This was originally published in my blog over at TV.com in 2006. It is repeated here to illustrate some of the intangibles that go into rating, in this case, a TV show. They are the kind of subjective things that cannot be incorporated into an algorithm. Is there a place for this kind of subjectivity in measuring online influence?
I am having a really hard time with rating shows. It all started when I decided to add Columbo to my list of favorites. I watched every episode, and every TV movie, and, “oh, by the way,” even refused dates to watch Columbo when I was growing up. So I rated Columbo a 9.5, alongside NCIS, Fawlty Towers and a few others. But is it really better than Mission Impossible in absolute terms? And not as good as Zorro?
I admit to being perplexed when I see the lower ratings of some of the classic shows that I consider superior, and then I remember how many of the people who are rating the shows never saw them in their prime but have only seen them in syndication or on DVD. They are relics of “ancient history” in the same way Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and Edward R. Murrow are to me.
Hmm, there is more to this rating stuff than I thought.
There are shows on my list that are favorites right now like Cold Case, Crossing Jordan, and NCIS that nevertheless cannot hold a candle to some of the classic shows that deserve to be a 10 for all time, like Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett, and The Twilight Zone.
Then there are shows that are a 10 in their category – like Everybody Loves Raymond. But is Raymond ultimately a better show than say, Cheers, or MASH or All in the Family? Or a funnier show about a family than Family Ties or The Dick van Dyke Show? I would have hated Raymond before I married into an Italian family. I would have said, “who needs these insensitive boors?” And yet, it is a 10 right now, for what my life is right now.
How can I not give a 10 to shows that I watched faithfully for years, rearranging my schedule to do so? Shows like the Saturday night block from a few years back – Touched By an Angel, Early Edition, and Walker: Texas Ranger? And yet I don’t feel that they were Absolute 10s. Maybe 10s for a season.
Walker actually became a much more overtly Christian show than Touched By An Angel ever was during the season following the introduction of the Hays Cooper era characters. That may not have made some people happy, but I was very happy about that. It was gutsy, and I appreciated the rendering of people of faith on a show who were neither buffoons nor crooks.
And Early Edition was a very cool idea, but not the best treatment of the “what if you could change the future”, and therefore not a 10 (even though the young Kyle Chandler was definitely a 10 by anyone’s standards!).
But Walker then jumped the shark a bit in the last couple of seasons where the plot consisted of Alex getting kidnapped/threatened/hurt and Walker scaling the Empire State Building/jumping out of an airplane/singlehandedly defeating the 101st Airborne in order to save her. I still loved it that Walker always kicked the bad guys’ butts, but it got really stupid at the end, and therefore not a 10. And yet if you measured my devotion to it by the number of years I diligently watched and worked it into my weekly routine…then it should be a 10, or maybe a 12.
And speaking of “jumping the shark,” how do you pigeonhole an iconic show like Happy Days, one of the longest running sitcoms of recent times and an episode of which spawned that expression?
And how does one compare Quincy ME to Crossing Jordan? Or Matlock to Law and Order (pick a suffix)? What those shows meant to me when I was watching them is as an important consideration as how they actually stack up in terms of quality and character development compared to current shows that have the advantage of better technology, and fewer restrictions on “being real” in topics covered and dialogue.
After the stark realism of NYPD Blue, or the courtroom drama dished out by Law and Order, when I watch Matlock now, it is really kind of hokey. But like The Rockford Files, or Switch, ChIPS, Ironside, or any of the other shows from that era – I cannot judge them by their cheesy music, or dated hairstyles, or any of the other things that would tempt me to give them lower ratings.
I haven’t even touched on schmaltz-fests like The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie or Highway to Heaven! What do you do with those? Look at my list of shows and you will see lots of cop shows and crime investigation dramas, mysteries and who-done-its, sci-fi and offbeat comedy for mature audiences. But it wasn’t always so. I LOVED those sentimental family shows and never missed them.
SIGH. I haven’t even figured out what shows to list as actual favorites. I loved Kraft Mystery Theater – with McMillan and Wife, McCloud, Columbo and was there one more? But it was Columbo that took on a life of its own in my heart. And yet when I compare Columbo to Bobby Goren on L&O-CI – how do I choose?
Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes is a superb piece of acting, and probably my all time personal favorite. But how does even Sherlock Holmes compete with my memories of my dad, sitting in the chair with him and smelling his cigars, and enjoying Columbo and all the other stories he liked where “you know who did it, but it takes the rest of the show for him to prove it?”
In the end, I think there has to be something special about who you watched the show with, and how your memory of the show captures how you felt at the time, and what you were doing, and what the show meant to you. Those are the things that have cemented certain shows in my heart.
The things that can’t be measured by a ratings system.
What makes a show a “10″ to you?
Tune in tomorrow for what this has to do with Klout and the other social media influence peddlers.