Saturday, May 05, 2012

Ranking Seinfield seasons

At the prompting of some of Steve Sailer's commenters, I've calculated average season ratings for Seinfield by recording IMBD user ratings for each of the show's 172 episodes:


I've never seen a full episode of the show, so I'm commenting out of ignorance here, but the conventional opinion seems to be that the show went out on top, just as the eponymous creator intended it to in declining a $110 million from NBC to produce a tenth season. It's difficult to say definitively based on viewer ratings whether the show had peaked in the fourth season and had been churning water for a few years with an impending dip in the near future or if it could have maintained the same quality for several more seasons. It's said by some that Larry David's departure at the end of the seventh season marked a change in the show for the worse, but that's not detectable here.

Whatever the case may be, if I were a fan, I doubt I would've been too happy about the desire to nobly call it quits at the zenith. A good portion of the ride down from that high point to the nadir some number of years in the future is still going to be thrilling, and I won't cherish my favorite episode in season six less because season fifteen sucks so much. As Ed succinctly put it:
People keep confusing "past its peak" with "bad". There are usually separate moments when a series begins its downhill slide, and when it actually becomes bad.
I suppose if I was more SWPL and actually cared about how shows I enjoy influence my pop culture status, though, I guess I'd have to be grateful for Jerry's decision.


Steve Sailer said...

The three supporting actors wouldn't have minded more seasons, since they had only recently gotten big raises to a million per episode, and didn't have ownership like Seinfeld and David do (although one of them is the child of a billionaire).

Steve Sailer said...

This graph shows how hard it is to make a good non-sequel movie. With Seinfeld they didn't hit their full stride until the fourth season. At 22 episoded per season and 22 minutes per episode time three years of improving, that's about 24 hours of screen time to get up to full speed.

Sideways said...

Seasons one and two of Seinfeld were a combined 16 episodes, for the record.

pat said...

Like you I've never seen an episode of Seinfeld, or Friends, or Gunsmoke or almost any of the super popular programs. I know people who claim to never watch TV but that's not me. I watch TV all the time.

When I was in grad school my Organizational Development professor kept making references to a TV show. That's how I came to watch Mary Tyler Moore. I wanted to get the jokes and references.

When there were only three commercial broadcast channels and one PBS channel people could chat at the water cooler about some show they had seen the night before. With 500 channels the odds of meeting someone who watched what you watched are vanishingly small.

TV use to unite Americans. Everyone watched Ed Sullivan but today it divides us. It's as if everyone has their own custom taylored programming.

In the middle of the last century when you went to the opera you expected to be seen. You dressed up and paraded yourself at the intermissions. A movie theater is much more anonymous. You sit in the dark and speak to no one (at least I hope you don't chatter). TV is even worse as a social outlet. We sit alone and watch something no one else will watch. Even if we could discuss our reactions no one would have had the same watching experience.

Last night I watched Michael Wood's show on early civilization and a couple episodes of a show on the military channel comparing WWII fighters. I have Netflix. I'd like to talk about my reactions to those shows but I'm alone. There are almost seven billion people on earth and I'm the only one who saw those shows last night.

I used to teach data communications. Often I would use the phrase "500 channels". This was what we could expect I said in the bright future. Well here we are living in the future. There are far more than 500 options available, the picture is in High Definition and has Dolby 5.1 sound - everything is bigger and brighter that we could ever have dreamed, and it has damaged our quality of life.

John said...


I guess I'm on the other side. I'd rather watch Dogfights alone than American Idol with other people. I am happy with how things are now.

Audacious Epigone said...

Yeah, the first season was really truncated. Still, that's around 10 hours of screen time before really hitting stride, so it's still a lot longer than a movie.


With the exception of movies and sports, media proliferation has resulted in fractured public attention pretty much across the board--magazines, TV series, radio, even video games.

I see this development more rosily than you do, though. I can't casually discuss as much media with those I come into contact with on a daily basis as I would've been able to half a century ago, but there is effectively a limitless amount of accessible information out there about the things I'm interested in, and lots of people comparable to myself to discuss these 'niche' things with. Outside of maybe a university setting, that state of affairs didn't exist a generation ago. I sure wouldn't want to give up, say, Steve Sailer just so I'd be able to discuss Good Morning America with a co-worker!

Audacious Epigone said...


Heh, funny you say that. Until yesterday, I'd never seen even a clip of American Idol. But one of my niches brought me to it, profitably. That's another reason why I don't view the change Pat talks about in a negative light--it's not like we're unable to plug into particular aspects of popular culture that are appealing to me, it's just easier than ever to avoid all the crap.

pat said...

I'm not generally negative about modern developments. I love, Wikipedia, Google, blogging and Netflix. All of those seem to have been invented just for someone like me. I am no Luddite.

But most of these new techie benefits do come at the expense of community. I used to haunt the public libraries when I was a kid. I browsed book stores too. Now I browse Wikipedia and order books from Amazon. I write my fair share of reviews so I probably have more interaction now than I ever did before. But those interactions aren't face to face.

Maybe I'm being piggy. I want it all.