Thursday, January 28, 2016

X-files: The stats are out there

Everybody knows the TV series X-files. We've all seen at least one episode in the 90's.
I was never a huge fan, but definitely watched my share of episodes back then. So when I heard the series was kicking off again with the same two stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, thirteen years after the last episode, I thought I 'd take a closer look at how the original series performed and whether it had stopped at a sufficient level of popularity to warrant a follow-up (it's important to note that this is not a prequel or reboot, but just continues where we left off).

Here's the evolution of the popularity as measured by IMDB rating of each episode:

The first striking feature is the volatility in episode rating. In an old post I looked at similar plots for other popular TV series and the ratings were much more stable (over 80% of Friends' episodes were rated between 8.0 and 8.5). But here we can easily have a 6.2 episode follow an 8.9 one.

As I previously mentioned, I never was a huge fan, but I do remember that X-files episodes typically fell into one of two buckets: those focusing on the pretty complex alien conspiracy, and the one-offs independent episodes where Mulder and Scully investigated a weird murder somewhere. It could be that the volatility is partially explained by these two different episodes types. Unfortunately, classifying episodes according to this definition and compare their ratings is no simple task...

We can gain a different perspective by looking at Nielsen data, indicating how many viewers tuned in to each episode and what share of market the episodes had each week.

Rating points:


The storyline is somewhat different here. It would appear X-files started rather modestly in popularity, reaching a peak during the 4th/5th season, and then slowly trending back down, which most likely caused the end of the series in 2002.

The two new episodes have an IMDB rating of 8.6, 8.7, it will definitely be interesting to see if those relatively high ratings for X-files episodes are authentic reflections of episode quality or just avid fans who have been waiting 14 years for Mulder and Scully to reunite!

Also to note: as I was writing this post, the new season was originally classified as a new series starting at season one, but has now merged into the original series as season 10.

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