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An Investigation into People’s Viewing Habits: The Factors Making Successful Tv Shows

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An investigation into people’s viewing habits: What makes TV shows successful?

Friends, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad. All award-winning shows but what makes them so appealing? As the opening of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, it brought in 16.1 million people. [1] This number is astonishing for any TV show, which reveals that producers know specifically what gains people’s attention following their: interests, lifestyle, careers, and character.

Producers of Friends especially knew how to manipulate all the characteristics above on how to gains peoples attention because many people have denied that Friends is not a sitcom instead they refer it being a whole “experience”[2].

This in many ways makes a lot of sense because a lot of people could relate to the show due to their lives being in the same situation as the characters in the show. This made it certainly popular with many people all over the world.

In addition, it had characters no other TV show had. The characters and all the actors played it to the perfection of their role. Each character had something special and bothersome at the same time. Producers knew there is a bit of Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Phoebe and Chandler in each one of us and these characters and their personalities help us in discovering ourselves. This is one of the many reasons why friends had such an impact on people’s lives and it is till this day still one of the best and most popular [3]( – liked, enjoyed, or supported by many people) sitcoms ever.

Breaking Bad has a vast variety of genres all put together brilliantly, such as drama, thriller, black comedy, suspense and crime fiction. These genes were chosen by the producers of Breaking Bad which is what subsequently made it successful and widespread the world. As the ending of the grand series finale for Breaking Bad, it smashed 10.3 million viewers[4]!

Talk about friends and breaking bad as you did with the game of thrones.

The TV shows I’m going to talk about have all been fan favorites for a long time, some have even finished and are still one of the biggest hits in these generations. Producers have to make everyone satisfied with the TV show they are creating in order to get viewers. So they have to adapt to a wide variety of people’s viewing habits. This can sometimes make producers do immense sacrifices so they can please their crowd and not put some people off it due to discrimination etc. However, these three TV shows have mastered it all and are balanced perfectly to satisfy their vast audience’s attitudes towards good TV shows.

Following on from this since the TV shows I have chosen have a lot of popularity, this also means they have a really high income from their audiences. This can help TV shows and their producers have a wider range of choices to satisfy their audiences.

The term these TV shows have all been labeled as is, ‘Successful’. Which means that all shows I am going to be talking about “have achieved a lot, become popular, and/or made a lot of money”[5].

Game of Thrones is such an enormous expense on HBO. It is reported that around $6 million is spent by the producers of “Game of Thrones” to make an episode. Each season of Game of Thrones has about ten episodes each. With the price of one episode being $6 million over a whole season that makes a whopping $60 – $70 million per season[6].

These statistics show us just how expensive it is to produce such a great masterpiece loved by many. However, with this in mind, the tv show is also really popular and gets on average 9.3 million viewers per episode. According to New York Times, Game of Thrones generates “slightly more than $1 billion annually,”[7].

Another tv show that still earns more than $1 billion annually would be FRIENDS! The final episode aired on 6 May 2004. It has been fourteen years since the last episode of friends was aired on live television and it still brings a staggering amount of more than $1 billion per year! This is all due to their success as a TV show and the popularity it brought them which in turn helped them gain a lot of viewers/supports of the TV show Friends. The cast earns $20 million annual pay-checks each, who each make 2% of that overall income. $20 million. Each year. For doing nothing[8].

Breaking Bad was also doing remarkably well economically due to their success as a TV show. With their main cast earning ?150/225k per episode. This all racks up to $1.2/1.8 million per season[9]! This is just statistics for the two-main people of the TV show, Cranston, and Paul.

How much money does it make?

Game of Thrones has become so appealing to viewers over the past few years. Especially for women that are looking for shows that show viewers that women aren’t always shown as the incapable ones but actually have an enormous impact on the show and its development. GOT breaks the trend of showing women as powerless, inferior to men. Game of Thrones is a show that has very strong character development and women that are leaders of the so-called the throne name. Daenerys Targaryen is a powerful leader of her people in the show that has handily earned her titles Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, not to mention all the other titles she claims as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.[10] She is a woman and has the biggest support of all the groups of guards and other noble families from the show which shows how much the producers make women seem boundless. In addition, Brienne of Tarth is a very strong warrior which is what the show wants, rebuking any stereotypes what a lady’s “proper role” should be, Brienne wears her armor and wields her sword better than any male knight who has the misfortune to challenge her. She has a huge importance of strength and honor in women of the show. These are just a few examples of women being in power and that is looking up to in GOT, not due to their gender but their capabilities as a character and individual. This makes GOT very appealing for women thus the viewership of women shows a high statistical frequency for the show. Approximately 2.2 million women are tuning in to the show on average each week this is about 42 percent of Thrones’ total 4.8 million viewers[11].

In 2014 a Telegraph woman writer named: Charlotte Runcie stated “Amid all of the lurid goings-on, somehow, this show has slowly revealed some of the most magnificent women ever committed to the small screen[12],”

Producers of Game of Thrones have been certainly clever about increasing their viewership of audience from different genders, whereas there is some TV shows that producers have decided women should be portrayed as a shadow of a man. Thus, making them look dependent on men. Tv shows such as Home Improvement had every joke and gag was about how men were the machoism creatures to walk on this planet. Women? Not so much[13].

Another Tv show named the ‘The Wonder Years’, shows a woman by the name of Winnie Cooper which is also part of the main characters (mainly men) is given such low self-esteem. The producers made one of the main female characters surrounded by all boys with high self-esteem, but she was, on the other hand, gave no confidence and is always doubtful of her plans and future. These are only out of men Tv shows that lack of female empowerment. This makes them no so popular with the female audience and thus not pulling groundbreaking viewership’s from people.

Creator of Game of Thrones: George RR Martin has really strong female views in his day to day life. He said in an interview that ‘I’m a feminist at heart'[14].

In another interview in 2012, George RR Martin appeared as a guest on the Canadian Broadcast Network show Stroumboulopoulos Tonight hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos. George RR Martin was asked this question “There’s one thing that’s interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?”. and the answer the creator of GOT gave was brilliant, he stated that “You know I’ve always considered women to be people.[15]”

The show “Friends” became the first long-running sitcom when it got the highest rating for it on US television. Friends won an Emmy, award for the Best Comedy Series category, which was another first. The show was praised for lack of violent content. Although there were few critical responses over some contents, it did not stop celebrities to play and guest appearance role in this show which includes: Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Helen Hunt, Elliot Gould, Charlie Sheen and others. Despite other competitive sitcoms Friends managed to remain at its place that is for both social phenomenon and hugely entertaining television show. According to one of the experts Friends is one of those show which marked a change in American culture. The portrayal of youth and the roles they play are well defined and represents a lifestyle that focuses around creating and maintaining relationship between a group of friends running their own lives and seeking support from each other In audience appeal, Friends was undoubtedly stayed in the nineties and as well as in the early years of twentieth century. As with time, the reviews got more positive than negative, it progressed and Friends become a most popular hit sitcom. It is still ranked as among time best TV shows (Cosgrove) Critics praised the series for having persistently spiky dialogue script and the chemistry among the most important actors was extraordinary. Some praised the finale for being more touching and more satisfying as reflecting to the closure it gave

There are very few of the sitcoms in the history of television which have had long-term Cultural impact. It does not matter how much you categorize the TV programs or how much influence the novel reality trend has on it; it is a fact that will remain that television sitcoms are not realistic. It’s impossible for it to be 100% real because TV is not reality. The stories included are however chunks of the maker’s perception. Which they always edit, filter, and script it to manipulate the audiences to drag huge amount of attention and fan following. Rachel’s hairstyle was noticed a lot it was even nicknamed as “The Rachel” and adopted by many. Joe’s catchphrase “How you doin’?” also became popular and imitated by many as a pickup line or when greeting or making new friends. Chandler’s sarcasm and jokes also influenced viewers it also developed an alternative lifestyle where young people live unconventional domestic lives, it brings to a close way that all you need is some good friends and you can put up family of your choice. This new way of living and developing relationships is not normally seen in conventional society.

Friend’s characters have been well developing to reflect on real life which all viewers of the show can relate to. Monica was kind of the mother of the group. In the episode “The One With The Two Parties” where Rachel’s birthday was split in two. Chandler and Joey’s party was all about relaxing and fun, whereas Monica’s party was all about organized activities for everyone to “enjoy.” Like those arts and crafts activities, you would do at your cousin’s 7th birthday party where you got to take home a bottle of colorful sand or a picture frame made from macaroni. Which is a Total mom move?

You got to give props to Rachel. She left her family money, made a successful career out of nothing, and had a kid on her own. She worked really hard to get to where she was. She was always herself and did exactly what she wanted whether it was leaving a doomed suburban life with Barry or wearing a huge floppy hat even though everyone else made fun of it. Ross is pretty passionate about a lot of things through the course of Friends. Dinosaurs and Rachel are an obvious two. But he can be pretty intense about some random things. Like a leftover sandwich, wanting every single person in his apartment complex to like him, and hoarding every removable object from hotel rooms. His quirks like these make him a dynamite character to watch. And by dynamite, I mean that it’s likely he’ll explode at any moment.

One of the most worrying features of a television show is that, intermittently, it needs to change. This is fitting, given our anti-hero’s action what Breaking Bad excelled at most. Vince Gilligan and his creative team, and indeed the show’s enormously talented cast, revealed in the process of molding the new together with the old, taking what was and defiantly shaping what was meant to be. Incidentally, on a production level as much as a character level I feel that the crux of Breaking Bad’s developmental success was that the writers had no idea what they were doing, with much of the show’s most engrossing drama focusing on how its characters adapt to the almost-random chaos thrown at them.

To complement and enhance the series’ production values and story-telling structure are the people we watch the show for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, as well as the series’ wealth of other morally ambiguous characters. Moral ambiguity is something each and every one of us has dealt with at one time or another. Most of our ‘tough’ choices come in the form of moments like whether it would really be so bad if you pulled a sickie, knowing you could well selfishly ruin another person’s day or if you are a fundamentally bad person for stealing some of your housemate’s bread and then lying to them, perhaps even blaming another housemate. Breaking Bad‘s moral compass is just relatability taken to the extreme. We can’t help but feel for and be right behind Mr Walter Hartwell White through thick and thin because he is (or was) a normal guy simply trying to do right for his family and to leave behind a legacy when he’s gone from this world instead of just a withered corpse that couldn’t even provide for its family and whose to say that put in the same position we wouldn’t make the same choices as Mr White?


GoT is appealing because it shows women as powerful which shows have not previously done before – so GoT breaks the trend of showing women as powerless, inferior to men.

1. Statistics to show how many women/female viewers GoT has.

2. A woman’s point of view on GoT and why it is appealing.

3. Give examples of TV shows that have traditionally shown women in submissive roles.

4. Creators of GoT – have they said how they wanted to portray the women on the show? WHY did they want to show them as powerful? What did the creators have in mind when they created their female characters?


Friends – what characteristics does each character have that makes them so entertaining to watch?

What are the individual personalities that make them interesting to view? e.g. Chandler is very sarcastic – give examples of this – WHY do people like watching this?

Phoebe is quirky and different – give examples of this e.g. clothing – WHY do people like watching this?



Why is it popular at this age?

Why is it so popular in AMERICA AND UK?

Gender- Mainly men or women? Why do they watch it…


What features does each show have that make it appealing? e.g. why is the fantasy and action of GoT so appealing? Role of women? Why is the comedy element of Friends so appealing?

Right from the start, Friends did things differently. It joined a growing number of sitcoms that had started to incorporate long-running narrative threads: marriages, children growing up, characters changing jobs. And it took this one stage further. It chose to make these story elements (with the Ross and Rachel on-off relationship as, arguably, the central hook) just as important as its comedic ones. Friends blurred melodramas that were straight out of soap opera – lesbian wives, triplet surrogacy, secrets that “they don’t- know-that-we-know-they know” – with more traditional sitcom plots. This was what kept us all hooked. It meant that viewers dipping in for a one-off watch were rewarded with a neatly concluded set of sitcom sub-plots (impromptu American football games, quests to hide lost monkeys from Animal Control, and even a whole episode based on six characters failing to leave the apartment for a museum awards dinner) but we loyal viewers would tune in week after week to follow the unfolding love stories, career dramas, and quarter-life crises.

Of course, these storylines would hold no interest at all for us if we didn’t care about the characters. Comedy so often works with stereotypes, and Friends offered these up too: the professor, the ditzy blonde, the Italian lothario. But it also sought to make its characters rounded and believable. Chandler is impossibly quick-witted, but he does the most boring job imaginable (so boring nobody can even name it). Phoebe seems na?ve but has struggled in her past. Before shooting the pilot episode, Friends producers spent time with each actor, “in order to steal from our lives”, (half) joked Matthew Perry. As well as cementing the link between actor and character, this also enhanced the degree to which each character became recognizable as a human being. As television reporter Kay McFadden noted, our attraction to the Friends characters wasn’t to do with how nice they were. It was to do with “who reminded you most of the people you knew”. An almost universal reaction to Friends was the desire to pick which “type” we were. My mum, with her borderline neurotic cleaning, was definitely a Monica, who even vacuums her own vacuum. If I was going to get a boyfriend, he had to be funny, like Chandler.

The tears of goodbye shed in the final episode are not just those of six fictional characters saying goodbye to each other. They are the tears of six friends who realize that a huge part of their lives is changing for good. The characters, however, were only so recognizable because of their oh-too-familiar situation. The surrogate family presented by Friends seemed to provide a comfort to its target audience, who were going through similar struggles as the six leads: dead-end jobs, tiffs with housemates, finding a partner who isn’t completely maladjusted. Unlike so many sitcoms before it, which had presented their viewers with the finished ideal of the nuclear family.

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