Every year hundreds of television shows are released, on tv and on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Max; Every year millions of people tune in to watch the same 20 or so shows and the rest are left behind. What makes this happen?
Let’s look at what the shows that we like have in common. Above all, Gen Z likes The Office. Even amongst older generations, comedies such as Seinfeld, The Beverly Hillbillies and Three’s Company were well performing and long-running.
This, in conjunction with the fact that there was simply just less tv back in the day, is a clear indicator that across generations, people prefer comedies. America loves a sitcom.
In fact, in a recent survey, most people said that their favorite shows were their favorites because they were funny. Funny shows are rewatchable, making them easy favorites because people can watch them more than once.
“[The Office] is my favorite TV show because it is the perfect show to watch when I want to relax or unwind. It does not require a lot of thinking to comprehend but it is comedic [and] comfortable.” An anonymous survey respondent said.
Not only is comedy rewatchable, but it helps people unwind and relieves stress, as another respondent said:
“It is funny, interesting, and I don’t have to think too much about it when I watch it.”
People also like shows that have good characters and dramatic storylines. Good Characters can carry a mediocre plot, but the best of plots can’t be carried by the worst of characters. And drama keeps audiences involved, making them want to tune in for the next episode.
As another survey respondent said, “I loved the interpersonal drama, the suspense, the character development, the acting.”
This goes along with 12 other responses that all cited “Good characters,” as their reasons for liking their favorite shows.
However, this isn’t all that goes into making a tv show work. Another thing that determines their success long term is their ability to be understood as a stand alone episode.
Reruns are pretty substantial in a tv show’s long term success because that is one of the ways for more than one generation to discover certain shows. Some of the most successful shows(Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Rec, Southpark) are on television pretty much everyday, and, back when they were on tv, it was fine if you missed a week because the next episode would still be entertaining, even if you missed the last episode.
I think, while these are factors, success also has a lot to do with marketing. Shows that are heavily advertised, through social media, through streaming platforms, through television or youtube ads, are more likely to be watched because they’re more likely to be discovered. If a show is never watched once, it cannot become a favorite, or even mildly successful.
So it is for these reasons that shows, such as The Office, have performed so well over time, bringing in new viewers every year and remaining fan favorites, even decades after they aired.