HBO reported this morning that 559,000 viewers watched Sunday’s debut of Olive Kitteridge, in its 9 PM debut on Sunday. HBO aired the first two episodes of the dysfunctional-marriage miniseries starring Frances McDormand, back to back.
Last May, HBO Films‘ The Normal Heart delivered a solid 1.4 million viewers, but that was across two plays on a Sunday night. Debuting nearly three decades after Larry Kramer’s play premiered off-Broadway, the 9 PM unveiling of the Ryan Murphy-directed project logged an average of slightly less than 1 million viewers, and an additional 434,000 thousand watched at 11:15 PM. That puts it fifth in viewership among the 17 HBO Films that have premiered on the network since 2010. Back in March of 2011, the premiere of HBO’s Mildred Pierce — dysfunctional marriage drama starring Kate Winslet — logged 1.3 million viewers.
(For comparison’s sake: In March 2012, Game Change, about the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign, snagged an average of 2.1 million viewers on its debut night, which marked the biggest crowd for an HBO original film since 2004’s Something The Lord Made, which snared 2.6 million viewers.
Olive Kitteridge writer/EP Jane Anderson, who wrote the script based on Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, told TV critics last summer that the story of Olive, who suffers from depression, is a “traumedy,” and called the decision to make such a quiet, intimate story a brave one for HBO where “they make these large, giant pieces of television where they have a lot of killing and f***ing.”