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What Viewers Thought of Each Episode and Season of Popular TV Shows--Visualized

Kevin Wu uses IMDb ratings to show what the public thought of individual episodes and whole seasons of TV shows in his Graph TV project. Who knew Sopranos season four was so unloved?

Each character on a long-running TV show is supposed to have an arc. Unfortunately, all too often the quality of these shows tends to arc as well--with a huge dip at some point. A new series of infographics shows exactly what form these quality-arcs take for some popular shows, and which ones managed to beat the odds.

“Graph TV” is a project by data visualization expert Kevin Wu that taps into IMDb’s enormous reservoir of user ratings. Expanding on the offerings of critical aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes, this user data reveals what the people think. Wu has used this data to create graphs that plot points for every episode of popular shows like Breaking Bad, Seinfeld, and The West Wing. Each season is color-coded for clarity, and features a trajectory line to show how people's reactions trended as that year's offering unfolded.

Shows like The West Wing and 24 feature actual arc-shaped arcs, falling off for a while before a minor, late-in-the-game resurgence. Other shows like The Office, just seem to get worse over time. Breaking Bad and The Wire, meanwhile, seem to live up to their widely trumpeted hype by rising in quality over the course of each season (and in the case of the former, cresting toward the end.) While it will no doubt validate old school Simpsons purists to see the show's decline begin at season nine, Sopranos die-hards will probably have some questions about the fourth season, where the ratings seem to have been whacked.

Have a look at more graphs in the slides above, and let us know what surprised you in the comments.

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