I can’t think of a better title than the one given to the AMC series, “Humans,” which returns for a second season on February 13th, 2017. The show rattles our conception of our own humanity by juxtaposing highly sophisticated androids (or “synths” for synthetic humans) with every day (real live) human beings. The resultant tension, drama and pathos are quite pronounced.
The show begins innocently enough with a “typical” modern-day family in suburban London. The marriage between Laura and Joe Hawkins (played by the English actors Katherine Parkinson and Tom Goodman-Hill) is under considerable strain as her legal career often takes her away from home leaving a harried Joe Hawkins in charge of two teenagers and a younger daughter. So, what does Joe Hawkins do? He goes out and purchases the latest household status symbol, and I’m not referring to a fancy cappuccino-maker. Instead, without consulting his wife (big mistake), Joe Hawkins purchases a stunningly beautiful (and highly competent) “synth” played brilliantly by the English actress, Gemma Chan. She has got this part down pat, from her ever-so subtle mechanical movements, to her enigmatic expression that conveys the strange, uneasy middle-ground between empirical computer and human being.
But the real problem created by the show’s star “synth” (named Anita by the Hawkins’ youngest child) is the havoc she creates within the Hawkins household. She not only usurps the role of mother, but also creates a serious inferiority complex with the Hawkins teenage daughter, Mattie (played by the actress, Lucy Carless) who feels so inadequate and obsolete with the rise of “synths.” And as for Joe Hawkins and his teenage son, Toby (played by the actor Theo Stevenson)… well, let’s just say that the household “synth” raises their collective libido several degrees.
Of course, the show can’t sustain itself on one “synth” operating within a solitary English household. There are plenty of other “synth” plotlines, such as the very touching story of Dr. George Millican — played by the American actor, William Hurt, who desperately holds on to his outdated “synth” which serves as a repository for the lost memories he has of his deceased wife. There are other sub-plots as well which collectively make this a very compelling sci-fi drama that drew an average Live U.S. Household rating of .68 (good for a .95 share) during its premiere season. But the real audience story behind “Humans” is the remarkable level of DVR activity which raises the average rating nearly 3-fold after 15 days – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement:
Local Market Viewing Skew
To get a sense of regional viewing skews for “Humans”, we selected the Top 25 DMAs with the highest ratings through the first 5 episodes of Season One (summer, 2015.) While there is a certain southern skew to the show, with 11 markets falling south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there is also a mid-west skew as well (7 markets) with the State of Ohio leading the way with 4:
Local Cable Advertising Support
AMC’s “Humans” has been on air for only one season, so we have no baseline comparisons to quantify year-over-year sales metrics. In Year One, the show attracted 35 inaugural advertisers who ordered over 130 spots across 21 Viamedia markets (~30% of Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to an average of 3.9 spots per advertiser. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local market advertising categories, Automotive is far and away the largest, capturing a whopping 64% of all cable ad investments – a figure that is 27 share points higher than what we normally see for this category company-wide. The second largest category (Restaurants – at 9%) is also over-represented, capturing a share level that is double the typical level:
On to Season Two
While the Hawkins’ household “synth”, Anita, creates a whirlwind of tension within the family, her character is also connected to a broader plotline for the entire show. It turns out that she’s one of several “synths”, which leads to a number of cloak-and-dagger scenes. All of which raises the moral dilemma of creating robots that can think and feel just like us, which is the well-spring for this sci-fi thriller that explores the very essence of what it means to be human. That “essence” is sure to be explored further as “Humans” returns for a second season in mid-February, 2017.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia