Even being on during Memorial Day weekend and without the wildly popular Game of Thrones in its usual slot, Sunday at 9 p.m. proved to be the right time and place for the HBO film The Normal Heart . According to The Hollywood Reporter, the star-studded, Ryan Murphy-directed small screen adaptation of Larry Kramer's heartbreaking play about the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980's earned a total of 1.4 million viewers when it debuted on Sunday, May 25. (According to THR, "The first telecast, at 9 p.m., pulled in just shy of 1 million viewers and added 434,000 later in the evening.")
While those may not be blockbuster numbers, they are solid. They are even more impressive when you consider the heavy subject matter and the fact that it was during a travel-friendly holiday. In fact, The Normal Heart — which was just as much of a hit with critics as much as it was with viewers — is the fifth-highest rated premiere for an HBO movie in the network's history.
But ratings aren't the only thing on The Normal Heart's side: HBO has an impressive track records at the Emmys when it comes to their films. In the past ten years, nine — count 'em nine, including last year's winner and ratings stunner Behind the Candelabra — HBO films have won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie (which eventually became the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie in 2011).
Not only does HBO's track record at the Emmys bode well for The Normal Heart, but its impressive, celebrated cast as well. Over the past ten years, six leading actors starring in an HBO movie or mini-series have won Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. (That's good news for Mark Ruffalo.) The same goes for the six HBO-starring actors who won Primetime Emmy Award for Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. (That's good news for Matt Bomer, or Taylor Kitsch, or Jim Parsons, or any of the other incredible supporting actors in The Normal Heart.) Julia Roberts chances at an Emmy victory are only slightly slimmer, as five actresses in HBO films have won the award for Primetime Emmy Award for Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
The Normal Heart certainly made its impression over the weekend, but you can definitely expect this powerful, impactful drama to have legs well beyond its premiere.