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[Comments] (2) Incorrectly Regarded As Good: In this third and final part of my IMDB data adventure, I want to switch from graphs to tables, and shed light on the eternal struggle between fans and non-fans. If fans are the ones who care enough to rate individual episodes, non-fans are the ones more likely to rate the show as a whole. I looked at every show that has at least 100 ratings, plus at least 100 rated episodes. I divided the show rating by the mean episode rating to get a "fan appreciation quotient". (I used mean because the show rating itself is a mean, calculated by IMDB.)

Shows with high FA quotients are more beloved by fans than by the general IMDB-using public:

FA quotientShowShow ratingMean episode rating
1.63"Entertainment Tonight" (1981)3.76.0
1.34"Melrose Place" (1992)5.77.6
1.28"Dynasty" (1981)5.97.6
1.28"The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (1996)3.64.6
1.26"Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" (1993)6.07.5
1.24"Full House" (1987)6.07.4
1.20"Ghost Whisperer" (2005)6.47.7
1.20"Fear Factor" (2001)4.95.9
1.16"Dharma & Greg" (1997)6.77.7

Note that since this is a quotient, it has nothing to do with the magnitude of the ratings. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" got terrible ratings even from the people I'm assuming are fans; it's just that the show as a whole did even worse.

OK, smarty pants, what about a low FA quotient? How can a show appeal more to the mainstream than to its own fans? Well, I think a low FA quotient means that a show seems better in retrospect than it actually was. Or, more positively, it means that a show was more than the sum of its parts. Either way, here are the shows with the lowest FA quotients:

FA quotientShowShow ratingMean episode rating
0.78"Bonanza" (1959)7.35.7
0.78"NYPD Blue" (1993)7.76.0
0.77"In Living Color" (1990)7.96.1
0.75"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1987/I)8.16.0
0.73"Gunsmoke" (1955)8.05.8
0.71"What's My Line?" (1950)8.96.3
0.71"Saturday Night Live" (1975)8.15.7
0.68"House of Payne" (2006)2.51.7
0.62"Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (2003)7.34.6
0.60"MADtv" (1995)6.74.0

Look how much sketch comedy there is on that list! I think I'm on to something. Two of my favorite shows, ST:TNG and MST3K, also have low FA quotients of 0.83 and 0.84 respectively.

And right in the middle we have the shows that are exactly as good (or bad) as you remember them:

FA quotientShowShow ratingMean episode rating
1.00"Becker" (1998)7.67.6
1.00"Cold Case" (2003)7.57.5
1.00"Dancing with the Stars" (2005/I)4.84.8
1.00"Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" (1995)6.66.6
1.00"MacGyver" (1985)7.87.8
1.00"Mission: Impossible" (1966)8.18.1
1.00"Project Runway" (2004)6.66.6
1.00"Rawhide" (1959)8.28.2
1.00"The Practice" (1997)7.77.7


Similar to the struggle between fans and non-fans is that between fans and antifans, a.k.a. haters. Fans of a show will give it a very high rating, and haters will give it a very low rating. We can detect this by looking for shows whose ratings have high standard deviations. IMDB doesn't make the standard deviation available directly, but it does provide a ten-character ASCII string that represents the distribution of ratings.

Star Trek: The Next Generation has been rated 16,974 times. Its rating distribution string looks like this: "0000000124". The "4" means that the number of ten-out-of-ten votes is somewhere between 40% (6,790) and 49% (8,316) of those 16,974 votes. The "2" means that between 20% and 29% of the votes are nine-out-of-ten, the "1" means that between 10% and 19% of the ratings are eight-out-of-ten. The zeroes mean that the other star ratings account for between 1% and 9% of ratings each. You can see the conversation about TNG is very heavily dominated by the fans.

I reconstructed the original rating distribution very roughly by treating the character "0" as five percent of the total votes, "1" as fifteen percent, and so on, up to "9" meaning 95 percent of the votes. How rough is the reconstruction? Well, for TNG, the reconstructed distribution has 20,363 data points, where the actual distribution (whatever it is) only has 16,974.

When I take the standard deviation of the reconstructed distribution for ST:TNG, I get 2.74 stars. This particular number is not trustworthy because of the assumptions made in reconstructing the distribution. But by making the same assumptions for every show, we can see which shows are the most divisive. Here are the shows with the largest standard deviations, among all shows with more than 1000 ratings:

Standard deviationShowRatingVotesDistribution
3.85"Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" (2004)3.721703000000003
3.76"Barney & Friends" (1992)3.712554000000002
3.76"Jon & Kate Plus 8" (2007)5.427162000000004
3.76"The Hills" (2006)3.358284000000002
3.75"Shake It Up!" (2010)4.810132000000003
3.75"Paranormal State" (2007)4.514383000000002
3.75"Flavor of Love" (2006)4.512542000000003
3.75"The Simple Life" (2003)3.429563000000002
3.75"The Jerry Springer Show" (1991)3.916313000000002
3.75"Jersey Shore" (2009)4.531303000000002
3.75"Hannah Montana" (2006)3.919273000000002
3.75"Big Brother" (2000/III)4.016213000000002

That list has a bottom, but it's not interesting--it's the shows about whose quality there is general consensus. All right, here it is:

Standard deviationShowRatingVotesDistribution
2.38"Mork & Mindy" (1978)7.017460000012211
2.38"Around the World in 80 Days" (1989/I)6.914460000012211
2.38"Amazing Stories" (1985)7.314670000012211
2.38"V" (1984)7.225570000012211
2.38"Crusade" (1999)7.011330000012211
2.34"Impact" (2008)5.616330000111000
2.31"Nuremberg" (2000)7.227540000012311
2.22"Moby Dick" (1998)6.519670000112100
2.15"Golden Years" (1991)5.014590001211000
2.12"Covert One: The Hades Factor" (2006)5.710110000122000
2.12"The Andromeda Strain" (2008)6.158580000122100

I experimented with a different mapping of the distribution, e.g. saying that "0" meant 2 percent of the votes, "1" meant ten percent, "2" meant 20 percent, and so on. This made the standard deviations into smaller numbers, but it didn't change the ordering of shows very much.


We can also measure how much a show varies in quality by taking the standard deviation of the ratings given to its episodes. For this I looked at shows which had at least ten episodes that had been rated at least ten times. Here are the results—the "Variability" is the standard deviation of the episode ratings, in IMDB stars.

VariabilityShowShow rating
3.32"The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962)8.3
2.74"The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (2005)8.6
2.62"Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (2003)6.4
2.60"Beauty and the Geek" (2005)5.9
2.37"Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (1993)8.5
2.23"Late Show with David Letterman" (1993)6.9
2.04"Silk Stalkings" (1991)6.1
1.89"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (1992)5.3
1.87"Superboy" (1988)6.3
1.70"Duck Dodgers" (2003)8.2
1.68"The Virginian" (1962)7.7
1.68"Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (2003)7.3

There's a lot of late-night talk here. If I loosened the restriction on number of ratings per episode, I also got a lot of soap operas (most of whose episodes have no ratings at all).

And here's the bottom of that list: the most consistently good (or, in theory, bad) shows on TV:

VariabilityShowShow rating
0.20"Day Break" (2006)8.3
0.20"Lucky Louie" (2006)8.1
0.20"Boardwalk Empire" (2010)8.9
0.20"Hung" (2009)7.5
0.19"Outsourced" (2010)7.7
0.19"The Ben Stiller Show" (1992)7.3
0.18"Happy Endings" (2011)8.1
0.18"Lewis" (2007)7.9
0.08"Planet Earth" (2006)9.7

I looked into the variability of the ratings distribution for individual episodes, hoping to find the most/least controversial TV episodes ever aired, but most of what I found looked like ratings juking. For instance, "Friday Night Lights" and "The Shield" show a hater/fan dynamic on the episode level: some people rating every individual episode very low and others rating every episode very high.

I think that's enough for now, but I'll come back to the data as I have more ideas, and maybe I'll even learn more than basic statistics for you.

: Last year I learned about the LEGO model of the International Space Station. Today I learned that sometime last year Satoshi Furukawa assembled the LEGO ISS on board the real ISS. In a glovebox, so the pieces wouldn't fly away. There are educational videos.


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