This is typically the column in which we examine how fairly Top Chef's most recent episode depicted Seattle, lest viewers elsewhere get the wrong idea about our city. But there appears to be little reason to worry about significant numbers of uninformed Americans getting hoodwinked, since the show's putting up the worst ratings in its 10-year history.
While covering Top Chef last night, I noticed my Twitter feed had mostly fallen silent on the topic of the show. The Surly Gourmand coughed up a few dozen tweets during the show, but generated surprisingly few responses. "I'm waiting 'til tomorrow. I think it's my bedtime," Ann Peavey, @SeattleMaven, tweeted back when Surly announced his plans to live tweet.
Michael Cyger of Hashtags.org confirmed my impressions weren't merely a reflection of who I follow. Although use of the Top Chef hashtag spikes when the show's on, the number of daily tweets labeled #topchef this fall surpassed the 3000 mark only once: On Nov. 7, when the first episode aired. By contrast, Showtime's Homeland generated around 12,500 hashtagged tweets every night it aired, with 40,000 tweets filed for the finale. So are Top Chef viewers too entranced to tweet while watching? Nielsen numbers suggest otherwise.
Although the research firm this morning wasn't able to segregate data by market, an average of 1.1 million viewers are watching the show on its original airdate. That's a paltry figure by Bravo standards: According to Nielsen's Sal Tuzzeo, the network draws an average of "well over 3 million viewers" with Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Nor is the rating consistent with previous Top Chef seasons. Last year, Top Chef: Texas averaged 1.8 million viewers, or a whopping 30 percent more viewers than the Seattle season's attracted. And according to BravoRatings.com, many of the folks watching don't belong to the coveted 18-49 demographic: Viewership in that category is down 49 percent.
Although Top Chef: Seattle's first episodes didn't put up ratings comparable to the first few episodes of Top Chef Masters or Top Chef Desserts, the situation may yet improve. While ratings for last night's episode aren't yet available, viewership has been climbing each week: The show's fourth episode reached 103,000 more viewers than the premiere. So it's still possible that a respectable number of viewers will tune in next week to watch Padma skate with the Rat City Rollergirls (and if they're not portrayed fairly, we'll tell you all about it here.)