Television by the Numbers

Numbers play an integral role in the titles of television programs.

One Tree Hill.   Murder One.  One on One.  Stargate SG-1.

Two and a Half Men.

Three’s Company.


Party of Five.

Six Feet Under.

Seven Days.

Eight Is Enough.

The Nine.

Just the Ten of Us.

1st and Ten.

24 showcased an entire day of counterterrorism action segmented by 24 hours in real time.  Beverly Hills 90210 introduced audiences to America’s most exclusive zip code.  666 Park Avenue featured strange happenings inside a ritzy Manhattan apartment building.

Further, numbers are important cornerstones in story lines.  Lost revolved around a set of numbers that total 108 when added together.  4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.  Hurley played the numbers in a lottery.  Subsequently, he became a multimillionaire.

They’re also the numbers on the bottle of Desmond’s medication.  Additionally, Desmond has to enter the numbers into a computer every 108 minutes.  His failure to do it triggered a reaction that caused an Oceanic Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles to crash on a southern Pacific island.  The numbers appear individually or in some combination throughout the series.  For example, the flight number is 815.

On Seinfeld, George Costanza obsesses about the number seven after he chooses it as the name for his future offspring.  Unfortunately, it lost significance when the pregnant cousin of George’s fiancé Susan took it for her newborn baby.  Seven was also the name of a child the Bundys adopted on Married With Children.  Then, like Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days, he simply wasn’t there nor was he referred to, except by visual depictions.  In a dream sequence, Kelly emptied her brain of useless information.  A picture of Seven floated by.  Also, a picture of Seven as a missing child appeared on a milk carton.

Numbers provide the basis of a television show of the same name.  In Numbers, the stories revolve around the use of mathematics to solve crimes.

Of course, the television industry revolves around numbers in the form of Nielsen ratings.  Nielsen determines how many viewers watch programs.  A rating shows the percentage of television viewers that watch a show.  A share shows the percentage of television viewers with their sets on that watch a show.  Consequently, networks and stations use that information to convince companies to buy advertising time at a certain rate.  The higher the ratings and shares relate to higher advertising dollars.  The Super Bowl, for example, commands top rates.

Nielsen breaks down the viewing audience into segments by age and gender.  Women 25-54 is a key demographic.  Ratings, in recent years, have generally decreased because the number of viewing options has increased.  Also, calculations must incorporate the phenomenon of DVR and On Demand viewing.

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