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


Parks and Recreation

Modern Family

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Arrested Development


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

House M.D


Game of Thrones





Downton Abbey

Boardwalk Empire

American Horror Story



The West Wing

The Sopranos


GraphTV, Kevin Wu

Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!

Trending on The Airspace