What Makes Viewers Flock to Certain TV Shows and Keep Coming Back?

A look at the top emotions from 10 notable TV shows
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The short answer: Like, or even love. The more complicated answer: TV shows that make an emotional connection.

What kind of emotional connection? The answer to that can be even more complicated — but also, paradoxically, dead simple. Because while our favorite shows might take us on an emotional roller coaster (nuanced writing and great acting can do that), chances are there is one predominant emotion that a given show consistently triggers in a given viewer. And that emotion translates into devotion — and repeat viewership.

In the wake of the broadcast upfronts, we turned to Canvs, the emotion analytics company, for an analysis of viewers’ Emotional Reactions (ERs), as expressed on social media, to 10 of TV’s most notable hit shows that have been renewed.

Related: Canvs Analyzing Instagram for Emotional Responses to TV Shows

For each show, we’ve listed some of the top emotions that viewers have expressed while watching. (Note: Given the nearly ubiquitous expressions of love and excitement for shows on TV — people are, simply, excited to watch the shows they love — we’ve excluded those two emotions in order dive a little deeper into the real DNA of each series.)

(Canvs analyzed tweets about TV and streaming programming from Jan. 1 through May 24 using Twitter data from Nielsen. For the purposes of this analysis, sports and tentpole programs such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars were excluded.)

ABC - Dancing With the Stars
For many viewers, DWTS is about cheering on their favorites. In fact, while judgment calls (about crazy dances, beautiful dance moves, etc.) loom large, congratulatory expressions notably edge out other ERs.

- 9% congrats

#DWTS congrats to Rashad and Emma!!

— Jennifer Walker (@LadyJ_73) May 24, 2017

- 7.6% crazy

NORMANI WAS ROBBED OMG #DWTSFinals

— Samantha (@cookiechip13) May 24, 2017

- 7.2% enjoy

that was SO GOOD #TeamValMani

— natalie (@allyspoems) May 23, 2017

- 4% beautiful

Dwts has the cutest couples

— Dwts Forever (@dwtsforever_) January 24, 2017

ABC - The Bachelor
ABC’s reality franchise is theoretically all about love and romance, but plenty of viewers sure seem to enjoy hate-watching it and commenting endlessly about the crazy antics of its participants.

- 9.5% crazy

#thebachelor HAS ME SHOOK

— Chey (@Cheyenne_Rain_) February 14, 2017

- 6.7% enjoy

The bachelor is soo good rn

— V (@_plurprincess) March 7, 2017

- 6.5% hate

Wow. Corinne sucks. #TheBachelor

— Haley Sipes (@hbrook17) January 10, 2017

- 3.4% happy

IM SO FREAKIN HAPPY #TeamVanessa

— Mar Mar (@MarrahTroutman_) March 14, 2017

Now take a look at the dramas below. A common thread? A lot of craziness — as in, viewers reacting to crazy characters and crazy plot twists. Think of “crazy” (and similar words that Canvs puts into the crazy ER bucket) as code for narratives that keep viewers guessing. Which, it turns out, is great for keeping fans engaged and tuning in week after week.

ABC - Scandal

- 14.2% crazy

Omg I screamed too! #Scandal

— Tanica Davis (@TanicaDavis) March 10, 2017

- 7.7% enjoy

#ScandalABC is SOOOO Good

— Miss Gorgeous!! (@iforeverpretty_) February 10, 2017

- 5% dislike

You're worthless, Abby #Scandal

— (@LeoInStilettos) April 7, 2017

- 3.8% funny

Mellie is hilarious!! #Scandal

— Shantel (@STLflygirl) February 3, 2017

CBS - Survivor

- 12.5% crazy

THIS TRIBAL IS NUTS! #Survivor

— I Reality TV (@RealityTeVi) March 23, 2017

- 6.8% enjoy

Omg #survivor was so good tonight

— Social Introvert (@tracydawn83) April 27, 2017

- 5.5% dislike

Brad is a bully #survivorfinale

— Betty Rohan (@bettyrohan) May 25, 2017

- 5.4% congrats

Nice job Andrea! #Survivor

— Wendy (@RunLoveDogs) March 23, 2017

CBS - Criminal Minds

- 9.6% crazy

Criminal minds is so trippy lol

— Carlos Coleman (@trentorr40) January 25, 2017

- 8.4% enjoy

Criminal minds is soooo good

— Vic (@victorriabailey) February 28, 2017

- 4.3% beautiful

REID LOOKS SO HOT #CriminalMinds

— kayla(@rlykayla) May 11, 2017

- 3.1% dislike

Not cool, #CriminalMinds, not cool.

— Rach (@RachBabyGirl) February 16, 2017

Fox - Empire

- 11% crazy

Wasnt ready for that! #Empire

— RJ (@SweetLdyRJ) May 18, 2017

- 8.2% funny

Cookie so hilarious #Empire

— Marlene (@twinkle_star_11) May 18, 2017

- 7.8% enjoy

This episode of #Empire is dope.

— Nickesha (@Pretty_Keesh) April 6, 2017

- 7.1% dislike

I'm sick of Andre seriously #empire

— Shawnn (@shanti__0) May 18, 2017

Fox - Star

- 11.8% crazy

Whaaaaaaaaaatt.... mind blown #STAR

— Trace Lysette (@tracelysette) March 2, 2017

- 7.4% enjoy

Every week @STAR is just so good

— MAX$O (@MaxwellDaniel20) January 26, 2017

- 4.7% dislike

I do not like Eva #STAR

— Caramel_xoxoxo (@_Anndrreeaa18) March 16, 2017

- 3.4% beautiful

Alex's voice is so beautiful #STAR

— J (@jayelindsey721) January 19, 2017

And finally, we’re grouping three shows together for which sheer enjoyment is a top ER trigger — for reasons ranging from deft character development to life-affirming storylines to the simple pleasure of watching talent in action. At the heart of enjoyment, of course, there is joy — so think of these as shows that are, for a lot of viewers, a joy to watch.

Fox - Gotham

- 8.4% enjoy

I like Nygma as a villain #Gotham

— (@gordis82rosada) May 9, 2017

- 7.5% crazy

hIS FACE FLEW OFF OMG #Gotham

— G.O (@_ramylesig) January 31, 2017

- 4.1% happy

IVY SAVED SELINA IM SO HAPPY

— sab (@Iordtaylors) May 16, 2017

- 3.4% funny

HARVEY IS SO FUNNY #Gotham

— Joker (@NJHbabydaddy) May 23, 2017

NBC - This Is Us

- 7.3% enjoy

@NBCThisisUs makes you feel so good

— allison (@daviesallison1) January 7, 2017

- 6.3% cried

I've already cried twice. #ThisIsUs

— Brandon. (@Barbadelic) February 22, 2017

- 5.7% crazy

Ex husband! Mind blown! #ThisIsUs

— mick (@mick271) January 25, 2017

- 3.9% beautiful

#ThisIsUs is such a beautiful show.

— Alex O'Toole (@apotoole) January 11, 2017

NBC - The Voice

- 10.7% enjoy

I enjoy mark singing #VoiceSave

— mz1blukitty (@1bluekitty1920) April 26, 2017

- 5.4% congrats

Congrats to @NBCTheVoice top 4!

— Alisan Porter (@alisanporter) May 17, 2017

- 5.1% crazy

DAVINA GOT ME SHOOK #VoiceKnockouts

— Jaime (@jdcarab) April 11, 2017

- 4% beautiful

Hunter is so hot. #TheVoice

— ᗰcIᘔᗩ (@McHalesBitch) May 16, 2017

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