This season of 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days has been making history for the show and for the franchise.
For example, they cast the series’ first-ever transgender woman and its first deaf cast member.
But the show has also managed a ratings wonder that shows that it has only grown in viewership as the season has gone on.
In fact, when it comes to Sunday nights, this TLC absolutely annihilates the competition. How do they manage it?
Just a couple of weeks ago, 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days reached a season high.
Season 6, Episode 11 of the 90 Day Fiance spinoff scored a 1.23 L3 rating among adults aged 25-54. That was on Sunday, August 13.
This was the episode when Cleo confronted Christian for lying. It was also the episode where Razvan took Amanda to “Dracula’s” Castle Bran.
According to TLC, Episode 11 was the number one cable program of the night for Adults 25-54 and for Women 18-49/18-34.
And the success didn’t stop there. Because 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days is something of a package deal.
Later in the night, the accompanying Pillow Talk episode was the top cable telecast in its time slot for Adults and Women 25-54 and for Women 18-49.
This means that TLC is continuing its spree of dominating Sunday nights for women in those demographics.
Ratings generally fluctuate during seasons.
But to have a ratings high for the eleventh episode of a season — not the premiere or the finale, but a somewhat random episode in the middle — is a clear sign of triumph.
But what exactly is the secret to this particular season of 90 Day Fiance: Before The 90 Days‘ success?
Sure, the drama is part of it. Gino and Jasmine are toxic. Tyray is a victim of catfishing. Meisha and Nicola have God knows what going on (uh, pun semi-intended).
But that describes every season, pretty much. This season also has a lot of heart — something that not every iteration of this franchise remembers to include.
Let’s start with Cleo and Christian. Christian is a self-described “life of the party” from America. Cleo, an Italian model, is living in London.
Cleo is transgender. She is also autistic. At times, fans have wondered if Christian can accept her as she is.
And, frankly, fans have wondered if these two are right for each other. Sometimes, people just don’t mesh.
Speaking of which, Statler and Dempsey come from totally different worlds.
Statler is a city girl. Dempsey loves living in the middle of nowhere. Statler’s from Texas and hates the cold. Dempsey spends a lot of time on the chilly English countryside.
Oh, and Statler thinks that waiting to move in after 7 months of online talking “doesn’t make any sense.” To Dempsey, that would be “rushing.” They’re so different — but clearly love each other.
One of the most heartwarming and low-conflict storylines this season has been David and Sheila’s love story.
David is deaf. He’s a likeable guy, and he and Sheila met because she’s hard of hearing and expects to lose her hearing over time.
No one could have foreseen the tragedy of her mother dying just hours after David met her. Her life of extreme poverty has exacted a terrible price upon her family.
That has viewers invested. And so does the question of Cleo and Christian.
We won’t pretend that they’re universally adored. Even though Gabriel Paboga was the franchise’s first trans cast member, more vicious bigots have targeted Cleo online. (They both got hate, but she’s getting more)
That’s not a surprise. 90 Day Fiance has an infamously misogynistic aspect of its fanbase. So Cleo was at a disadvantage from day one because she’s a woman. The fact that she’s trans made her a target for bigots.
But both the positive and negative responses (even the unhinged ones, from hate speech to people who somehow think that Sheila is using David for money that he doesn’t have) fuel ratings.
It all drives TLC and the franchise forward.
Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Just look at some of the franchise’s longtime stars like Angela or Big Ed.
But this season has been refreshing in many ways.
David, Cleo, and even Statler and Dempsey are much-needed representation for a show that’s been overwhelmingly able-bodied, cisgender, and straight.
Clearly, showing people from more walks of life isn’t hurting ratings at all. It’s appealing to viewers.