Online Reviews of TV Shows

by Honolulu Mother

Walt Hickey, writing for Fivethirtyeight, argues that men are skewing online reviews of tv shows aimed at women downward, while women reviewing shows aimed at men are not returning the favor:

Men Are Sabotaging The Online Reviews Of TV Shows Aimed At Women

Should we be mentally adjusting the review numbers when trying to compare across genres? I probably do that anyway, at least in the sense that I’ll notice that certain types of shows or movies seem to be universally lower-rated so if the premise sounds appealing, I shouldn’t assume that a low rating means I won’t like it. On the other hand, that thinking led me to waste 10 minutes of my life watching Another Period.

Do you review movies or tv shows online (Amazon counts)? Do you ever think about whether a show (or for that matter a book or product) was really aimed at you before rating it as a stinker?

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78 thoughts on “Online Reviews of TV Shows

  1. No, I never review shows online. I used to participate in Television Without Pity, and I participate a little bit in its successor, previously.tv, which is inferior. But that’s not the same as writing a review.

  2. Well, this would pretty much sync with the recent stories about the internet troll response to the all-female remake of Ghostbusters.

  3. I don’t use online reviews for TV shows or movies. I would rather listen to most of you, or my friends and family for recommendations. I do find that there are more, and more shows that are just being watched by one person in my house. The three of us watch very few shows together unless it involves sports, HGTV or food network. I understand why DH won’t watch most of my Bravo shows, but he didn’t like Downton, Mad Men, Transparent and a bunch of other programs that I really enjoyed.

  4. I don’t use online reviews either, I rely on recommendations from family and friends. Dh will watch a lot of different shows and loves everything from Game of Thrones to Jane the Virgin so we have things we both watch together.

  5. I need recommendations for movies and documentaries. I am in a summer mood, so the lighter the better. I do look at movie ratings. I watch only kid movies in the theatre, the more adult themed movies, I stream.
    I most recent movie we watched was The Jungle Book. I liked the movie a lot but they cut out most of the the songs of the prior version. The older version was a great favorite with my extended family.

  6. Never read on-line reviews. These days all I watch is Fixer Upper as I fall asleep…

  7. Rocky – I *loved* TwoP! So sad at its demise. I agree that previously.tv is not as good, but they did get some of the same recap writers.

    I sometimes look at rotten tomatoes for movies, but not very often. DH and I agree on summer action tentpole movies (Captain America was the last one we saw), but he likes Game of Thrones, John Oliver etc. while I like to watch Call the Midwife when I have the TV to myself. :)

  8. The Grand Tour – Clarkson, May and Hampster’s show on Amazon should debut in the fall. That should somewhat make up for the fact that they canceled Castle.

    I wish there was a site where you could tell it what you read and watch and it would tell you – THIS! is the book/movie/show for you. In theory they exist, but I’ve never seen one that worked.

  9. I do read online reviews, but I only post reviews on Yelp (restaurants) and TripAdvisor. I read the hotel reviews on TripAdvisor extensively before booking.

  10. I would love a movie recommendation app or site. I can never figure out what I want to see. My taste is odd, and I think, getting odder.

  11. I don’t review shows because I watch so few of them. Looking at the list in the linked article, there is only one show (Seinfeld) that I’ve ever watched by choice. (And that was back in the 90’s!) My viewing habits put me at a social disadvantage because I can only fake it when this topic comes up in conversations.

    “I wish there was a site where you could tell it what you read and watch and it would tell you – THIS! is the book/movie/show for you.”

    My cousin was trying to perform this service for me the other day. She recommended The Knick based on my reading preferences. A look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century. It does sound fascinating.  Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  12. My big problem with current TV shows is that so many of them are icky – twisted, mean, showing only dark things, and above all, shows I wouldn’t want to watch with my adolescent boys. Way too much graphic sex and violence. Oh my god, I am sounding like my grandmother! But seriously, compare House of Cards, with its ludicrous sex and violence, to West Wing. I gave up on House of Cards after the senator offed the pitiful journalist girl. That had to have been one of the silliest scenes ever. But we have been happily all working our way through West Wing. I am now watching Emergency with my DD. It is a perfect fit for a 10 year old, and I like it too. I had tried watching Chicago Fire a few years ago, but again, the nastiness got to me.

    BTW, we watched an episode of Emergency last night that was incredibly germane to today’s political correctness debate. Emergency was a show that was on before the term “politically correct” was coined, which made it interesting. The plot revolved around the firefighter who is of Native heritage, getting constantly annoyed and prickly when other firefighters made stupid redskin jokes. They kept saying that they were just having fun, and he kept trying to explain why it was insulting. My 10 year old, of Asian background, still hears this kind of crap from other kids so she was pretty interested.

  13. Amazon sometimes points me to good books based on the one I’m considering. I hesitate to consult online reviews for video because it can be hard to avoid spoilers. The young guys in my family rely heavily on Reddit – I have told them that this site is my Reddit. The folks here suggested Foyle, Sherlock, and Longitude, all of which were big hits at home but only after 30 minutes of duress viewing first.
    Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Man on Wire were among the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, and both are suitable for all ages.

  14. Well, this is hardly a news flash. 1. The online space is dominated by men. 2. Women tend to be nice – they will stay silent rather than give a poor review. 3. Women may not even be required to participate in male oriented entertainment options, so they don’t even have a basis for reviewing. Many if not most men actually don’t care whether their female companions sit with them, they just want to be allowed to watch in peace and to be required as little as possible (after the courting phase) to sit through something just to please their partners.

    I use and make comments to tripadvisor for hotels and tips on fit for online clothing/shoe purchases. I read specific reviewers for movies and usually wait for Amazon prime for scripted TV (although I do follow Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and this year the final episodes of Person of Interest for viewing in close to real time.)

  15. there is only one show (Seinfeld) that I’ve ever watched by choice.

    I was reminded of one of my favorite episodes when they released pics of Swiss’s new first class:

    A locking door!

  16. this site and my friends and family is where I get TV recommendations

    I watched Mad Men and Downton Abbey because of you guys

  17. MM, I loved watching Emergency with my little brother back in the day. Watching it now is such a blast from the past. Some of the teenage girl characters are wearing my clothes.

  18. My kid likes to watch “North Woods Law” and sometimes I am drawn to watching the show dealing with people getting bitten by foxes, riding ATV’s without registration…not a show I would choose but I get sucked in all the same.

  19. Louise, Ken Burns’s National Parks series could be a fun summer watch if your family hasn’t already seen it.

  20. Also to Louise — the old Jungle Book was one of my very favorite movies as a kid. I first saw it at 2, and since in those days kids couldn’t re-watch a movie over and over, I had to settle for pretending I was living it instead. I assigned everyone in my extended family a character name, and my parents thought it was cute until the night I awoke from a bad dream calling “Bagheera!” instead of “Mommy!”

  21. Amazon has pretty good recommendations because they have invested a lot of money in computer science PhDs who did their dissertations on text mining, sentiment analysis, and recommender systems. They have been building their recommendation systems since the late 90’s and many of the algorithms they developed are now studied in AI courses. Some of my old grad school friends ended up working on those systems. By constrast, Netflix has clearly put little energy into automated recommendations, and it shows.

    One thing that messes up Amazon recommendations is when multiple people use the same account, or you are shopping for multiple people on your account. When I logged into Amazon today, most of my recommendations were for nerf guns and Magic The Gathering sets.

  22. I use rotten tomatoes to get a sense of a movie. It does not necessarily drive my decision unless a movie I want to see gets an 8% or something. I only post reviews on tv shows which my family members or their close friends have an affiliation with, and will admit that I am uniformly positive, regardless of my true opinion. I never read reviews of tv shows, and get most of my recommendations from friends or on here

  23. I definitely read Tripadvisor reviews for hotels and occasionally will post one. I’m a little more dubious of restaurant reviews because I don’t really trust other people’s taste in food to be similar enough to mine.

  24. Amazon also seems to have trouble keeping track of an account’s tastes/ interests over any length of time, so if you haven’t purchased anything in a genre for a year or so, it seems to start fresh as though it had no information even if you’ve purchased relevant items and given ratings in the past.

  25. That said, I do find Amazon a good source for book / show / music recommendations, based on the ‘also bought’ if nothing else.

  26. Rhett – I wonder if you’ll be able to pay for the season, rather than Prime for Grand Touring.

    Have you watched the “new” Top Gear with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc? I thought the first episode was fun, but I hope they don’t continue the UK vs US shtick too long. It also feels more “acted” (rehearsed? maybe the better word) than the previous – but Matt L. is an actor, so I don’t know if he can “act” naturally without, you know, acting.

  27. I, too, enjoy Person of Interest, Foyle’s War, and Game of Thrones. As a family, we watch Flash and Agents of Shield. It’s hard to find shows that everyone wants to watch. DH and I together watch Bones, NCIS, and Arrow. I just finished watching the two Elizabeth movies on Netflix and really enjoyed the plot and costumes.

  28. We watched 2 episodes of the old A Team (with Mr T) as a family, and the kids liked it. As Mooshi said, it made me nostalgic for shows that didn’t have over the top violence or sex.

  29. I do rely on trip advisor, and I find it to be fairly accurate about most hotels. I just got some chocolate in Hershey because I mentioned to the manager that he could either refund the $45 as per our hotel package, OR he could read about it on Trip Advisor. We got the $45 and a big basket of Hershey products.

    I will write detailed Trip Advisor reviews, and I share the good and the bad. I care about hotel reviews on Trip Advisor a lot more than a TV program that I can just stop watching if I don’t enjoy it.

    DH enjoys watching the old Emergency episodes too. He tries to get DD to watch with us, but she can’t seem to get past the old clothes/uniforms plus old sets. I watched a special on the History channel last week about the differences between the original Roots and the current release. It was interesting to see some of the exact same scenes, and the difference in the set now vs 70s.

  30. I definitely rely heavily on Tripadvisor for hotel recommendations & will post reviews there.

    We are watching “Brain Games” with our kids right now through Netflix. Really good. We are also watching all the old classic movies with them, which they are loving – Ferris Buller’s Day Off, Ghostbusters, Karate Kid, ET, Back to the Future – every time we remember a good movie from our own childhood we rent it and watch it with them. They love it.

  31. Lark — if you haven’t already watched the Young Indiana Jones series with them, I’d suggest trying it. It’s kid-appropriate for tweens and up, but fun for grown-ups too.

  32. I never really rely on on reviews to watch shows. I have always found them to be so subjective.
    Mooshi, I too cannot bear to watch shows like House of Cards. I think watching so much of dregs of humanity will inoculated and cynical about things in real life and we will stop being affected by them at some point, shrug our shoulders and move on.

    Sadly many of my current favorite shows are ending. Person of Interest, Royal pains etc.

  33. Another good one for the family is Rockford Files. Pleasant, low-key, no sex or violence.

  34. RMS and LfB,
    The moment I read the name, the tune invaded my brain and remains there.
    DS and I watched nearly every episode of The Fugitive over the last few years. So very dated, but interesting to watch. Especially the many small towns, ostensibly in places like Indiana and Ohio, that look EXACTLY like Southern California.

  35. I like the Rockford Files beginning, but my favorite was the intro to SWAT – I loved that song and the show!

    Two recommendations for TV viewing: Dr. Thorne (on PBS), an adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel, and Wolf Hall, if there is anyone who hasn’t seen it. I loved both of the WH books, and it is especially fun/scary to see the foreshadowing for what is to come in the later episodes of the series.

    Two movies that the whole family can watch: Inside Man (bank heist) and the remake of The Italian Job. They are both rated R, but not much violence. Another great R rated movie that doesn’t really deserve the rating is I Capture the Castle – more of a chick flick, but wonderful.

    I take online reviews on IMDB with a grain of salt: I think they skew young and male. If I am not sure about a movie, I will read the local paper’s review, the WSJ review and Rotten Tomatoes. Our head movie reviewer in the SF Chronicle is a huge Judd Apatow fan, and I am not, but it took me a while to get it through my head that a guy standing on the chair (the top review) does not always mean that I will like the movie.

  36. other shows we have been watching: Northern Exposure which I love, Master Chef, Bizarre Foods and also the Anthony Bourdain travel shows, the Cosmos remake, the documentary on the Roosevelts which we just finished, all versions of Star Trek, and Tom Baker era Dr Who.

  37. Oh, and the kids like Big Bang Theory. I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, I love the fact that there is a show in actual existence that is about physics postdocs. I spent my young childhood in that milieu. However, the physics postdocs in Big Bang Theory are not very postdoc-like, at least from my memory. They are much more like grad students. The postdocs of my memory were all in their 30’s, with wives and kids and very, very macho egos. Physics for them was a reflection on their manhood, and since I never saw a female physicist in that era, it was truly about manhood. They all allowed that mathematicians were *maybe* their intellectual equal, but no others. And they didn’t do geek. They all DESPISED Star Trek. They were into fast cars, motorcycles, mountain climbing. protesting against the war, baroque music, the Rolling Stones – in short, they were a bunch of guys in the 60’s, eager to break free of their wife-and-kid responsibilities and show the world how cool and manly they were. Hmm, maybe they did have something in common with at least Wolowitz. But then they had to come home and eat dinner and check homeworks and do yardwork.

  38. We are making our way through all 7 seasons of The West Wing. DS loves it and claims he got a couple questions right on the AP government test from stuff he learned on the show.
    I don’t really watch current television other than sports. Really looking forward to the Olympics.

  39. They all allowed that mathematicians were *maybe* their intellectual equal, but no others.

    I’m sure you’ve seen this one:

  40. And they didn’t do geek. They all DESPISED Star Trek. They were into fast cars, motorcycles, mountain climbing. protesting against the war, baroque music, the Rolling Stones – in short, they were a bunch of guys in the 60’s, eager to break free of their wife-and-kid responsibilities and show the world how cool and manly they were.

    How utterly bizarre. My ex-boyfriend the astronomer (and astronomers are basically physicists) wasn’t like that at all. He loves Star Trek and Star Wars and essentially says “repeat to yourself ‘it’s just a show, I should really just relax'” when people get down on the science being wrong. He loves jazz and drives a Honda. He and his wife gave their first daughter the wife’s last name, because egalitarianism. And his friends were like that too.

    And my stepson-the-physicist hates Big Bang Theory, but he’s not a macho jerk and he’ll gladly watch any episode of Star Trek.

    Maybe your dad’s postdocs were all just weird.

  41. Re Amazon recommendations, the knife sharpener I bought based on its buyers also buying ski masks has been quite satisfactory.

  42. Rocky, I think the anti-woman part of that culture has changed somewhat since those days. We forget just how sexist things were in the 60’s and 70’s. And of course there are exceptions to everything. But science postdocs are a very driven group of people – in many ways they are like high finance people – and they can end up with very big egos, perched on top of deep insecurities. One of my best friends is married to a prominent mathematician, and we often joke about the “Who does the more difficult work” competition that seems pervasive.

    And your example astronomer also does not sound much like the uber-geeks of Big Bang Theory!! They would never say that Star Trek is just a show!

  43. And your example astronomer also does not sound much like the uber-geeks of Big Bang Theory!! They would never say that Star Trek is just a show!

    Come to think of it, that’s an unrealistic aspect of BBT. They act like 13-year-olds about the scifi and comic books. Maybe I just know smarter physicists, but most of them enjoy scifi without losing track of reality.

    Of course there are many other unrealistic aspects of BBT, and some good feminist critiques of it, but I like it anyway.

  44. We recently enjoyed The Intern with Robert DeNiro. I was expecting more of a comedy like the Internship with the infamous Owen/Vince pairing, but it was a bit more serious, with some themes borrowed from here and TOS.

    We also liked Concussion, but that requires no explanation.

  45. Rocky said “Come to think of it, that’s an unrealistic aspect of BBT. They act like 13-year-olds about the scifi and comic books. ”

    Yes, that is the point I was trying to make when I said the guys on BBT are more like grad students than postdocs.

  46. The postdocs of my memory were all in their 30’s, with wives and kids and very, very macho egos.

    That was 40 years ago (given your reference to the war and the Stones) presumably they married at 25 then vs 35 now?

  47. Hmm. I like House of Cards a lot, so maybe I’m more cynical than the rest of you. :) I really enjoyed the first season with the muted color palette – everyone in neutrals! no bright colors! Robin Wright’s awesome hair! – and it seems like they’ve moved away from that a bit (or at least it’s not so noticeable) in subsequent seasons. I watched Dr. Thorne and enjoyed it, although I had to skip Julian Fellowes being full of himself at the beginning and end (!!!) of every episode.

    DH and I also like the British cop buddy dramas – Sherlock, Lewis, and Grantchester (although DH only tolerates that one).

  48. I like House of Cards, in a satire kind of way. But it isn’t nearly as good as West Wing. I haven’t been watching anything lately. I need a good show to start. My friend just started Mad Men and I am jealous.

  49. Thank you anyone who posts reviews on TripAdvisor, Amazon, and other sites. I use the reviews but I’m negligent in posting many of my own. (I’ve actually had problems with getting my TA ID to work, so I have that excuse.)

    Angie’s List is a bit too aggressive in soliciting reviews, asking me to give feedback on contractors that I’ve browsed but not actually used.

    Recent news about reviewers being sued for negative comments gives me pause and makes me uncertain about what’s acceptable.

  50. “Re Amazon recommendations, the knife sharpener I bought based on its buyers also buying ski masks has been quite satisfactory.”

    ha! I still don’t know what triggered Amazon’s recommending Trailer Park Cookbook for me . . .

  51. Rhett, a typical postdoc would be in his or her 30’s. I think that is even more true today, because people are less likely to do the straight line BS to PhD track. Many do their PhDs after a stint in the real world, or go out to have kids, or things like that. The postdocs I know today (mainly in bio these days) are very boring, driven, mid-30’s people.

  52. OK, I just logged onto Amazon to see my recommendations. First fun thing – Amazon reminds me at the very top that I have been a customer since 1998. Oy, it really has been that long.

    I have lots of recommendations: highlights include a cookbook called The High Protein Vegetarian (huh?), Magic card sets, the newest Bob Dylan album, the Eric Ripert memoir, American Sphinx (sorry, I already own it), nerf guns, the Get Fuzzy collection “I’m Gluten Furious”, fitbits (DD endlessly surfs Amazon for expensive crap to put on her wishlist while on my account), and the absolute best of all: Totoro themed automotive accessories.

  53. L, I thought Robin Wright was the best thing about House of Cards. That hair, that clenched jawline, that totally uptight perfection…

  54. Kate, I don’t have anything to watch either. I started Midsomer Murders with DS when he came home from college, at his suggestion, and liked the first few episodes. Plus there are at least 18 seasons so no need to look for a new show! But the episodes are over 90 minutes long, and some of them are very hard to follow, and DH is not a fan, so the search continues for something we can all watch. Last night, at my suggestion, we watched The Band of Brothers D-Day episode in honor of D-Day, but they have both seen it multiple times and kept talking over the dialogue about whether this or that character was still alive. I love The Americans, despite the unnecessarily graphic sex and violence, but DS doesn’t and DH is not caught up yet, so the current season’s episodes are piling up on the DVR and a dear friend who watches the show in almost real time is forbidden to discuss it when he comes over for dinner. I still have the last two seasons of Mad Men to watch, but DH and DS have already sampled those. I really need them to go off on a fishing trip for about a week so I can finish the last two seasons of West Wing too.

    TV was a lot less work when the networks decided what shows we were going to watch, and on what nights.

  55. I like Chef’s Table on Netflix. They feature chef’s with different cooking styles. Season 1 was interesting to watch.

  56. I must not have set my Amazon recommendations correctly – I have only been a client since 2001 – mine always come up many versions of the last two or three items browsed and not purchased. The Kindle recommendations tend to be thrillers/mysteries, my beach-type read of choice and what I choose for the monthly free book.

    DH always wants my company for his viewing (exception that proves the rule), so I have been watching The Wire with him. It has some of the best writing ever, but is so unrelentingly depressing. And I sit by him to watch Mets games several times a week. He doesn’t watch Red Sox with me. I choose movies he will like and Met operas we haven’t seen (we have to watch at home – he can’t follow dialogue in the theater and doesn’t care for action flicks) but that is a very limited selection. I think we will try Deadwood soon. We loved the British House of Cards – especially seasons 1 and 2 – but not the US version.

  57. Louise, I like Chef’s Table too, but even better (and also on Netflix) is David Chang’s series The Mind of a Chef. It focuses more on the cooking than the chef bio, but they choose some really interesting people to profile.

  58. My DH absolutely detests Big Bang Theory and will go to another room if we watch it.

  59. we both enjoy Big Bang Theory, but haven’t kept up with the new seasons

  60. Ugh, Mind of a Chef is going away on Netflix on July1, but I see it is on Amazon Prime. I am increasingly using Amazon for video because Netflix has awful selection of movies to stream and they summarily remove things before I have finished watching.

  61. The other bizarre thing about netflix is that they have the worst search engine ever. You can search for something that they definitely have and it won’t show up. But if you do a google search specifying Netflix as the site and then add the movie title, it will sometimes show up.

  62. My Amazon recommendations are also very strange because of the kid things that I buy and presents for others. That doesn’t even get to the weird links that I click here or in other social media that then follow me around. I’ve been haunted by that pink Nordstrom dress that Saac posted the other day every time I log on somewhere.

    I read critic’s reviews for movies and TV – reading the actual review to see if it is something that sounds like it is up my alley – along with getting reccos from friends. Like others, the online reviews that I trust the most are on Trip Advisor. I will avoid restaurants with lots of bad Yelp reviews as well, but I don’t necessarily trust the good ones unless there are many consistently good reviews over a long period of time.

  63. Scarlett – I like The Americans, too, although it has been a little slow this season.

  64. L – I completely agree with you about Julian Fellowes. I don’t need him talking to me about what I’ve just seen or am about to see. I am following the plot quite well, thank you! And he seemed to be giving himself a few pats on the back for his adaptation.

    I miss Alastair Cooke!

  65. @RMS – YES! The Netflix interface is awful both online, on the app and on the PS4. It’s crazy. We don’t regularly subscribe to Netflix because their selection is so hit or miss. We will subscribe here or there for a month when we are going to have some downtime. Plus, we have cable.

  66. We had good luck with Trip Advisor restaurant reviews. We had a couple of mom and pop restaurants request us to write a good review if we liked the restaurant. That’s how they get many touristy clients to visit especially if they are not on the Main Street in a tourist town.
    DH writes a line or two. He often does airline and hotel surveys, being a frequent traveler.

  67. I use Yelp for restaurant reviews a lot. I have to read between the lines somewhat though. I like that a lot of people post photos. I actually will use the photos to help me when ordering takeout from an unknown restaurant. I also like that you can search the reviews by keyword. When we were in Boston, we wanted old school Boston style pizza – which is referred to as Greek pizza – so I searched on that and found a decent takout place near our hotel. I checked the photos to see that the pizza looked right, too.

  68. I started writing TripAdvisor reviews lately, it helps me keep track of what restaurants I’ve been to when traveling (so I can return if/when we are back)

    I’ve used it for years for finding hotels and restaurants

  69. Agree with Netflix. Their recommendations are terrible. I also don’t like that Kids options show up on the the adult interface, when we have the kid interface set up.

  70. Lemon – also the opposite is true – documentaries don’t show up on the Kids section!

    Mooshi – I always try to channel Claire Underwood if I am going to a networking event or need to negotiate something. :)

  71. I really should write some Trip Advisor reviews — I’m not doing my part, considering how much I use it when planning. I think the only review I have up is one my Dad wrote accidentally as me (it was logged in via FB). He helpfully set my user name as “This is BS” but I’ve since changed it.

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