Netflix’s Baby Reindeer problem is here to stay after achieving unusual feat

Controversial series has made rare streaming service achievement

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 07 May 2024 07:58 BST
Baby Reindeer trailer

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Louise Thomas

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The controversy surrounding Baby Reindeer is not going away anytime soon if the show’s latest Netflix ratings are anything to go by.

The biographical series, written by and starring comedian Richard Gadd, follows struggling comic Donny Dunn (Gadd) as he is relentlessly harassed and stalked by Martha Scott (Jessica Gunning) for more than four years. Since the show’s release on 11 April, it has become a word-of-mouth sensation.

When the seven-episode series arrived on the service, it did so with very little fanfare and promotion – but the real-life element of the story piqued the interest of viewers, shooting it to the top of Netflix’s most-watched charts in the UK and US within a matter of days.

However, this unprecedented success came with a caveat: with more eyes on the show came more attempts to discover the real-life inspirations behind the show’s controversial characters, including Martha, in a move that Gadd himself has criticised. Elsewhere, earlier this week, Richard Osman claimed that “everyone” in the comedy industry knows who the abuser depicted in the show is.

As more and more armchair detectives attempted to find the real-life figures who inspired the series, the otherwise acclaimed Baby Reindeer has received a backlash, with many questioning whether more safeguarding measures could have been enacted to prevent viewers from being able to identify them.

Gadd has also been forced to shut down speculation surrounding the real-life identity of a character that groomed and sexually assaulted him – a traumatic event from Gadd’s life – as it led to false accusations being made by curious viewers.

But with new details released about the show’s viewership, the controversy won’t be dying down for Netflix anytime soon – and if anything, the controversy has contributed to the show’s success.

After week one, Baby Reindeer received a viewership of 2.6 million, with an increase to 13.3 million in week two. The show has now built on this in a staggering manner to reach views of 22 million, which is a rare 66 per cent rise for a title in its third week of release.

Netflix will be even happier with Baby Reindeer’s success considering it would have cost very little to promote – in the UK, its small-scale campaign included bus stop posters, but otherwise relied on media interviews with Gadd.

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It is now firmly in the forthcoming awards race, with both Gadd and Gunning expected to pick up Emmy nominations.

As well as Gadd, Gunning urged viewers to enjoy the show on its own merits without doing research into the people who inspired the characters, stating: “That’s not the point of it in any way. Netflix and Richard [Gadd] went to extreme lengths to try and make sure that the identities were kept private for a reason.”

Richard Gadd in ‘Baby Reindeer’
Richard Gadd in ‘Baby Reindeer’ (Netflix)

She added: “I think they should try and watch the show again, and really see what the point of it was – it definitely wasn’t that. I deliberately didn’t want to do an impersonation of somebody; I wanted to do an interpretation of this character.”

Baby Reindeer is available to stream on Netflix now. Find a full list of everything being removed from Netflix this month here.

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