Despite TV’s affection for the familiar wacky neighbors, emergency room romances and forensic scientists who wear 4-inch heels to crime scenes; intelligent TV does exist and is thriving, particularly on cable. For these programs, a high degree of intelligence sets them apart from the competition, and may even keep audiences watching.
Using Program Pulse Cable we looked at which cable dramas are considered the most intelligent. Topping our list with an Intelligent score of 63% is AMC’s critical and Emmy favorite Mad Men. Basic cable is strongly represented, with nine of the ten most Intelligent shows, including three shows each from SyFy and TNT, and two from AMC.
Along with being considered intelligent many of the shows in our top ten also garner an active and engaged viewing audience. 76% of Breaking Bad viewers “Makes a Special Effort to Watch”, 10 percentage points above average. Dexter scored a 72% for “Keeps Attention”, 15 points higher than average. 49% of viewers say they “Talked About” Doctor Who, compared to a score 37% for all other cable dramas.
In these shows, intelligence is achieved through multiple means: clever stories, complex and dark characters, and thought-provoking themes. A program considered intelligent lends itself to an interesting script and story that can increase its chance at finding and keeping an audience.