Ofcom reports that during lockdown, Brits have been spending up to 40% of their day watching TV, and Marketing Charts say that reliance on boxsets and streaming services has increased by more than a third (34%).
But which TV moments caused the most controversy? Which characters do we still miss? And which scenes are the most iconic? The TV research team here at Uswitch have spent lockdown watching all of our favourite box sets, crunching the numbers to reveal which are the most loved TV moments of all time.
Before you continue, however, we must advise you there are SPOILERS ahead for much of the most loved shows around. You have been warned!
TV’s most missed characters revealed
Whether it’s the lead role or a sidekick, these scene-stealing characters are what keep viewers hooked, ranging from Barb’s untimely passing in Stranger Things to the Battle of The Bastards in Game of Thrones.
We searched for the most popular shows which featured a character death or major character exit and found the top 40 most impactful by ranking them on how many news articles were written about it, how dramatic their death or exit was, and how the show’s IMDB ratings suffered as a result of their departure.
Of the 40 characters analysed, the list was whittled down to the top 25, with Glenn Rhee from the Walking Dead coming out on top with 71.5/85 points. Glenn suffered a very graphic death as his skull was bashed in with a baseball bat by Negan, leading to dismay amongst fans who declared they’d no longer watch the show in response.
Glenn’s death also happened in series 6, which was around the time that interest for the show began to wane as viewers found the plot too slow. Glenn’s exit beat out competition from other major characters including Rick, Carl and Lori Grimes.
Coming in second with 69 points was Frank Underwood from House of Cards whose death, which remained a mystery for much of series 6, became a turning point for the series which lost much of its fan base. The show had to write off Frank after the actor, Kevin Spacey, was removed from the show, leading to many stating a show focused around Frank would be nothing without the man himself.
Other characters that ranked in the top 25 were Fred Andrews in Riverdale with 67.5 points and Finn Hudson in Glee with 44.5 points. Both of these characters had to be written out of the series after the stars playing them, Luke Perry and Cory Monteith, passed away unexpectedly. The shows both featured a touching tribute episode to the characters around their passing which led to an emotional farewell that was well received amongst fans and critics.
A special mention goes out to Barb from Stranger Things, who ranked 20th on our list with 38.5 points. Her untimely death in the third episode of the series led to the hashtag #JusticeForBarb trending on Twitter, leaving writers Matt and Ross Duffer, to dedicate much of series two’s storyline to Nancy and Johnathan exposing the secrets surrounding her death.
The greatest TV shows of all time; ranked
Some of the most loved and critically acclaimed TV shows have fallen victim to cancellations, leaving fans all over the globe furious with anger and missing their favourite shows, even years later.
So which shows should we hail as the greatest of all time? With so many to choose from, we’ve delved into data from IMDB to reveal the most loved shows.
Taking a seed list of the top-rated shows on IMDB, we have analysed four factors including the number of awards won, the IMDB star ratings, the number of series it ran for and Google search volume data. Topping the list, our study revealed Game of Thrones as the best-rated TV show in the world.
Even with its controversial series finale, viewers have become one of the most loyal fandoms around, averaging 3,400,000 searches per month for the show. Meanwhile, the writers and producers have achieved a staggering 376 awards for the show, making it the highest-ranking show on our index, with 189/200 points.
Cult TV show, Friends, only managed to hit the fourth spot on the list with 176/200 points, which were largely down to the lower number of awards it has won, at just 77. As expected, however, the show still managed to amass a high IMDB rating of 8.2, as well as strong search volume numbers at 2,800,000 on average per month.
Lower down on the list were long-standing shows such as The Office US and Big Bang Theory, both of which have been much loved by fans despite a falter in ratings on IMDB as the shows progressed into the last few series. They ranked on the index at 164/200 and 160.5/200 respectively.
TV’s most satisfying finales
There’s nothing worse than devoting hours of your time to a TV show and becoming invested in the characters and storylines, only for it to be ruined by a terrible series finale.
We wanted to stamp out this fear and find out which shows are worth investing our time into until the very end, and which shows should be switched off well before.
Going back to our initial seed list, we scoured IMDB for the show’s average rating to compare this against the final episode’s IMDB rating, revealing Glee to in fact have the most satisfying ending.
Shocking as it may seem, the Glee finale had an IMDB rating of 9.1 against the average rating of 6.7. Reviews noted the show tied up the ending perfectly, recognising the original cast in the penultimate episode, ‘2009’, and leaving the remaining characters to all enjoy happy endings in the final episode.
Coming in second and third place was Sex and the City and One Tree Hill, both scoring a difference of 1.7 against their average rating. Both chose to close the show with a mostly positive ending for the characters, proving that viewers really do love seeing a happily ever after ending, after all.
Meanwhile, the shows that maybe aren’t worth our time thanks to their unsatisfying season finales were House of Cards (-6.2 rating) and Game of Thrones (-5.3 rating). As mentioned before, House of Cards lost much of its fanbase after being forced to write out the main character in its final series, while Game of Thrones was infamously ruined by the death of Daenerys Targaryen and the crowning of Bran Stark.
If you’re after shows with a lot more consistency and that doesn’t tend to falter halfway through their total run, then Breaking Bad, Band of Brothers and The Wire are the shows for you, with each finale gaining an overall rating score above 9.0. Make sure you have a great broadband connection and TV package before you settle in to watch a long series.
The most talked-about moment on TV
In the fantasy world of television, there’s never enough scandal and sin to be had; from outrageous affairs to gruesome murders – but which moment was a cut above the rest?
Wanting to uncover TV’s most outrageous moments, we rallied up our top 50 seed list and used Google Search Data, official viewing figures, and the IMDB ratings and top votes to reveal the plot lines that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
Revealed as telly’s top moment, it was Will being found alive in the Upside Down in Stranger Things that took first place. With more than 29,000 average searches a month on Google, this was the moment the gang realised all their efforts to reach Will had been worth it, eventually saving him and the town from the terrors of the Upside Down.
In second place, it was the Battle of the Bastards in Game of Thrones where Sansa Stark defeats Ramsey. The scene amassed the most votes on IMDB of the shows on our list (174,842) and has been hailed a ‘masterpiece’ by critics, so it’s no surprise it ranked so high on our list.
Also managing to gain a spot in the top 10 were scenes from Lost, Seinfeld and Friends. Check out below to see a full list of the top 10 scenes.
1. Stranger Things – Will found alive in the Upside Down 183/200
2. Game of Thrones – The Battle of the Bastards – 179/200
3. Breaking Bad – Hank dies – 174/200
4. Friends – Everyone finds out about Chandler and Monica – 173/200
5. Sherlock – Sherlock dies – 169.5/200
6. Lost – Desmond time travels – 169/200
7. Seinfeld – The masturbation contest – 168/200
8. The Walking Dead – Battle for Alexandria – 167.5/200
9. Person of Interest – Reese is shot – 167/200
10. House – The bus crash – 166.5/200
Nation of complainers: TV’s most complained about shows
Over the last five years, Ofcom has released a monthly breakdown of TV shows receiving more than 10 complaints and we crunched the numbers to reveal which ones have been grinding our gears the most.
The most complained about TV show of the last five years
With 23.3% of all complaints over the last 5 years, Celebrity Big Brother is the UK’s most complained about TV show. Even though its final series ran in 2018, the show received over 31,000 complaints overall ranging from Ryan and Roxanne’s infamous ‘punch row’ in 2018 to Christopher Biggin’s comments about bisexual people in 2016. Christopher Biggins comments were also the most complained about moment in 2016.
Britain’s Got Talent was close behind, with 20.3% and Good Morning Britain with 11.7% of total complaints.
Almost two-thirds (57.8%) of all complaints over the last five years have been for shows aired on ITV and around a quarter (24.6%) were made about Channel 5.
With just 771 complaints collectively, BBC1 and BBC2 received amongst the fewest complaints out of the terrestrial channels, just 0.54% of total complaints.
Chat shows such as Good Morning Britain and Loose Women received the most complaints overall, followed by entertainment shows Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity. Reality show Love Island was close to the top of the list, with the most complained series being 2018.
When it comes to which types of shows cause the most controversy, it was revealed that magazine shows caused a stir. Magazine shows, which are the news chat shows that include This Morning and Loose Women, had 111 separate incidents that led people to complain to Ofcom. Good Morning Britain had the highest number of controversial moments, accounting for 51% (43) of the total.
Documentaries were revealed to be almost as controversial as reality shows with 54 incidents happening across a range of documentaries including About Traveller Crime and Genderquake: The Debate; against 55 reality show incidents.
Ofcom received 55,076 complaints during 2020, making it the top year for complaints overall. That’s two-fifths of all complaints over the last five years, and our previous research has found 2020 wasn’t just a year big on TV complaints, with attractions topping the list too. Most complained shows included Britain’s Got Talent (27,165) Good Morning Britain (11,597) and Coronation Street (2,868).
Feeling inspired to start a new TV show? Make sure to compare the best TV and broadband deals first to ensure you are ready for your next series binge.
Methodology and Sources
Taking IMDB’S list of top-rated TV shows, Uswitch has determined a seed list of the 50 best TV shows of all time* to understand TV’s best moments, the characters missed the most and the most satisfying finales. As an add-on, Uswitch also looked at Ofcom data to analyse the UK’s most complained about shows.
TV’s most missed characters:
From our initial seed list of the most-watched TV shows, we searched which shows featured a character death or major character exit and found the top 40 most impactful by ranking them on how many Google News articles were written about it, the shows ratings on IMDB before and after their departure and finally how dramatic their death or exit was, which was compared against the dramatic nature of the show and if it was a common occurrence. This was again scored with a weighted index ranking out of 85 possible points.
The best TV shows ranked:
An initial list of the top shows was sourced via IMDB, followed by information to compile the no. of series, genre, award numbers and the average rating. Search volume data was then taken from aHrefs to create a weighted index ranking of the best shows scored out of a maximum of 200.
*Documentaries, shows with only one series and cartoons were removed from the list.
TV’s most satisfying finales:
Going back to our initial seed list again, we scoured IMDB for the show’s average rating to compare this against the final episode’s IMDB rating.
The most talked-about moments on TV:
Wanting to uncover TV’s most outrageous moments, we rallied up our top 50 seed list and used aHrefs search volume data, official viewing figures and the IMDB ratings and top votes to reveal the most talked about moments on TV. This was again converted into a weighted index ranking with a maximum scoring of 200.
The most complained about shows:
Five years of TV complaints data was sourced via Ofcom as well as reports from the National Archives. This was then compiled into a spreadsheet to analyse the most complained about shows, the genres, channels and years that had the most complaints.