Feb 08 2012

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What is a “10”, anyway?

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.

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  1. Gabriella

    What a fabulous post. So many wonderful memories and so many valid points. Twilight Zone, is in my mind, one of the best shows ever done…. but as you said, how does it compare to today’s offerings. It may not have the flashy CGI effects that we have come to expect, but the stories we were what was important, not the window dressing. So it I will rate it a 10+ against any generation of shows.

    1. SusanCritelli

      You are so right about Twilight Zone – it may be one of the few that is a 10 for all time. But most of the ones I was rating a 10 were not really. I would do ratings differently now.

      And that is how this relates to Klout and social media measurement sites. So much is driven by activity that you end up feeling like you have to have activity for its own sake, whether you want to be active or not, and you also feel you have to cultivate certain people whether you want to or not. All I have to do is follow my real world friends on Twitter and take a vacation for a couple of weeks to see my score plummet.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..Do You Have What it Takes to be a Mommy Blogger?My Profile

  2. Mitch Devine @ marketing, copywriter, SEO, Orange County

    Very interesting question. And so subjective. (I agree with Gabriella that Twilight Zone would have to be a 10 in my book!) This also raises the question of Klout scoring and what exactly it means. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the old Blake Edwards movie “10” starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore, based on the idea of rating women!
    Mitch Devine @ marketing, copywriter, SEO, Orange County recently posted..Super Bowl Advertising – It’s Halftime in America, Do You Feel Lucky?My Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      I thought about it, and might have if it were an entirely new post. But this was reprinted from another blog from five years ago. I wonder how many of the people reading this don’t remember at all some of the shows I mentioned!

      Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed your post about the “Halftime in America” commercial. Talk about a subjective response – what it all meant depends on who you talk to!

      Even as a conservative I didn’t take it as a blatant promo for reelecting the President that some felt it was, or take the time to think about whether Chrysler had been a beneficiary of the bailout. I guess I just didn’t think that hard about it. And perhaps that is the crux of how so many people don’t know what is going on in spite of the fact that there is more information out there than ever before. We ought to be making informed decisions, and instead we are so overloaded with info that we just check out of it all. In that passive state, no wonder all kinds of things get rammed down our throats without our noticing.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..What College Graduates Don’t Know About AmericaMy Profile

  3. Max M.

    Right now, I’d say that Breaking Bad is the only true 10 on TV. Even though I have a lot of other shows that I would list as favorites.
    Max M. recently posted..New Poll: Summer InternshipsMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      You rate “Breaking Bad” a 10, and I barely know what it is. That is the essence of what I am trying to say about ratings, and social media ratings like Klout. Sometimes we can look at these numbers and how someone ranks in a particular circle and get a skewed view of their true influence.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..10 Tips To Avoid Work At Home Mom BurnoutMy Profile

  4. Stacey Soleil

    For me, a 10 show is one that captivates the viewers. Whether the format is actor or reality based is unimportant to me, as long as it is entertaining. In fact, my favorite show at the moment is The Voice on NBC.
    Stacey Soleil recently posted..Twogether Is BetterMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      I guess if I were to go back and rate some of those shows again I would have to change my rating. I think a 10 needs to have more lasting value. A show could be blockbuster for a season or two just because everything it was competing against was crap. Same could be said of the ratings of some people on Klout. They know what kind of activity counts toward the score, and how to generate it. It certainly makes them “clever” but does that make them truly influential? Maybe. There are some things that can’t be predicted by an algorithm.

      Though that new show “Touch” seems like it may be trying to make a case for the idea that absolutely everything can be predicted by numbers and patterns!

  5. Mike Shields (@MatchesMalone)

    As there are only 36 basic plots, or dramatic situations as it were, eventually, people tire of seeing the same thing over and over again. It is a necessary evil of the medium that you must recreate something that has essentially been done before, and make it original. Character interactions rule the day, and there’s a certain novelty that exists when you cast a TV show correctly, that makes it last for years, instead of six weeks or less.

    It’s funny you mention the Saturday night CBS lineup of a few years ago. That’s really the last time any of the networks programmed for Saturday with original shows.
    Mike Shields (@MatchesMalone) recently posted..10 Questions To Ask YourselfMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      “Characters welcome,” is USAs slogan, and rightly so. Most of the best new shows to come along in eons have all been on USA. At the end of the summer, I am sad to see them go, and very ho-hum about the regular fall shows resuming, even ones I really love.

      Totally agree about the value of a finely tuned ensemble. In this article I mentioned Everybody Loves Raymond in passing, but gave it a 10 and practically waxed poetic about it in another post on TV.com that I have not repeated here. I married into an Italian family that bore more than a passing resemblance to the Barones, and the revelation that these characters were only slightly exaggerated made them all the more hilarious for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching certain -ahem- characters get their comeuppance. The cast was brilliant together. There is just no other word for it.

      But I have to tell you that all those oldsters have passed on, and I am more than 15 years removed from that family dynamic – happier, healthier, and no longer harassed. I recently sat down to watch Raymond again, and I wanted to rip their throats out. “Who needs these insensitive boors?” I believe is how I diplomatically put it in the article, but that is NOT what I was thinking recently. The ensemble cast was still brilliant, but I didn’t like them anymore. If I were rating it for the first time today, I would probably give it a 5 or 6, because they still made me laugh aloud – quite a feat. And it could be a lot of other people didn’t like them any more either, because they never were able to achieve the same success after Raymond went off the air.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..What College Graduates Don’t Know About AmericaMy Profile

  6. Google SEO

    In fact, my favorite show at the moment is The Voice on NBC.

    1. SusanCritelli

      I love The Voice! But I don’t think there are any 10s on TV anymore. Again, the point of my writing this at the time was about how subjective the “rating” process is in most people’s minds. And while there are actually many shows I enjoy, they are mostly forgettable in a long-term way. Nice while I am watching, but then I move on to the Next Shiny Thing.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..What College Graduates Don’t Know About AmericaMy Profile

  7. drvaughandabbs

    Interesting point. Can you further expand your argument so we can easily grasp what you mean? Thank you

  8. cpanel reseller hosting

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more. Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

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