What's the best and most engaging television show?

What to watch in a time of self-quarantine and frozen food

Welcome to the first issue of Gridology! With many around the world “sheltering-in-place” due to COVID-19, I figured it made sense to kick off this newsletter by answering a question that’s on everyone’s mind:

What’s the best and most engaging television show?

Or, otherwise known as: I’m so bored after being home for about a week, what on Earth should I start watching?

To answer this question, I gathered data from a sample of 50 popular television shows.

As a proxy for “best,” I used IMDb rating. I could have chosen Rotten Tomatoes, but hey, this is my newsletter after all… and sometimes I think Rotten Tomatoes just gets ratings dead wrong. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave Entourage a 66%!

As a proxy for “most engaging,” I used Reddit community size (as of roughly this week). I often find myself scrolling through the Reddit community pages of shows I love. These Reddit pages are great for finding hilarious commentary and for theorizing on what’s to come. Thus, the size of a Reddit community is my way of measuring a show’s engagement level.

Below are the results of the analysis.

Data collected from Reddit.com & IMDb.com (Click here or the chart to see the full dataset)

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To help understand the results, I’ve split this grid into four groups.

The Elites

Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Rick and Morty, The Office, The Wire, True Detective, Friends, Stranger Things, Seinfeld, Twin Peaks, Westworld, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, BoJack Horseman, The Simpsons, Mad Men, Community, LOST, Family Guy, Orange Is the New Black

*Bold TV shows are in the blue dotted circle

Solid "B-List" Shows

This Is Us, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Parks and Recreation, Succession, The Night Of, Modern Family, Billions, Entourage, Homeland, Ozark, Veep, Killing Eve, The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Band of Brothers

Favorites at the Water Cooler

Greys Anatomy, Survivor, The Bachelor

Mainstream Favorites that Make You Feel Basic

High Maintenance, Star Trek: Picard, NCIS, Insecure, Gossip Girl, Young Sheldon, Sex and the City, S.W.A.T., Vanderpump Rules, Summer House, Love Island, Dancing with the Stars

The Gridology

If you’re looking for an amazing new show to watch and want to be able to talk about it with your friends, stop your search at Game of Thrones, The Office, Rick and Morty, or Breaking Bad. These shows are in a league of their own (hence the blue dotted circle) and host vibrant communities of devoted fans. This is transcendent television we’re talking about!

For fun, the show in this analysis with the lowest rating (3.1) was The Bachelor, but despite not faring well with critics, it sports a Reddit community of 122k fans. On the other hand, Band of Brothers—the show with the highest rating (well, actually tying Breaking Bad for the highest with a 9.4)—has a small online community of 4.7k fans. However, that’s almost certainly because the show aired four years before Reddit was even created… And yes, I know Band of Brothers is not a “B” list show—it’s clearly an outlier.

So look, if you’re searching for a show to dive into during this extended time at home, pick a show in the blue group you haven’t seen yet, and watch the pilot now. Odds are you’ll love it and all of your friends will be shocked you haven’t seen it yet. So what are you waiting for? Hit play. I’ll be starting The Office this week.

Grid Shortcomings

While this is clearly just a sample of 50 shows, there are several ways this grid could be more useful:

  1. We could create a composite “quality score” that would include other rating indicators such as Rotten Tomatoes (both audience and critic scores), TV.com, Google, number of Emmys or Golden Globes won, etc.

  2. We could create a composite “engagement score” that would include other social indicators such as Google Trend data, Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, Instagram followers, etc.

  3. We could add more content and map thousands of shows using this methodology.

So clearly, today’s grid is just a start. There’s much more we can do to find the best and most engaging show. Apologies in advance if I didn’t map that one show you were considering. However, you can see where any show would have fallen on this grid by pulling the data yourself and “plotting” it above. The pivot points for the grid groups are:

  • ± Reddit community size of 50k fans

  • ± IMDb rating of 8

Life’s only as confusing as you let it be,

If you liked this issue of Gridology, please consider forwarding it to your friends, family or colleagues. If you have any feedback or have other ideas you’d like me to tackle, just reply back to this note!