Top TV Shows & Our Emotions

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Top TV
Shows
& Our
Emotions

Whether it’s enjoyed in a group or as a solo activity, watching television can trigger a plethora of emotions. Plus, with televisions like the Sony OLED AG9 ushering in a new era of big screen entertainment, it’s easier than ever to have a cinematic experience at home.

But while these feelings would have once stayed within the four walls of the home, social media has made it possible to share any given thought with millions of others in real time. So, what do the tweets about the world’s top TV shows reveal about the emotions they are eliciting? With help from Dr Aaron Balick, a psychotherapist and cultural theorist, we analysed social media discussions to learn more.

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Total social media mentions

How often are people talking about their favourite TV shows online? And who’s doing the most talking? Filter the data in the table below to see which show garnered the highest total number of tweets, which received the highest number of tweets per person and whether men or women are having the most say.

“Sharing the viewing experience via social media can enhance the emotional response through what is called ‘emotional contagion’ – people online get behind different characters, which can make watching TV like a team sport.”

Dr Balick
Name Total mentions Mentions per author Male Female BAR
Chernobyl 389,029 1.5 65% 35%
Game of Thrones 11,152,522 3.0 56% 44%
Our Planet 146,626 1.3 47% 53%
Sherlock 444,475 2.4 42% 58%
The Vietnam War 34,764 1.3 61% 39%
When They See Us 1,642,961 2.1 42% 58%
True Detective 367,862 1.6 66% 34%
The Boys 57,169 1.6 67% 33%
Fargo 37,897 1.4 64% 36%
Black Mirror 1,481,556 1.6 50% 50%
Stranger Things 32,197,368 3.7 44% 56%
Arrested Development 593,139 1.6 54% 46%
Narcos 339,443 1.4 67% 33%
House of Cards 2,905,028 1.9 50% 50%
Peaky Blinders 1,446,227 2.1 54% 46%
Westworld 2,580,885 2.7 62% 38%
Cobra Kai 194,524 2.0 77% 23%
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia 338,115 1.6 63% 37%
Curb Your Enthusiasm 276,916 1.4 68% 32%
Nathan for You 58,467 1.3 70% 30%

The sentiment of the social media posts

How do people feel about the Top 20 TV shows? Is there an overwhelming theme of positivity running through them or hints of negativity? Filter the data in the table below to see how each show fares.

“Watching a show via its hashtag on Twitter can be a community experience. It can provoke both comradeship and rage equally.”

Dr Balick
Name Negative Positive
Chernobyl
23% 77%
Game of Thrones
42% 58%
Our Planet
13% 87%
Sherlock
16% 84%
The Vietnam War
16% 84%
When They See Us
34% 66%
True Detective
22% 78%
The Boys
14% 86%
Fargo
11% 89%
Black Mirror
21% 79%
Stranger Things
18% 82%
Arrested Development
32% 68%
Narcos
19% 81%
House of Cards
40% 60%
Peaky Blinders
16% 84%
Westworld
29% 71%
Cobra Kai
83% 17%
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
74% 26%
Curb Your Enthusiasm
77% 23%
Nathan for You
84% 16%

What emotions are TV shows triggering in their audiences?

What emotions have each of the Top 20 TV shows been triggering in their audiences? Is it joy, sadness, fear, anger or even disgust? Filter the data in the table below to find out.

“TV shows can provoke all sorts of emotions – we don’t watch them just to feel good. Even those that we call ‘negative’ emotions can be enjoyable to feel.”

Dr Balick
Key
Anger
Disgust
Fear
Joy
Sadness
Surprise
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
Chernobyl
Game of Thrones
Our Planet
Sherlock
The Vietnam War
When They See Us
True Detective
The Boys
Fargo
Black Mirror
Stranger Things
Arrested Development
Narcos
House of Cards
Peaky Blinders
Westworld
Cobra Kai
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Nathan for You

Interview with Aaron Balick

The psychology of television

What is the attraction of TV?

“There are two basic reasons for tuning into our favourite TV shows continuously:

Diversion - Many of us seek diversion through television to get a break from the stress of everyday life. By diverting our attention, we can get a bit of light relief by tuning into someone else’s life on television.

Identification - A psychological term that describes when you see a character in a film or TV show as representing a part of yourself. By identifying with a character, we may experience some comfort that can help us feel less alone in the world. Alternatively, we may try and learn by how the character deals with the situation.”

What makes a particular TV show so addictive?

“Some TV shows have addictive qualities wired right into them. It’s no coincidence that episodes end on a cliff hanger – the ‘how are they going to get out of this’ keeps us coming back for more.

“What determines people’s interest is complex. Game of Thrones could attract those into fantasy drama as much as those into political intrigue – it is a matter of the draw for a particular person. Something like Black Mirror is of interest to those who are curious about the dark side of technology and human nature. The myriad variety of television today has a pull for everyone. Social media and other online forums enable enthusiastic interest groups to grow around them, which can increase interest and attention.”

The formula for the ‘winning’ character

“There are lots of models that writers use to trigger ‘buy in’ from an audience and to get them feeling attached to the characters. This is often done by making some characters more appealing than others or setting up storylines where the viewer is somewhat manipulated into identifying with particular characters.

“Many dramatic writers use versions of ‘the hero’s journey’ which is a series of steps that the main character has to go through. Usually a character is pulled out of their ordinary world by some sort of extraordinary circumstance – they face a series of trials and conflicts – they are helped by friends, hindered by enemies – they reach a moment when they are about to give up – but usually in the end they succeed and learn from their experience and become a better person.”

What is the role of social media in the viewing experience?

“Social media can enable a real-time shared experience of watching something together. It enables a kind of scale for sharing that wasn’t possible until recently. Nowadays you no longer need to wait for that ‘water cooler’ moment at work to share your thoughts about last night’s telly (streaming is a whole other thing). You can do it live on Twitter via a hashtag or watch alongside your friends on Facebook.

“There are downsides to this too, of course. Most notably spoilers. It is far too easy these days to find out what happened by way of Twitter rather than experiencing the climax yourself.”

Aaron Balick

Aaron Balick, PhD is a psychotherapist, cultural theorist, public speaker and author, applying ideas from psychology to culture and technology.

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