Data Knows Best: Greatest TV Shows Get Ranked and Graphed


Every argument is better with charts and graphs. Sometimes a little linear regression can provide more insight than a long-winded report. GraphTV tests that theory by plotting the ratings of popular television shows.

It all started with Breaking Bad. Data guru Kevin Wu was watching its fifth and final season and couldn’t help but think each episode kept getting better than the last. He wanted a clear indicator others felt the same, so he went to the IMDB rankings for the show and decided to plot them, season by season, over time. The results reflect what a great show Breaking Bad is and confirm what Wu expected: the second half of season five was great and getting better.

Wu expanded the idea to create GraphTV, a service that pulls IMDB user ratings for a given show, beautifully graphs them by season, and adds linear trend lines. In a brave new world with faith in hard data, all your opinions and debates on television shows can be settled with graphs.

Facetiousness aside, the graphs do provide insight into our expectations of each show. Breaking Bad ended each season at a peak providing momentum into the next season. Parks and Rec redeveloped their characters after season one to make them more likable (and it worked for a while). Season 4 of Arrested Development was really slow at the beginning, but it improved and ended up almost as good as the other seasons. Archer was on the decline, so they radically mixed things up and people loved it. The last season of Dexter was truly awful—this is a fact. Dan Harmon-less Community made for the show’s worst season, but they bounced back when he returned.

It’s all there in the graphs. Yet they’re just a mirror for the stories we already know. The data can signal you where to look, but you have to dig deeper if you want to know why one season is worse than another.


The Wire


Veronica Mars


Mad Men


Battlestar Galactica


The Office


Seinfeld


Parks and Recreation


Modern Family


Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Arrested Development


Lost


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia


House M.D


Homeland


Game of Thrones


Archer


Friends


Dexter


Community


Downton Abbey


Boardwalk Empire


American Horror Story


Psych


24


The West Wing


The Sopranos


Attribution

GraphTV, Kevin Wu


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