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Graphing the Shark
March 24, 2014 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Graph TV uses IMDb data to visualize jumping the shark, among other things. Arrested Development. Breaking Bad. 30 Rock. Gilmore Girls. The Shield. [Via.]

A few kinds of questions this may address ...
  • How does Happy Days s05e03 actually compare to other episode ratings?
  • Should you keep watching Parks and Recreation beyond season 1?
  • What are the few well-rated episodes of The Simpsons beyond season 9?
  • What was the impact of not having Dan Harmon working on Community in season 4?
  • Do other shows feature successful season-long upbuilding stories like The Wire and Mad Men?
Previously: Jumping the Shark; a defense of the infamous Happy Days episode; and Slate's Hollywood Career-O-Matic.
posted by Monsieur Caution (101 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
It looks like Breaking Bad never took the leap.
posted by mecran01 at 9:44 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


"Fly" absorbed all that karma.
posted by cribcage at 9:48 PM on March 24 [4 favorites]


Fun how "Fly" is so low it's actually off the scale they provide, but you hover over it and it's still 8.1.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:49 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Trendline don't lie.

Funny how it's immediately obvious to me without digging that the two highest rated episodes of Community are "Modern Warfare" (ie Paintball I) and "Remedial Chaos Theory" (ie Rashomon take-off).
posted by dry white toast at 9:49 PM on March 24


It looks like Breaking Bad never took the leap.

You know, it seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but not putting more actual shark examples up front to contrast with the shows that never leaped is a framing problem that didn't occur to me.

Incidentally, I suspect most 'actual shark examples' don't leap out very well anyway, because of a selection bias in the data: the folks who stick with a series to rate it through its less popular seasons probably still like it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:52 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


The simplicity of Firefly is a nice chaser to the chaos that is Dr. Who.
posted by cjelli at 10:00 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised that it's only this season that people say Family Guy jumped the shark. I had that pegged a few years back.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:00 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


It's pretty clear Nickelodeon firing John K after Season 2 didn't pan out so well for Ren & Stimpy
posted by rmxwl at 10:02 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Damn straight.
Right on!
Well, that's not too bad, thank god for Priscilla Barnes.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:07 PM on March 24


I think Parks & Rec reverse shark-jumped. The first season was awful, but everything since has been much better. I'm so far really tepid on the current season, but it's still better than the first few episodes.
posted by Sara C. at 10:11 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


That Parks and Rec graph is almost exactly the feeling of watching the show as a newcommer, the first season is such dreck, but then it achieves this comfortable cruising altitude and never really gets better or worse than this cozy little middle.
posted by The Whelk at 10:15 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Odd things happen when there aren't enough reviews, or if the 'episode' data is wonky:
Carson is on the up-and-up.
The (new?) Price Is Right can't quite connect the dots.
Leno apparently improves with time, but I'm not sure how seriously I'd take that trendline.
General Hospital has only one season that's more than ten thousand episodes long.
posted by cjelli at 10:15 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


This graph seems to confirm the thesis of this post.
posted by rmxwl at 10:16 PM on March 24


Scrubs. At its best when it makes you cry.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:16 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


It's interesting to see a canon form in certain circumstances. Before you click, guess the two canonical Seinfeld episodes.

As you probably guessed, it's "The Contest" and "Soup Nazi"; both are not only ranked much higher than the others, but they have far more votes than other episodes of those seasons - instead of ~500 they have ~1400 votes.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:17 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Well, The Simpsons trajectory seems about right. But why in God's name is "Homer the Smithers" the highest-rated episode? It was decent. But the best ever?

Also interesting is looking at the 4th season episodes and the ones that focused on female characters were rated the lowest.
posted by mcmile at 10:24 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


Because that was when we learned Mr. Burns' first name was Montel!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:27 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


All she can do is dial and yell.
posted by The Whelk at 10:38 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Guessing this topper for Game of Thrones? Be my guest.
posted by massless at 10:41 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Wither Weeds.
posted by unliteral at 10:49 PM on March 24


Doctor Who has season long upbuilding during the RTD era, then seems to gradually fall over.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 10:50 PM on March 24


Heh. The "Groundhog Day" episode of Stargate won. The system works.
posted by mordax at 10:57 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


These all look like they have a pretty low r. I don't really trust the data.
posted by NoraReed at 11:01 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


That Parks and Rec graph is almost exactly the feeling of watching the show as a newcommer, the first season is such dreck, but then it achieves this comfortable cruising altitude and never really gets better or worse than this cozy little middle.

Uh, I know this is the popular opinion and all, but P&R season one was pretty damn good. Nowhere near as good as the show got starting with 2x01 and continuing to the present day, but the early episodes were entirely watchable and enjoyable. "Such dreck"? Bullshit.
posted by kafziel at 11:01 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


From the wiki for SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenberg:
In 2002, Hillenburg and the show's staff members decided to halt the production on the show to work on the film, after completing the third season. Once the film was completed, Hillenburg wanted to end the series "so the show wouldn't jump the shark," but Nickelodeon wanted to do more episodes.
You can see how that worked out for them.

In more recent animation news, Adventure Time has been on one hell of a roll lately.

Also, why do the Simpsons episode ratings seem to have a floor (and later a ceiling) at ~7.4?
posted by Rhaomi at 11:07 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


It looks like Breaking Bad never took the leap.

Some 2300 years ago Aristotle proclaimed his Poetics.

If you like stories, you should seek out this work, which will explain stories to you and remains stunningly relevant. Thing's quite thin and easy to take in, too.

One of the principles Aristotle throws down is that a story ought to have a beginning, middle, and end.

Almost all television lacks an end. You might get a beginning, though a lot of shows fail at that too, and then it's just interminable middle. Almost all television is not whole.

Breaking Bad is whole in this sense, Vince Gilligan having learned from the mistakes of The X-Files. I was happy to see the last season include a shoutout to Babylon 5 - perhaps the first show that had an end?

I'm thinking in future I might not even bother to start watching any televisual entertainments without a predefined length.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:09 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]


There is no chart in this world so accurately visually representative of its data source as this graph is of the trajectory of the quality of Dexter.
posted by tzikeh at 11:14 PM on March 24 [7 favorites]


Maybe you'll enjoy my favourite show at the moment, save alive nothing that breatheth, Strike Back. It will end after season 4, I fear by killing off the protagonists. The first season is nothing much, but the last three has to main characters who are badasses, who develop a pretty real friendship and have some personal struggles in addition to all the shooting and explosions. (And the shooting and stuff is rather well done, and they have really paid attention to what their military advisers have been telling them.) The ratings are steadily climbing, ending the show's run on a high note.
posted by Harald74 at 11:25 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking in future I might not even bother to start watching any televisual entertainments without a predefined length.

This has been my (attempted, occasionally broken) rule for a while. At the very least I like to wait until a show has ended before I commit to watching it, just to make sure it has a freaking ending, and that the ending isn't terrible. It successfully kept me away from Lost and probably a bunch of other clunkers. But it got me to watch Breaking Bad and The Shield, in large part because both of them wrapped up their plotlines with solid-but-unhurried endings. On the less serious side, How I Met Your Mother also passes the test (although just barely; they really wrung that one out for all it was worth).

There's a very clear difference to me between shows written by a single author or group of authors with a defined beginning, middle, end — ideally with the end envisioned from the outset, but at the very least with the duration / episode count known from some midpoint — and shows where they just write episode after episode until finally it's time to take it out back and shoot it so somebody gins up a conclusion, finis. Or where the thing literally never ends.

A sort of quasi-counterexample: BSG was good, but it would have been so much stronger if they'd set the episode count at the beginning and then built the story arc to fit the length of the entire series.

But I don't think the economics of the show's production really allowed for that. What seems to produce the best TV also requires a network to buy into a show's concept so heavily that they'll commit to buying the entire story — not just one story arc with more to follow, but the whole damn thing — upfront and in full, and then let it be produced and release it. The willingness to take risks like that is really something that's only started happening (it seems) in the last few years.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:56 PM on March 24


If you don't like the first episodes of Orphan Black, keep watching – there's more out there.

Black Mirror stumbled over its uncanny valley.

Borgen found "decency in the middle".

Homeland had to fight to regain trust it lost by being too risky.
posted by massless at 11:59 PM on March 24


Grey's Anatomy's worst episode appears to the the music event episode (Songs Beneath the Song). I wonder how that would dish out from a marketing standpoint, though. Many of the Youtube videos of clips from that episode are well over a million. People may well go back to those clips for a long time and I imagine they also sold some of the songs. It may have been the point of jumping the shark, but I also wonder what it did for social shares and the like. No pun intended.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:11 AM on March 25


Cowboy Bebop seems to make sense, once I realized there was another episode of clips I hadn't seen.

The real test is Firefly however, and it is....mixed. I mean, sure, I agree with the best one being Out of Gas, but second best being Objects in Space? Also, Heart of Gold as one of the worst? At least it confirms I'm not the only one who disliked The Message, though I'd probably have put it as the worst one by a fair margin.
posted by Canageek at 12:14 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


See, y'all? The T-1000 didn't kill the show.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:16 AM on March 25


Whoa, what happened to CSI? It was doing really consistently, then hit a brick wall. Seems to have recovered though. I haven't watched the who in years, I just thought I'd see how it was doing, as I know it has been on the air for a very, very long time.
posted by Canageek at 12:20 AM on March 25


Holy moly, Duck Tales was consistent.
Watch out, it's the next-to-last-season of Curb Your Enthusiasm!
posted by barnacles at 1:59 AM on March 25


Canageek: "... second best being Objects in Space? Also, Heart of Gold as one of the worst?"

Jubal Early was a fascinating bad guy, and that goes a long way.

Heart of Gold was dreadful. It's the episode I point at to show people that maybe it was good the series ended where it did. The single worst thing about it was how they decided to signpost to the viewers that it wasn't just a brothel; it was a space brothel: by covering the building in what looked like aluminum foil.
posted by barnacles at 2:04 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Worth noting that the Firefly graph uses the (insane) Fox airdate order, instead of the DVD order, but also includes the episodes they never aired... so... it's a bit weird.
posted by selfnoise at 3:23 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


MST3K: Goes up to the end. Yeah, that's about right.
posted by JHarris at 3:28 AM on March 25


I'm kind of surprised that it's only this season that people say Family Guy jumped the shark.

Only the people who are stupid and wrong, stupid and wrong.
posted by JHarris at 3:31 AM on March 25


I can only imagine the first season of Scandal's results being due to people grabbing their loved ones and screaming "Watch this show so I can talk about it!!"
posted by kimberussell at 4:07 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


The line for Red Dwarf is pretty spot on. & they got the best episode right too.
posted by DanCall at 4:25 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Interesting graphs for Justified. Each preceding season started low, but then rocketed upward. This current season, though, is trending exactly opposite to that. It starts up where last season ended, and has been declining steadily. As a fan of the show, I can't say I'm surprised by this. The current season has been...weak.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:47 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Tangentially related, but a couple winters ago i got really sick. I had just gotten paid, and i was idly surfing craigslist under a blanket on the couch. Some guy posted a really nice 50in plasma TV for ~$200. So i jump in my car, drive over to get it, and... lock my keys in the trunk. In like, pajamas. It was close to freezing out, and i was sick as fuck. I had to break into my own trunk through my back seat with a piece of workspace cable-hider conduit and some double sided tape to get my keys out.

Anyways, i got home and was set to seriously veg out for days. So, i started marathoning Andromeda.

I remember thinking this show was awesome when i was younger and it was originally airing... but i only ever really watched random bits of seasons 1 and 2.

The thesis of that graph is completely correct, but it actually gets bizarrely bad in a way that's almost similar to that til death post above. And also in a way that the ratings kinda belie.

There's bits like romy, who is the shows Cmdr Data, saying "efforting!" when she's trying to load something, and then several characters go "efforting?!?!" and almost break the fourth wall in making fun of it. There's an episode entirely about a space-bridge between two planets that somehow passes through time and just slowly loses the plot as it advances. It actually starts to feel like everyone involved, from the actors to the writers just stopped actually trying to make a good show and just started going through the motions. With brief peaks into what feels like it's actually, actively trying to be not only bad but bizarre. Like, some kind of youtube satire tim and eric kind of shit almost.

I actually rewatched some of these episodes because they were so odd i thought i fell asleep midway through and fever dreamed the rest, or got confused because i watched them when i was pretty drunk and burning snack food at 3:30am, or whatever. They were all that bad an nonsensical without fail. It eventually hits eight deadly words territory, but it's a eyebrow raising and at times surreal ride to get there.

The graph is also right that the show should have been cancelled before season 5, and just left unresolved with a sudden cap-off like Enterprise or something. But it really does flameout hard towards the middle of season 3, and was really only good for the first two seasons which the graph does show. It's actually kinda sad too, because the show has some awesome moments in which it seems to directly attack questions of "ok, so this kind of thing exists in this universe. how would that play out?" and goes into measure of a man type territory. But fuck, when it gets shitty its utterly unwatchable.

I also find the spread of good to bad episodes in farscape to be interesting, since that show is so highly praised. I just started powering through it recently and it has some real stinkers in it.

That zone of like... 1997-2004 was a weird time for scifi tv. And every time i try and plumb the depths of it i end up in wincing cringe-zone faster than i thought i would.
posted by emptythought at 4:57 AM on March 25


Blackadder confuses the system, with each of the four series having a different name.

So, in 4 charts (plus two one-offs) -

The Black Adder - Average 8.3, best episode is The Queen of Spain's Beard

Blackadder II - 8.8, Beer

Blackadder the Third - 8.8, Ink & Incapability

Blackadder's Christmas Carol - 8.0

Blackadder Goes Forth - 8.9, Goodbyeee

Plus - Blackadder Back & Forth (the 'Millennium Dome' episode) gets 7.6
posted by DanCall at 5:10 AM on March 25


BSG was good, but it would have been so much stronger if they'd set the episode count at the beginning and then built the story arc to fit the length of the entire series.

It would have been even stronger if they'd had, y'know, an actual arc instead of pulling stuff like the final five out of their asses as they went along.

(Why, yes...I'm still angry about Starbuck being a ghost or angel or whatever the hell that nonsense was. How could you tell?)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:21 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't this be better if it used the same set of reviewers, not "everyone all the time"? More popular shows are going to be pushed down just by nature of a larger population is going to agree on less. Not to mention how easy it is to game online reviewing with easily motivatible angry people with keyboards.

(Pretty sure there's a better word for "Motivate-able", but I don't know it.)
posted by DigDoug at 5:46 AM on March 25


NewsRadio. To be honest, I was expecting a much steeper drop-off after the loss of Phil Hartman.
posted by rocket88 at 5:51 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Kids in the Hall 8.5
The State 8.4
In Living Color 8.0
Saturday Night Live 8.2 (but ALL over the place over the huge number of seasons, as it should be)
Chappelle Show 8.8 (but no episode breaks 8.0, that's weird.)
posted by DigDoug at 5:56 AM on March 25


Game of Thrones, Futurama, South Park, Family Guy, American Dad, Rick and Morty, Avatar Ang, Avatar Korra, TNG, DS9, VOY, and Person of Interest
posted by yoHighness at 6:29 AM on March 25


Anyone care to explain why the vast majority of seasons start low and climb to a season end peak, just to collapse again at the start of the next season?

Is the gold predictably at end of season? Are people always disappointed with the resolution of the cliff hanger? Is the climb less to do with quality building, and more to do with the disenchanted leaving?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:46 AM on March 25


I'm thinking in future I might not even bother to start watching any televisual entertainments without a predefined length.

This is one of the many things that made "True Detective" such a wonderful experience. Also "The Fall," which frankly I liked a lot better before I learned they are making a second season.

It's also the reason I tend to mainline a lot of British mini-series, which are built from the ground up with the ending in mind: Jekyll, State of Play, Blackpool.
posted by jbickers at 6:48 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Can anyone comment on what's going on with The Sopranos? Not just the weird uniformity of 8.6 ratings across the board, but also the weird drop in esteem for season 4 — every other episode of the whole series is rated higher than any episode of season 4. Is this conventional wisdom about the show?

(I'm also a little puzzled that episodes I remember as series highlights — "College" and "Pine Barrens" — are ranked so low, but maybe that's because they're largely standalone episodes and The Sopranos had a viewership that was hungry for serial storytelling and resented loose ends, I don't know.)
posted by Mothlight at 6:59 AM on March 25


Sorry ... I should have linked up The Sopranos for easier viewing.
posted by Mothlight at 7:15 AM on March 25


Well, The Simpsons trajectory seems about right. But why in God's name is "Homer the Smithers" the highest-rated episode? It was decent. But the best ever?

Also interesting is looking at the 4th season episodes and the ones that focused on female characters were rated the lowest.


I'm more surprised that two of the highest rated episodes are City of New York v. Homer Simpson (s09e01) at 8.9 and Two Bad Neighbors (s07e13) with George H.W. Bush at 8.8. I don't think either is that great.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 7:51 AM on March 25


The data is skewed by, or maybe based completely on, hindsight. It doesn't take into (sufficient) account the contemporary effect that certain episodes carried—indeed, like "College" for The Sopranos, or "The Parking Garage" for Seinfeld. Yes, everybody on planet Earth was making Soup Nazi references the day after that episode aired...but only because everybody was already watching Seinfeld, which was because so many people had been talking about "The Parking Garage" after that aired. Ditto "College."

It's an interesting analysis to be sure, but it's different from talking about a show's impact and quality from a contemporaneous perspective—which after all, is how most of these shows were meant to be received. Nobody had DVDs or the Internet when The Simpsons came on the air.
posted by cribcage at 7:54 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


This is cool. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:59 AM on March 25


Futurama is surprising; I had expected a peak at Jurassic Bark, but the highest-rated episode is actually Amazon Women in the Mood, though not by much. Jurassic Bark does have twice the ratings, and is (at a glance) the most-often-rated episode, as well as having a higher percentage of perfect-ten rankings (65% of reviews vs. 46%), but also a higher percentage of one-star ratings (3% vs. 1.4%). Which looks a lot like backlash at it being well known -- would people have rated it a 1/10 absent it being well-regarded, or would they instead have given it a more middling number?

All of which is to say: I'd love to see a similar graph tool done for number of reviews per episode, to reflect which seasons people think are worth reviewing for good or for ill.
posted by cjelli at 8:09 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Veronica Mars does a good job with its season finales. But season 3, really?
posted by meowzilla at 8:13 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi: In more recent animation news, Adventure Time has been on one hell of a roll lately.

"I Remember You" is one of the best episodes of any television show ever, though I guess you need to be an Adventure Time viewer to really get the emotional resonance. The latest episodes have been pretty good (though I'm not sure Lemonhope really needed to be a two parter), but they shouldn't be ranked higher than "I Remember You".
posted by Rock Steady at 8:23 AM on March 25


Fresh Prince has an interesting outlier. It's the episode where his dad comes to visit, and it seems it really hit a nerve.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:38 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Star Trek TNG looks about right to me. You can see the writer's strike in Season Two (and the hilariously low rated Shades of Gray). I do wish that Season Seven would have been better, but I think they were kind of running out of steam at that point.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:00 AM on March 25


The data is skewed by, or maybe based completely on, hindsight.

I think this is true for older back catalog/legacy series, but less true for series airing currently that haven't had time to have their IMDB ratings affected by "OMG DID YOU SEE THAT ONE WHERE..."

For instance I can tell you right now that there are four Star Trek TNG episodes that are probably rated higher than all other episodes. Because that show has had 20 years to develop a sort of hindsight canon. That's also why the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld is rated so high -- in my memory of actually watching Seinfeld, I don't remember that episode being obviously better than any other episode.

If you look at current series, you notice that the dots seem to be much closer to the trend, with very few outliers. Season finales get a slight bump, but there's not a ton of variation in how people are rating any given episode.

What I'm wondering is, who even rates individual TV episodes on IMDB? I feel like I'm a serious internet geek, care a lot about media, and it would never occur to me to even do that.
posted by Sara C. at 9:16 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Ever wonder how Aston Kutcher punched up Two and a Half Men?

(The Amazon ads below each graph are hilarious.)
posted by Nelson at 9:16 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


heh, this tool is pretty awesome!
posted by rebent at 9:19 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Star Trek TNG looks about right to me.

Personally I'm a little sad to see "Code Of Honor" (the one that was so racist they fired the director) rated a smidge higher than "Sub Rosa" (Dr. Crusher ghost sexytimes). I mean "Sub Rosa" is pretty bad, but it's not the second-worst episode of the show.

My guess is that the reason for this is that "Sub Rosa" is sort of notoriously ridiculous, whereas I believe "Code Of Honor" isn't even part of the syndication package because it's so embarrassing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 AM on March 25


I am fascinated by the fact that over 47,000 people rated the Ozymandias episode of Breaking Bad... and every single one of them voted it a perfect 10.

I mean, they're right, but still.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:27 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I would like to thank other Supernatural fans in also thinking that Ghostfacers was a horrible fucking episode.
posted by Kitteh at 9:30 AM on March 25


I tried to check out the True Detective one but it was just a spiral? leading to neverending night? think I broke it
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


Also this confirms that each season of the wire is an identically perfect narrative. Case closed, go home Bunk.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:42 AM on March 25 [6 favorites]


who even rates individual TV episodes on IMDB

Part of it is that each series has its own subculture. Part of it is also that IMDB is to some extent a social media site (clunky by comparison with e.g. FB but still, it's a community).

Anyone care to explain why the vast majority of seasons start low and climb to a season end peak, just to collapse again at the start of the next season?

I speculate that this is more of a social phenomenon than a media/content phenomenon. But one could easily hypothesize that cast and crew levels of comfort and execution increase during a season of 16-hour days. (Over in the "worst TNG" thread, there's a line about how in later seasons the cast worked so well together that even clunker stories succeed.) Then you do have the season finale aspect where there's a conscious effort to go above and beyond.

Particularly with a show like The Wire, though, or perhaps any season-arc-format show, is that early episodes will be heavy on exposition and setup, whereas later episodes will be heavier on substantive, impactful action and payoff.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on March 25


But [Andromeda] really does flameout hard towards the middle of season 3, and was really only good for the first two seasons which the graph does show.

The reason for that is because the show's creator--he worked from Gene Roddenberry's notes, but still--and showrunner, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, was fired by the producers after the first couple of seasons. Why? Well...I'll just let Wolfe and Kevin Sorbo (the star of the show and one of the executive producers) tell it in their own words:
"Basically, they want the show to be more action driven, more Dylan-centric, and more episodic," Wolfe explained. "They also want more aliens, more space battles, and less internal conflict among the principal characters. Also, they want a lot less continuity so as not to confuse the casual or new viewer with too much backstory. And finally, they wanted to rework the visual signature of several of the characters, most especially Trance and Rommie, but also Dylan (less uniforms, more civvies)."

The news was first announced by Sorbo, who also serves as executive producer on the show, in the latest edition of the British Cult Times Magazine. In a short news item, Sorbo confirmed the reasons for the split. "Robert is a genius, but was developing stories that were too complicated and too clever for the rest of us to understand," he told the magazine. "What we now have is a team of very talented people who write standalone stories that can, on occasion, blend together to form a story arc. That simple 'turn-up-tune-in' attitude was what was missing. Now we have that, I really feel we're on track towards making Andromeda an outstanding show."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:44 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


House is interesting -- I pretty much agree that the show went downhill after season 4, but I think that Three Stories is severely underrated.
posted by jeather at 10:48 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I plan on brandishing the graph of Teen Wolf at friends to go, "See? It was supposed to be just a stupid show about werewolves and then it became insanely good!"
posted by Kitteh at 10:49 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


"I Remember You" is one of the best episodes of any television show ever, though I guess you need to be an Adventure Time viewer to really get the emotional resonance. The latest episodes have been pretty good (though I'm not sure Lemonhope really needed to be a two parter), but they shouldn't be ranked higher than "I Remember You".

I Remember You is pretty fantastic. But as far as emotional resonance, I don't know whether I'd put it above or below Simon and Marcy.
posted by kafziel at 10:56 AM on March 25


P&R season one was pretty damn good

Oh, I loved it immediately (big Poehler fan from her first appearance on SNL), but they were still figuring out what they were good at and trying not to be a simple clone of The Office. Which, by the way, infamously had its own troublesome (yet promising!) first season woes. (For me, that show's peak will always be "Dinner Party", where four seasons of character setup come together in a delirious clash of immovable objects and unstoppable forces. The actual highest episode ratings, and here's another thing related to my comments above, seem to favor sentimentality, which is pretty ironic if you consider that the premise is largely that everyone is terrible except perhaps Jim and Pam.)

Here's a surprising one nobody's mentioned -- Friends. I think people rag on that show around here, but it's mostly about its topicality/trendiness, since it was quite popular while on and IMHO as a self-styled appreciator of the sitcom genre, very very reliably good (if not always great). I guess you could say their shark-jumping was to start having about one real clunker a season. Quelle horreur!

Here's an interesting contemporary case: Ellen. First season the name was "These Friends of Mine" and the concept was a bit like a Friends clone but with Ellen sort of the center of things (the unfortunate first season credits even aped Friends for that matter). Anyway, surprisingly or not, the infamous "Puppy Episode" where the character Ellen comes out gets just middling episode ratings (but was one of the most-watched of the entire series). Still, after that, the series lost creative gas -- and ratings. Probably partly because it just wasn't possible to do a sitcom about the daily life of a lesbian in 1998, but arguably because the tension of her character had been resolved in a way that made the rest of the story (I'm talking narrative here, not people, because obviously their story goes on) unnecessary to tell. IMHO the best episodes were in the middle when, to avoid having a male love interest, Jeremy Piven was brought on as her cousin -- but the unspoken subtext of the show was really starting to present problems (both narratively and in terms of production). Anyway, I'm falling victim to overthinking these graphs just the way I didn't want to.

Cheers -- some of the highest-rated are in the fourth-season, mostly Frasier-Lilith stories, and they're significant outliers. The show weakens just a little bit each season until the last, when it was actually given an ending (sorry, save alive nothing that breatheth!) and audiences came back to send it off. Anyway, the "sequel" Frasier had more variable episode ratings but slightly better (7.9 / 8.0) average overall -- and again there was a slight dropoff (shark puddle jumping?) in S8/S9/S10 but a significant recover for the (again, known to be) final season. I personally consider these two series as being pretty close to, well, peak sitcom. And holy hell must Kelsey have been exhausted with playing that character for twenty years.... but clearly audiences still loved watching him.

Now, here's what was at the time often dubbed "the best show on television", M*A*S*H. Highest-rated, of course, is Abyssinia, Henry (where McLean Stevenson left the series, and not known at the time but the last one for Wayne Rogers as well), and even though Mike Farrel and Harry Morgan would then join and become arguably better known as characters, the show's quality is apparently slightly in decline (and often during the course of a season as well, belying my hypothesis). I forget the actual politics involved but essentially over the course of the series it came increasingly under the influence of Alan Alda, as well as doing more experimental television, and that may be reflected in the slight recovery beginning in S8. S11, the last, starts out miserable but recovers -- again, there was public knowledge that the show was coming to an end. BTW, it should be mentioned that the actual Korean War only ran for three seasons, although they were quite dramatic and had significant cliffhangers....
posted by dhartung at 11:00 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


The way we watch TV has/is changing - it isn't even crucial to have good episodes as it is to have good moments. I don't recall episodes as much as I recall a scenes. In GOT "Chaos is a ladder" and Beric's duel with Clegane are two amazing scenes in fairly ordinary episodes that leave you energised about watching the show.
posted by vicx at 11:04 AM on March 25


the actual Korean War only ran for three seasons

Ugh I hear they're thinking about rebooting it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:12 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


kafziel: I don't know whether I'd put it above or below Simon and Marcy.

The plot and story of "Simon and Marcy" are pretty powerful, but it's the emotion of "I Remember You" that really hits me right in the feels. Marceline's sadness/frustration/wistfulness just tear my guts out every time.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:21 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Probably partly because it just wasn't possible to do a sitcom about the daily life of a lesbian in 1998

I don't think this was necessarily the big problem ("Will & Grace" would happen just a year or so later), but "Ellen" wasn't a show that lent itself well to the shift in focus from "buddies hanging out and doing funny stuff" to "a newly-out lesbian navigates her new life". Like, I could see "The Mindy Project" or "How I Met Your Mother" totally transitioning to that kind of show, if the narrative shook out that way. Because those are shows that are about central characters growing and coming into themselves and finding love. It's sort of like if Downton Abbey had abandoned the eponymous manor house and just followed all the characters to the Western Front during WW1 without looking back. Downton Abbey isn't MASH. That wouldn't work.

I also feel like the point in the series where the big coming out episode happened had a lot to do with it. If the show had been on a year and Ellen Degeneres was just like NOEP CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE and they had spent season 2 building up to the big Coming Out (especially if Ellen were out to the audience and there was lots of dramatic irony related tension, which would be fucking brilliant in a sitcom, like a reverse Three's Company), and then the rest of the series had "a newly-out lesbian navigates her new life" as a premise, that could have totally worked. But the Season 4/Season 5 split is prime shark jumping territory for any show. So it's not surprising that instead, the Coming Out is more of an ending than a beginning. You can't completely re-jumpstart a show after 100 episodes.
posted by Sara C. at 11:21 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: You can't completely re-jumpstart a show after 100 episodes.

Sterling Archer and I beg to differ.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:22 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Frankly I think the main takeaway for the vast majority of these graphs is that four or five seasons is the optimal amount of time for a TV show to be on the air.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on March 25


Is Archer no longer an animated comedy about silly spy hijinks? I'm not saying a show can't be good after 100 episodes, but by that point it's really too late to completely change the premise of the series.
posted by Sara C. at 11:23 AM on March 25


Sara C.: Is Archer no longer an animated comedy about silly spy hijinks?

They are now a drug cartel.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:24 AM on March 25


Yeah, but same basic difference. Also, mark my words, in hindsight people will say "yeah dude that's totally when Archer jumped the shark!" no matter how good it actually is right now.
posted by Sara C. at 11:25 AM on March 25


The How I Met Your Mother graph is interesting. If you ask me, the show is way too long in the tooth at this point, and I stopped caring two seasons ago. I predicted that the graph would have slight upward trends for every season until Season 7, at which point you'd see a complete nosedive in quality. But actually it looks like the reverse. Maybe I should get current on HIMYM...?
posted by Sara C. at 11:35 AM on March 25


Wow. A lot of people really, really don't like the first season of Friday Night Lights. This is an outrage
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 11:37 AM on March 25


The customer isn't always right.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:42 AM on March 25


What I'm wondering is, who even rates individual TV episodes on IMDB?

That's part of the flaw in the data as we're comparing old series to current ones. TV shows are targeted at age groups. More specifically, they're targeted at the group of people who fall/fell within an age group during the series's broadcast. And we know certain types of Internet participation (eg, rating stuff on IMDB, which yeah, I didn't even know that was a thing) skew across age groups.

Without knowing exactly who is rating episodes on IMDB, I guess I'd be more inclined to trust their aggregate judgment on something contemporary and hip like Breaking Bad or Archer than on, for instance, Matlock, which isn't aimed at what I'm guessing is their demographic and didn't air much during what I'm guessing is their lifetime.
posted by cribcage at 11:43 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


who is rating episodes on IMDB

My guess is lonely parrots
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:53 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Here's Matlock, for the curious.

I actually don't think age demographics are necessarily a factor, since it's unlikely that tweens are going to take time to go give shitty ratings to a show they're barely aware of.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on March 25


Another surprise: people fucking LOVED the last season of Angel.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I really really want to believe there are people out there, felled by colds, who watched all nine (!) seasons of Matlock and felt compelled to rate all the episodes.
posted by Kitteh at 11:59 AM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Law and Order is sure a mixed bag with no discernible trajectory. I can't remember what happened in season 6, but apparently it's worth a rewatch.
posted by desjardins at 12:00 PM on March 25


it's unlikely that tweens are going to take time to go give shitty ratings to a show they're barely aware of.

Obviously, but that's not the issue with aggregate data. The issue is that tweens, if that's the group, are more likely to participate in the rating activity. The highest rated episode of Matlock has 9 votes. The highest rated episode of Breaking Bad has 47,197.
posted by cribcage at 12:02 PM on March 25


Speaking vengefully, I can't wait to see what happens with The Good Wife's most recent episode. Because FUCK YOU, that's why.

Still comforting my wife
posted by scrump at 12:29 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Spoiler alert: the wife is bad
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:36 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


The Good Wife's ratings puzzle me, because last season is remarkably low for the show's quality, especially post Red Team, Blue Team.

I cannot imagine how I would rate this week's episode if I were to rate it.
posted by jeather at 12:53 PM on March 25


Just because no one has put it on here, I think Buffy: The Vampire Slayer's graph seems about right to me.

Guessing this topper for Game of Thrones? Be my guest.
posted by massless


I looked it up and just started laughing when I saw that. Straight up laughing with tears in my eyes. I am most definitely a book reader.
posted by lizarrd at 4:08 PM on March 25


The best thing about Archer is that they started their drug cartel stuff with a metric tonne of cocaine, which I think is worth well under a hundred million. Charlene is worth I think five hundred million plus robber baron grade business income, and doesn't seem to care if everyone else sponges off her or outright steals, so why bother? Just give all the coke to Pam.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:55 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


The highest rated episode of Matlock has 9 votes.

Yeah, that's a problem. But Matlock actually has fairly consistent voting -- I wish I knew why St. Elsewhere doesn't (well, obviously, partly availability). Here's Hill Street Blues (same era, but a lot more of a ratings success) -- but then L.A. Law came later than both and is pretty sparsely rated. Go back to earlier but less re-runnable shows like, say, Dallas and ... oh, wait, Dynasty. *shakes head*

And no, I don't think tweens are rating/watching Dynasty. But somebody is, at just enough of a rate (10-20 votes) that you can get a consistent graph.

Anyway, this has definitely proven to me that there's a series finale bias in all this data -- nearly every show has a high enough rating for that finale that the fitted line trends up. So generally I wouldn't trust those final-season fitted lines all that much. With HSB, for example, without the three shows of the finale arc, the trendline might even have been flat.
posted by dhartung at 6:10 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


The How I Met Your Mother graph is interesting. If you ask me, the show is way too long in the tooth at this point

Hah, we've been calling it "How I Took Forever to Meet Your Mother"
posted by ElGuapo at 9:15 AM on March 26


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