Are TV Show Finales Disappointing? by Emma Pierson
"The final episode of Dexter came out on Sunday, bringing to an end the only TV show I’ve ever faithfully followed—probably because Dexter’s psychopathic lust for blood and disregard for human life provided me a character with whom I could empathize.
Jokes! I won’t give away the ending except to say that people hated it. On IMDB, the show as a whole gets an 8.9/10; the last episode gets a 6/10. Which got me wondering: do the finales of TV shows get higher or lower ratings than the show as a whole? On the one hand, in a finale, you can burn bridges and do dramatic, exciting things that you can’t in a normal episode. On the other, you have to deal with higher expectations, and you have to wrap up loose ends that you can leave hanging in a normal episode.
It turns out the first effect wins out: finales tend to be higher rated. I [got] IMDB ratings for all the shows that had ended on this bro’s list—74 of the highest-rated, most popular TV shows in history (this isn’t a great list, but it was past my bedtime.)
Not all shows are plotted because the graph gets too crowded. The shows that preceded Dexter had finales rated on average .28 points higher than the show as a whole, a significant discrepancy (p=.004, 2-tailed paired t-test). If we include Dexter, this drops to .24, p=.02. Curiously, there is no significant correlation between a show’s rating and its finale’s rating.
The five shows with the most improved finales:
1. The Mob Doctor (+2.6)
2. CSI: Miami (+2.2)
3. Crossing Jordan (+1.9)
4. Third Watch (+1.9)
5. Numb3rs (+1.8)The five shows with the most disappointing finales
1. Dexter (-2.9)
2. Twilight Zone (original) (-2.6)
3. Scrubs (-1.5)
4. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (-1.0)
5. Tales from the Crypt (-0.9)
The Twilight Zone, in case you were wondering, ended in 1964—which means that Dexter not only had the most disappointing finale of all time, but also that no show has even come close to being that disappointing for half a century. Yes, this is the one show I choose to watch.”
(This post was originally written by Emma Pierson, who was nice enough to let me repost it.)