On February 8th, #CriminalMinds hit an all-time series low in ratings, bringing in only 6.7 million viewers, down from an average of 13 million per episode over the past 11 seasons. The decline in ratings could be attributed to many factors, including the age of the show (it’s not unusual for a show to drop viewers as it goes on), the loss of Shemar Moore and the introduction of characters that just aren’t working.
But diehard fans of #ThomasGibson (who played Aaron Hotchner) believe there’s a different reason for the loss of viewers: his firing from Criminal Minds last year.
At this stage, it’s difficult to determine if the Gibson fans are right, but there’s a plethora of evidence pointing in that direction.
Why Thomas Gibson Lost The Role
In August 2016, before Season 12 began to air, Thomas Gibson was fired from the long-time criminal procedure show because of an altercation between him and a writer. Producers indicated that this wasn’t his first problem, and he’d even been sent to anger management classes.
Gibson opened up about the encounter and told a a story that differed from the accusations:
“[The writer] came into that room and started coming towards me. As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg. If I hadn’t moved, he would have run into me. We had some choice words, for which I apologized the next day, and that was it. It was over. We shot the scene, I went home – and I never got to go back.”
A Hashtag Is Born
As the writers scrambled to write Gibson out in a way that made sense, infuriated fans took to social media with a warning to the show’s writers and producers: bring Gibson back, or they would no longer watch.
And so the hashtag #NoHotchNoWatch was born. Viewers began to boycott the show in droves.
Tweets began trending for #Gibsonstrong, letting the Criminal Minds producers know that fans of Thomas Gibson had no intention of returning unless he was returned to his rightful place as Aaron Hotchner. If the producers didn’t take those boycott threats seriously at the time, perhaps they do now.
The Numbers Begin To Decline
Season 12 of Criminal Minds debuted on September 28, 2016 to 8.92 million viewers, a significant decline from Season 11’s debut of 10.07 million. And the numbers just keep dropping, with a 15.5 percent plunge so far this season.
But the biggest hit the series has taken is in its demo. It’s now barely reaching 1.42 percent of viewers aged 18-49, which is the key demographic that matters to advertisers. And a series needs advertisers to continue paying its actors and crew.
The Stars Are Feeling The Sting
On February 18, 2017, Criminal Minds star Paget Brewster responded to one of her followers on Twitter with a reminder that the show’s producers aren’t the only ones affected by the declining ratings:
Show star Kirsten Vangsness shared this sentiment with her 597,000 followers as well.
But fans of Thomas Gibson have made it very clear that they’re not coming back without the original BAU leader. And so speculation about whether Criminal Minds will have another season has begun, and it leaves a huge question hanging in the air. Can one star’s firing bring down an entire television series?
Are you boycotting Criminal Minds? Let me know in the comments below!