being X rated. Zendaya, who’s a movie star, is the lead, and there is a lot of sex. (There’s almost none on “Billions.”)

I’ve seen five episodes of this season, and they just get better and better. Paul Giamatti deserves an Emmy, and frankly so does David Costabile.

“Euphoria” scored just 264,000 viewers on HBO Prime at 9pm. It may have scored more on HBO Max but there’s no reporting on that and HBO hasn’t issued any numbers since the premiere week. It’s a brutally unfunny show with no heart so I’m not surprised the audience on the main network is small. By contrast, “Succession” would be considered a comedy.

These aren’t big numbers for either HBO or Showtime. Attracting audiences to quality dramas on Sunday night isn’t easy. Last night, HBO premiered “The Gilded Age,” which was killed by the TV reviewers and rightly so. It looked like “Downton Abbey” translated into American.

Originally planned for NBC, “The Gilded Age” had network production values– shiny, coarse, and devoid of artistic endeavor. The acting was uniformly bad except for some notable players like Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald. Kristine Nielsen, one of my favorite actors, seemed to be playing Mrs. Patmore. Everyone had strange eyebrows. Carrie Coons was in the wrong show. I’ll have more about “The Gilded Age,” but I don’t think there will be more of it. A real shame.

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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