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The Actual Top 10 TV Shows according to Data Scientists

Finding a good TV show can be a struggle. The problem is that some start off really well, but end in a disappointment...*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*. So we crunched the data for 3,000 TV Shows. We present to you: the actual top 10 that wont let you down throughout.
Levi Kok
Levi Kok
August 31, 2020
Updated on:
October 16, 2020

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Remember Game of Thrones?

The folks at r/freefolk sure do. We all fell in love with the show. Streets would be empty on Sunday evening. Fans couldn't wait till the next season to start. When a season was underway, watchers of the show spent countless hours looking for every little clue about the next big plot. Afficinados had countless theories and even more arguments to back up their theories. And then just like that, season 8 happened. Hearts were broken, swear words were uttered, and television units were shattered.

...Unfortunately, this is not all that uncommon. Time and again, shows take radical shifts in quality without warning. We cling on, hoping maybe -- just maybe -- the next episode will be different. "Surely the show will redeem itself. Surely I should not give up on this show after having spent all this time on it." 

If only we knew for a show: "When should I stop watching?"

But that’s about to change. 

Friends, internet residents, world citizens, emerging from the swamps of tv show ratings, we bring you a data-driven guide to tv-watching so you know which shows will (and won’t) let you down, and when to stop before they do.

Fun TV Shows Categories

Looks like most TV shows have a few seasons with roughly 10 episodes in each season.

When do most series start to fail?

To decide when series crashed and burned, we developed an algorithm. Our goal was to find the point in a season at which episode ratings dipped below what you’d reasonably expect (given past episodes). In other words, we sought timepoints after which the rest of the show doesn't live up to what came before. If such a timepoint exists, we consider it a disappointment, and flag the last episode to watch. Of course, there are more subtle nuances, but in general, this is how our algorithm looks at stopping points.

Fortunately, it looks like a large majority of tv shows are watchable for at least 70% of their stints. (Only 0.19% of TV shows are what we would call "never stop shows").

Fascinatingly, despite the diversity of shows and writers, data reveals that nearly all shows fail or succeed in one of 5 ways:

  1. The Cliff Divers
  2. The Late Bloomers
  3. The Bumpy Riders
  4. The Good Enders
  5. The Steady Freddy's

Let’s dive in (no pun intended):

Some notorious names are in there, such as House of Cards and Game of Thrones. Other series, such as Doctor Who, Dexter and Top Gear, were also caught in a slow negative spiral that they never recovered from. (see more)

Some series were off to a rough start, but improved over time. BoJack Horseman started the first season as a moderate hit, but kept climbing steadily all the way to the end. Parks and Recreations also had a rough start, perhaps due to the high expectations of the fans that saw the previous works of the same writer and producer in the Office. (see more)

You know these shows. You almost give up on them, but you decide to give them a chance. And you are not disappointed…for a couple more episodes. Looking at the series with the most fluctuation in their ratings, we found some that really were all over the place. Black Mirror is definitely a roller coaster I would enjoy at Six Flags. (see more)

Fan fact - Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes rated everywhere from a "super hit" to "below acceptable", reaching rock bottom with a "terrible" for the last episode of season 2. The idea behind this episode was to use a minimal number of characters in order to save money, as they had overspent on previous episodes. Furthermore, some writers didn't participate in this episode as they were joining the 1988 Writers Guild strike. The head writer Maurice Hurley later referred to this episode as a "piece of *&$%" and "terrible, just terrible".

For this one, we looked at how the last 3 episodes of the final season compared to the rest of the series. Some did manage to get together a great ending after all...take notes Game of Thrones. In both The Office and Parks and Recreation, that were produced and written by the same team, managed to pull together a great ending. Six Feet Under managed to go from being average to a stunning perfect for the very last episode.

Lastly, we looked at series that maintained great ratings for all episodes and over all seasons. Mr.Bean, a quite obvious example was a stable hit throughout. Yes. we all wished we could see more seasons. Similarly, while Cosmos took us into the depths of the universe, its popularity itself never descended! The show is constantly engaging (my personal favorite: highly recommend it)!

Data Scientists' Verdict : Here are the Top 10 TV Shows

We wouldn't want to leave you without giving our own, completely data-driven, top 10 best series. We pulled together the series that produced the most stable streak of top-notch ratings according to the viewers. This Top 10 differs from other lists out there, because they don't take into account the fact that shows that end up disappointing their viewers are "bad shows".

Our Top 10 best series according to data scientists are:

  1. Pew News
  2. Cosmos
  3. Mr.Robot
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Dare Devil
  6. Wentworth
  7. Dark
  8. Peaky Blinders
  9. Fawlty Towers
  10. Better Call Saul

The Interactive Tool - WSISW

WSISW by Intersect Labs - Know when to give up on a TV Show | Product Hunt Embed

"OK, Levi. Cool story! But what if I want to know whether I should start this new show that I saw an ad for? Or what if I want to decide whether to invest more time into this show I am watching? Do I call you for advice?"

To solve this very problem, we created WSISW. Enter the name of the show you think you want to watch, and see whether it's going to be worth it.

Not every series will finish well. But you shouldn’t get blindsided when you least expect it. Like *someone* we know…

Special thanks to Jason Trigg, who created the original algorithm, which Levi Kok adapted for this project.

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