What emotions do the world’s top TV shows elicit?

With TVs like the Sony Bravia OLED Smart TV bringing the cinematic experience to our homes, TV triggers all sorts of emotions. Find out which shows bring the most joy.

08 Oct 2019

From pure joy to overwhelming sadness, television has the potential to evoke all manner of emotions, feelings, thoughts and opinions in viewers. Not to mention that when viewed on the crystal-clear display of a Sony 4K HDR TV, it can almost feel as though you’re living it.

But what exactly is the emotional rollercoaster we go on? Well, we conducted research to find out exactly how we react to our favourite shows. To compile the research, an exhaustive analysis was undertaken looking at tweets by viewers of each show. Here’s what we learned:

Stranger Things is the most talked about TV show

It turns out that Stranger Things fans are a chatty bunch – so chatty, in fact, that a huge 32 million tweets were shared discussing the supernatural smash hit over the last two years. That’s significantly more than any other TV show, including Game of Thrones, which comes in second place with 11 million Twitter mentions.

Psychotherapist and cultural theorist, Aaron Balick, PHD suggests the success of Stranger Things could be down to the nostalgia factor.

“It has beautifully re-created what childhood looked like in the 80s, as well as replaying familiar tropes from 80s television and cinema (The Goonies, ET, V-the series, and many early Stephen King films),” explains Balick. “For Generation X, this is like a time machine back to the 80s. It also appeals to millennials who enjoy the 80s aesthetic.”

Television evokes joy in its viewers more than any other emotion

Joy was the overwhelming emotion conveyed across the board, with the David Attenborough-voiced wildlife documentary Our Planet offering the most mood-boosting viewing experience (64% of tweets were joyous). It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however, as 70% of tweets about Black Mirror expressed feelings of sadness and 25% of the tweets about Westworld communicated anger.

Some shows even leave viewers with conflicting emotions – potentially when they have enjoyed the viewing experience but the content triggered feelings of anger or disgust. Somewhat bleak comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for example, can bring its audience to laughter, while simultaneously disgusting them with its purposely controversial storylines and characters - 74% of tweets about the show are negative; however, 52% are joyous (emotion and sentiment were analysed separately).

“Emotions - even those we call ‘negative’ ones - are sensations, and many people like to have those sensations because it helps them feel alive in a variety of different ways,” says Balick. Theorists have called watching any kind of drama (theatre, cinema, or TV) a ‘safe emergency’ – which means we might watch it to experience a whole variety of emotions at a slight distance.”

The reasons we watch TV

There’s something about television that has us tuning in episode after episode. We become invested in storylines, in characters, in what’s going to happen next. And it’s no lucky accident that these TV shows are so addictive - they are specially crafted to trigger ‘buy in’ from their audiences.

“This is often done by making some characters more appealing than others or setting up storylines where the viewer is somewhat manipulated into identifying with particular characters (Fleabag is a good example),” says Balick. “Some TV shows have addictive qualities wired right into them – that’s what cliff hangers are all about. The ‘how are they going to get out of this?’ keeps us coming back for more.”

The role of social media in the TV viewing experience

Whereas once upon a time TV discussion would have been reserved for the home – or even water cooler moments in the office – the rise of social media has made it possible for people to share any given thought with millions of others in real time.

“Sharing the viewing experience by way of social media can enhance the emotional response through what is called ‘emotional contagion,’” explains Balick. “People online may get behind different characters, for example – with groups forming in support of one or the other. This can make the watching a television show like a team sport.”

How we conducted our research

The top 20 TV shows used in the campaign were selected using IMDB’s list of top-rated TV shows in August 2019. To qualify for the campaign, each show must have been aired in the last 24 months, be a live action show (as opposed to a cartoon, reality TV show, chat/game show, news or sport) and be in English.

Data was sourced from Twitter using the social listening tool Brandwatch (data can be accessed here). Each TV show was tracked by inputting the most commonly used keywords and hashtags related to the show and the official Twitter handles where available. Boolean search was also used to hone in on TV-specific results (where the title of a TV show may also be used to refer to a place, event or in general conversation – e.g. Our Planet).


Watching television can offer the viewer a wide-ranging variety of experiences based on the unique emotions triggered via storylines, characters, soundtracks and more – with joy the overriding feeling. With all this in mind, it’s likely that television will continue to play a significant role in our lives. Plus, with TVs such as the Sony Bravia AG9 ushering in a new era of big screen entertainment the viewing experience is only going to become more of an event in years to come. In the case of the AG9, the X1 Ultimate Processor gives unbelievable detail and contrast on an OLED screen, with Pixel Contrast Booster heightening the dynamic range, and Acoustic Surface Audio delivering multi-dimensional sound in the home, truly immersing you in what you’re watching


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