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SYFY WIRE Severance

Not even Ben Stiller knows 'Severance's viewership, which is apparently hidden on Apple's severed floor

Not even someone as famous as Stiller can break into Apple's secret viewership intel.

By Benjamin Bullard
John Turturro, Britt Lower, Christopher Walken and Adam Scott in “Severance,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

For a show that’s all about staying in the dark when it comes to the working side of life, the reality behind the scenes of Severance may be inching a little closer to fiction than director and executive producer Ben Stiller might ever have envisioned. The dystopian sci-fi thriller is definitely a big hit at Apple TV+, but so far, the streamer reportedly isn’t sharing the series’ (presumably robust) viewership numbers — not even with the creative team behind it all.

In a recent interview with Decider, Stiller said he has only the vaguest idea of how many people have actually tuned in to Severance, which tracks the lives of corporate employees who’ve agreed to undergo “severance” surgery meant to excise their work-related memories from their outside lives.

“They don’t really tell you. So it’s been really nice,” he said, confessing he’s happy the series has resonated with both critics (Season 1 snagged 14 Emmy nominations) and with fans. “…They sort of give you kind of an idea. But it’s not like ratings or box office numbers or anything like that. It’s like graphs and charts that are relative,” he added.

It’s not that the big cognitive question mark is exactly bugging the Night at the Museum alum, especially since Apple TV+ has already renewed the Dan Erickson-created series for a second season. Stiller said he’s stoked that Severance has struck such a unified nerve with viewers, who vibe with the show’s uncanny blend of dark, Kafkaesque workplace comedy and unsettling psychological undertones.

Still, he admitted, it’s “really weird” for hard performance details to be kept separate (you might even say severed) from the creative minds responsible for the show’s high-concept premise of forgetting what you do at work.

“…They don’t tell you the numbers,” said Stiller. “It’s really weird. So, you get these graphs and charts, like I said, that have like peaks and valleys. But you don’t know what the baseline is. I guess could be like, based on 100 people or could be like, 200 million people. We don’t know. They basically say, ‘Yeah, this is doing well.’ You’re trying to interpret what they’re saying. But they’re straightforward. It’s just that’s how, I guess, all the streamers do it. How do you find out? I’m curious how you find out.”

Who knows? Maybe Apple just wants the Severance team to live their best lives, blissfully unencumbered by any care for the finer points of how their hard work affects the company. If that’s the case, it seems to be working: The cast looked downright giddy during the blooper reel that highlighted the series’ recent showing at San Diego Comic-Con, and Apple's Severance activation at SDCC was one of the most popular at the con — so there are definitely plenty of fans out there..

Even if there’s no room for such mirth at the fictional Lumon Industries, at least Stiller and the series’ ensemble cast appear happy to be working on a project that’s gotten all the right kind of attention from audiences and reviewers. Starring Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, Zach Cherry, Dichen Lachman, Jen Tullock, Tramell Tillman, and Michael Chernus, Season 1 of Severance is streaming now at Apple TV+.

Looking for more smart sci-fi? Check out SYFY's Resident Alien and modern classic Battlestar Galactica streaming on Peacock.