Severance co-creator Ben Stiller has no idea how many people have watched the show and thinks it’s “really weird.”
During an interview with Decider, the 56-year-old director said that, like the fictional macro data in Severance, he has no idea what Apple’s numbers really mean.
“No, it’s complicated,” he said when asked if Apple had provided him with specific viewing figures for his show. “They don’t tell you the numbers. It’s really weird. So you get these graphs and charts, as I said, which have both peaks and troughs. But you don’t know what a basis is. I guess [it] could be based on 100 people, and maybe 200 million people. We don’t know.”
Severance made a splash when the first season of the workplace drama, which brings an ominous high—tech twist to the concept of work-life balance, was released on Apple TV+ earlier this year. The show tells about a group of “cut off” employees who have undergone a medical procedure to share their memories of work and family life… and explores how this procedure affects them both in the office and outside.
But while it has seen rave reviews and noisy discussions online, it seems that no one, including creator Ben Stiller, has any idea how well it worked. Apple does not provide viewing data to consumers, the press, or, it seems, even the creators of the show.
“They basically say:”Yes, things are going well,” he said. “You’re trying to interpret what they’re saying. But they are straightforward. Just like that, I think, all streamers do. How do I find out? I’m curious how you’ll find out.”
“The most interesting thing was to go to Comic-Con [San Diego] and get a full house for the panel and see all these people there,” he added. “It was the first time I thought, ‘Oh wow, this is really like… There are people who really watch it, as people with whom you can communicate.”
Severance has already been renewed for a second season and has entered the cultural landscape as one of the most discussed new shows of 2022.
“And that’s what I think is really successful in the series,” Stiller said. “Maybe also the time when we came out in terms of how people approach our work and these issues. The fact that it’s in conversation, just culturally, was really fun to be a part of.”
There may be no salvation in Severance, but there is no indication of what the numbers mean. Both in the series and beyond, the data remains unfathomable… and it really seems appropriate.
Do you want to know more about Severance? Check out our review of the first season of the Severance series, as well as our dive into the show’s season finale.
Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.