If you’re alive in the world right now then you’ve probably noticed that Grace Helbig is having a bit of a moment. She’s the subject of the latest round of YouTube sponsored ads, so her face is plastered across billboards and video displays in every major city, she’s got a new show on E! and that network has been flooding the airwaves with commercials to convince you to watch it, and she’s still the internet’s reigning queen of comedy across social media channels. With all that in your face, you could be forgiven for thinking that all is well in Grace-land, but after a strong start, it appears that The Grace Helbig Show is struggling.
When Helbig’s E! show was first announced, the media was ecstatic. Out of all of YouTube’s many stars, she’s easily the most exportable to television. Despite her huge popularity with teens and tweens, Grace’s comedic sensibility is a bit more grown up than some of her peers. Her penchant for darkish self-effacing comedy lead many, including E! apparently, to hail her as the second coming of Chelsea Handler. Unfortunately the numbers tell a different story.
After a decent-for-E! opening of 227,000 viewers, The Grace Helbig Show spiked to 262,000 for its second episode before falling off a cliff and landing just 182,000 viewers for its third installment. Those aren’t the kind of big numbers that E! was hoping for and it’s a blow to the idea that YouTube stars can be easily translated to TV. Grace’s YouTube numbers are still strong, but despite a big social media push from YouTube, E!, and Grace’s many YouTube-famous friends, her fans still haven’t followed her to TV in a big way.
It’s a tough reality for Helbig given that the show has worked hard to cater to a YouTube audience. Every episode has delivered the kind of vlog-style content that fans have come to expect. Wacky challenges, off-the-cuff humor, and fan interaction over social media have all been a major part of the show’s design. The show has also relied on YouTube-friendly guests like Mamrie Hart, Tyler Oakley, and Miranda Sings alongside more mainstream celebrities like Aisha Tyler and Jim Parsons. Ultimately, this heavy reliance on YouTubers might prove the show’s undoing since YouTube fans seem unwilling to tune in to traditional television and traditional viewers are likely uninterested in unfamiliar web stars.
The situation isn’t hopeless (and it may be too soon to call), but the initial numbers are ominous. Hopefully tonight’s episode, which features Hillary Duff, Glozell Green, and Shane Dawson will be a turning point. The show itself is a strong and funny representation of what YouTube has to offer, and its failure to capture an audience may have more to do with millennial viewing habits than with content. If you’ve been thinking about giving the show a look, tonight’s the night to tune in. E! isn’t likely to tolerate such low numbers for long.
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