Sunday, 30 September 2018

Rating Graph

I recently discovered the Rating Graph website, which pulls TV and movie ratings from... somewhere (more on that in a minute) and turns them into an easy-to-read graph, including lines of best fit for each season where applicable. This lets you see which episodes of a series are the most and least popular, whether individual seasons gained or lost in popularity as they went on, and so on. It's interesting stuff.

Now, I'm going to put a page break here. While I won't be saying anything directly about the S8 episodes I have still to review, I will be touching on how they were received. If that's too spoilery for you, then you might not want to read any further until you've seen the whole season. For the rest of you, keep reading!

I do have a beef with Rating Graph, and unfortunately it's a large one: the site doesn't say anywhere where it gets the raw ratings from. Its About page (which I can't link to as it's a JavaScript popup) merely states that it "graphs ratings [...] for TV series and Movie sequels by episode". You might guess that the raw stats have been taken from IMDb's user ratings, and you'd be right – but Rating Graph doesn't have the courtesy to acknowledge that.

Since it doesn't, though, I have no compunction in taking a snapshot of the graph as it stood at the time of writing this post and embedding it below. If you use the RG site itself, hovering over a marker will pop up the name of the relevant episode,its initial air date, the number of user ratings its had and its overall rating. That doesn't happen here, so in some cases it may be tricky to see instantly which episodes are the most and least popular.

Click to enlarge
The three most popular episodes of all time are "The Perfect Pear" (average rating 9.6) followed by "A Canterlot Wedding, part 2" and "Twilight's Kingdom, part 2" (both 9.4). The least popular of all time are "Non-Compete Clause" (5.1), "What About Discord?" (5.4) and a tie between "Princess Spike" and "Yakity-Sax" (both 5.9). But that's not what I find the most interesting about this visualisation.

Much more intriguing to me are the best-fit lines. You can see, for example, that S2 has the highest overall rating, that after a fairly strong start S3 fell apart, and that there was a plunge in perceived quality between S5 and S6. S7 did better, and indeed stands as the only season not to have any episodes rated below 7.0, but it's the numbers for S8 that really catch my attention. (I'm aware not everyone has seen it all yet, but I think there are sufficient ratings anyway.)

The current season started with consistently moderate ratings, with every episode up to and including "The End in Friend" scored between 7.2 and 8.3. (The show as a whole scores 7.7.) But then things take off, and the eight episodes from "On the Road to Friendship" onwards average almost 8.6, despite "Father Knows Beast" languishing down at 7.1. Despite that, this is the best run that FiM has had on this metric since the middle of S5.

So, what does all this mean? Granted that this is not in any way a rigorously controlled poll, granted that fans' views of older episodes can change over the years, and granted also that popularity and quality do not always march in lock-step, I think it shows that the received wisdom regarding the show's season-to-season appeal has some truth in it. S6 really did disappoint, and there really was a run of beloved eps from late S1 to early S2. "Mare Do Well" was indeed the least popular pre-Twilicorn ep. "The Perfect Pear" really is overrated.

I do think "The Washouts" is considerably better than its average score of 7.9, though!


  1. Fascinating. Reading those episode scores is an exercise in realizing how different one is from other people.

    Just to focus on Season One alone, there's no way I'd rate "Party of One" as the best episode of the season, nor "Boast Busters" the worst. "Swarm of the Century" and "Fall Weather Friends" are among my least favourite episodes of that season, with "Feeling Pinkie Keen" right at the bottom.

    Meanwhile, I feel like I'm in a minority when I say "The Ticket Master", "The Show Stoppers", and "Owl's Well That Ends Well" are episodes I like quite a lot. After all, moral dilemma, the quintessential Cutie Mark experiences with 80s Ballad, and Jealous Villain Spike: what's not to like, eh? Plus, there'd be a lot of tweaking of the other scores relative to each other.

    (Also, "What About Discord?" worst pre-Season-Six episode? Followed by "Princess Spike"? While "A Canterlot Wedding" and "Twilight's Kingdom" are considered the best? Not in my world. Though I might as well be an alien species, because there's no way I'd rank them the most extreme.)

    1. I think it makes a difference that most of the "Party of One" votes come from 2011, as it's one of those episodes that hasn't aged as well as some. I remember that when we did an overall vote on UK of Equestria a year or two ago, "Party of One" ended up 60th overall. That was lower than I'd have expected, but it didn't surprise me to see it out of the top tier.

      I haven't watched S1 properly in a long time (I still intend to do a full watch-through after FiM is done) but my own pick for top episode is "The Cutie Mark Chronicles". I'm much fonder of "Fall Weather Friends" than you are, and less fond of "Owl's Well...", but it's nice to see I'm not alone in my enjoyment of "The Show Stoppers"!

      Ah, "Feeling Pinkie Keen". That's another one I haven't seen in ages, but I do recall that its final scene was once quite controversial – indeed, it may qualify as the first real fandom controversy. (Also the first real fandom nod, given that Derpy wasn't originally going to be in it.)

      "What About Discord?" remains my least favourite episode of the entire show, and among the very few I'm actively not looking forward to rewatching when the time comes, but I may have been a little harsh on "Princess Spike". Another one I'll have to revisit at some point.

  2. Don't forget: People who really dislike a show will stop watching. This means that people who, for instance, got discouraged by S3, S6, or early S8, are likely to just drop the show, bringing the subsequent episodes' rating up.

    (I'm also really shocked that Fluttershy Leans-In isn't in the "lowest rated episodes")

    1. True, but that's the case for any series. Given that I'm not pretending that IMDb ratings are in any way a scientifically rigorous source, I'm not going to worry too much about it.

      "Fluttershy Leans" in is at the bottom of the S7 rankings, but I too would have expected a lower score than 7.0. I'm really not sure why it didn't do worse here than it actually did.

    2. How does that begin to explain me...

    3. How does anything begin to explain you?