Emotional Hits and Misses of New TV Season

For a few short weeks in September and October, Twitter buzz turns to the new fall lineup on network TV. Ultimately, viewership numbers determine which shows stay on the air and which don't, but we turned to Twitter to figure out how this year's new series resonated with audiences.

We used our social TV insights platform, Canvs, to analyze the success of new fall shows based on the emotional reactions of Twitter users. We looked at tweets about the premiere episodes of 19 new shows airing from September 17 - October 12. We then compared the shows in terms of reactions, which are defined as tweets containing an emotion. Sitcoms were analyzed primarily by share of “funny” and “not funny” reactions. We looked for “excited” reactions in dramas and also highlighted other, more novel emotions. The sitcoms we analyzed were  A to Z  (NBC), Bad Judge (NBC), Black-ish (ABC), Cristela (ABC)Manhattan Love Story (ABC), Mulaney (FOX), and Selfie (ABC). Dramas analyzed were The Affair (Showtime)The Flash (CW)Forever (ABC), Gotham (FOX), Gracepoint (FOX), How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), Madam Secretary (CBS), The Mysteries Of Laura (NBC),  NCIS: New Orleans (CBS),  Red Band Society (FOX),  and Scorpion (CBS).

A portion of this research originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

And the funniest sitcom premiere was...

ABC's Black-ish trounced the competition in terms of both total reactions and “funny” reactions. ABC’s freshman sitcom inspired nearly 28,000 reactions. That's six times the reactions of the sitcom with the second-most reactions: Selfie (also on ABC) saw 4,473 reactions on its premiere night.

Black-ish also had the highest share of “funny” reactions: 21%  of all reactions to Black-ish remarked that some aspect of the show was humorous. In fact, Black-ish inspired more “funny” reactions than every episode in the competitive set. Combined. Times three.

Despite its clear victory in the funny category, Black-ish was still somewhat polarizing. 11% of reactions (3,182 reactions) found something about Black-ish “not funny.” While it was first in "funny," Black-ish had the second highest share of “not funny” reactions of the competitive set, only behind Mulaney.

Speaking of Mulaney, FOX struck out with this three-camera sitcom from the usually hilarious John Mulaney. According to Canvs, Mulaney was the only sitcom we analyzed that was more "not funny" than "funny."  Driven by people saying "awful" and "not funny," 18% of all reactions to Mulaney were not amused. By contrast, only 11% of all reactions expressed that something about the show was "funny."

Exciting new dramas

Known quantities and superhero shows led the pack in overall drama premiere reactions. How To Get Away with Murder, from beloved producer Shonda Rhimes, garnered the most reactions of the set with 85,153. Gotham and The Flash, two superhero dramas rounded out the top three in terms of total reactions with nearly 52,000 and 30,000 respectively.

Gotham came out on top for the highest share of excitement with 21%. The second place drama, Madam Secretary, elicited 15%  "excited" reactions.

Since dramas come in many different forms, we looked beyond just excitement to identify some other ways this year's new appeal to audiences. Red Band Society, FOX's new drama about children with serious diseases in a hospital, and Gracepoint, FOX's remake of a British thriller about the murder of a young boy, both hoped to win audiences over by tugging at their heartstrings.  Despite the show's whimsical bent, 6% of reactions  to Red Band said something about the show made them “cry.” Similarly, 3% of reactions called Gracepoint “heartbreaking.”

One of dramas we analyzed, The Flash, also saw a boost in reactions because of heartthrob actor Grant Gustin, who plays the title character. Nearly 2,000 reactions (4% of total reactions) said someone on the show was "attractive," and in most cases they were tweeting about Gustin.

Only time will tell if our initial Canvs analysis is any indicator of which fall pilots will stick around. But for now we know at least that the Black-ish premiere was at least successful in making people laugh while Gotham had fans excited to watch.


Tweet Source: Nielsen. Relevant Tweets captured from three hours before, during, and three hours after an episode's initial broadcast, local time. 

Reaction Source: Canvs. Mashwork's Canvs analyzes Tweets about TV to capture emotions within conversation and organizes them into themes called reactions.