Lies, damn lies, and statistics

One of the many things that drives me crazy about entertainment journalism is the subjective interpretation of supposedly objective data. What drives me crazy about my writing? Unnecessarily convoluted sentences like that one. So an example of what I mean is using movie grosses to slam or praise a movie depending on the writer’s opinion rather than an analysis of the numbers.

Remember the idea that Mission: Impossible III tanked in its opening weekend, and how that was blamed on Tom Cruise’s undeniably freakish behaviour? It grossed $48 million — not too shabby by most standards. Compared to the previous two installments’ opening weekends, that was seen as a drastic decline. Except, from the Hollywood Reporter:

The domestic debut of the J.J. Abrams-helmed “M:I-3” fell short of the openings of the first two films; however, each of those pictures bowed during a four-day Memorial Day weekend frame. The original “Mission: Impossible” debuted with $56.8 million for the four-day weekend ($45.3 million for Friday-Sunday), and “M:I-2” bowed to $70.8 million ($57.8 million from the Friday-Sunday portion).

The third movie ended up the 194th highest grossing movie in the US of all time, according to IMDb.

I haven’t seen any of the three M:Is. I don’t care how they did at the box office. But if you’re going to throw numbers into your analysis of a movie or TV show, maybe give them some meaningful context.

Why am I rambling about a years-old movie I’ve never seen? Because I just read two articles in the space of five minutes about this week’s special Grey’s Anatomy episode that might lead to a spin-off for Addison (Kate Walsh). I saw about five minutes of the special episode, enough to realize that no, I don’t miss watching Grey’s Anatomy after all. But seriously?

From the Associated Press:

An estimated 21 million people watched Thursday night, according to preliminary ratings – well above the season average of 19.1 million.

From E! Online, quoting the same figures:

For all the hype—and there was plenty—the installment essentially attracted the same number of viewers as Grey’s has over the course of the year.

Maybe an average isn’t the right number to use here, if you’re going to make a point about the ratings. Maybe it’s time to break out those advanced high school stats here. What’s the range of ratings over the season? Where does the 21 million fit in there? Yeah, yeah, math is hard, but leave it out altogether if you don’t understand what the numbers mean. Seriously.

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5 Responses to Lies, damn lies, and statistics

  1. Kristen says:

    Hmmm … Not that you care, but as a GA fan I have to say I prefered the parts of this “very special episode” that took place in Seattle. I didn’t care for the spin off portion, and I normally like Addison. Although the spin off will have actors I’m a fan of, I don’t know that I’d watch the show. GA would certainly be poorer for the loss of Addison.

  2. Diane says:

    I do care a bit … I thought the spin off might be something I’d like, since I like Addison too and just got tired of the soapiness of Grey’s – I thought it might be sort of a fresher, more adult take on it. But yeah, after a few minutes I figured I was wrong.

  3. DMc says:

    but math *is* hard.
    especially for girls.
    and Grey’s is a girls show, so…
    I’m confused.
    Um. what were we talking about again?

  4. Corien says:

    And there goes House’s theory that the numbers never lie…. (and I don’t think math is that hard)
    But, grin, at least you still make a lot of sense.

    I watched part of Grey’s II (what’s the spin-off going to be called?) as well, but I tuned out after 15 minutes or so.

    I liked seeing all the “actors from other shows that ended or got canceled” grouped together, but I too expected a *more* mature/serious series.
    So, I won’t be watching that too regularly either.
    I’ll probably do the same thing I do with Greys, tune in every now and then if I’m bored and nothing else is on.

  5. wcdixon says:

    Spin…it’s all spin.

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