Formula for the perfect TV episode


So this is something really exiting that I have been working on at work recently. To celebrate the new BT TV offering which includes YouView, BT Sport and Netflix all for £5.99 a month BT wanted to find out what made TV truly unmissable. Working with the legend that is Heat magazine’s Boyd Hilton and Bournemouth University, the top 25 TV episodes of the last decade were watched and analysed (I did volunteer to watch them all, but sadly I had other work to do) to find out their exact make-up of drama, comedy, shocks and surprises, romance and action.

BT TV Unmissable TV Decoded

The answer is as the above image explains:

  • 65 per cent drama
  • 12 per cent shocks and surprises
  • Nine per cent comedy
  • Eight per cent action
  • Six per cent romance

Downton Abbey perfect TV episode

The findings found that Sybil’s death in Downton Abbey’s season three, episode five was the episode closest to the ‘Unmissable TV Code’ with 78 per cent drama, seven per cent shocks and surprises, two per cent comedy, seven per cent action and six per cent romance.

  • The most dramatic – The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary (Season five, episode one) – 98 per cent drama
  • The most shocking – Grey’s Anatomy: Sanctuary season six, episode 23 and Dexter: Seeing Red season one, episode 10 – both with 23 per cent shocks and surprises
  • The most action-packed – Desperate Housewives: Bang season three, episode seven – 33 per cent action
  • The most romantic – Sex and the City: An American Girl in Paris: Part Deux season six, episode 20 – 28 per cent romance
  • The most laughs – Modern Family: Hawaii season one, episode 23 – 74 per cent comedy

Friends final episode is the UK's favourite

Despite drama being the biggest ingredient the title for the most unmissable TV episode from the last decade went to a comedy – the final Friends episode. Despite being one of the greatest comedy shows, it wasn’t all laughs and giggles as it was made up of 48 per cent drama, 29 per cent comedy, two per cent romance and 21 per cent shocks and surprises.

TV expert Boyd Hilton commented: “It’s one thing to spot a classic TV show that will endure over the years, but what makes this research so exciting and unique is how it helps us work out why a particular episode is so powerful and unmissable. This is the ultimate guide to the recipe for TV Gold.”

Delia Bushell, Head of BT TV added: “The small screen now rivals the big screen thanks to the huge number of gripping TV series, unmissable sport and box office hits available at our fingertips. As we launch the next exciting phase of BT TV we wanted to know what makes TV so unmissable. Through our research, we’ve cracked the code.”

BT TV’s newest offer launched on 11 November 2014 and includes BT TV, YouView, BT Sport and Netflix. For the first time, BT TV customers can sign up for Netflix alongside BT’s other products and services, with the added convenience of paying one bill directly through BT. The new BT TV package is £5.99 a month, and new customers will also receive six months free BT Infinity Broadband*.

BT TV starter features up to 70 TV and radio channels (including Freeview HD) live pause, rewind and seven-day scroll back catch up, as well as on-demand services – like BBC iPlayer and 4oD. BT Sport will be broadcasting 38 exclusive live Barclays Premier League matches this season, all 69 Aviva Premiership Rugby games and much more. For more information visit


Top 50 episodes

1 Friends: Season 10, The Last One (the friends say goodbye to Monica’s apartment and Ross and Rachel get back together)
2 EastEnders: Christmas Day 2007 (Max & Stacey’s affair revealed)
3 Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall (The episode follows Moriarty’s plot to discredit and kill Sherlock Holmes. Holmes calls Moriarty to a showdown on the roof of St. Bartholomew Hospital. Holmes jumps from the roof.)
4 Coronation Street: Aug 14 2009 (Becky & Steve’s 2nd wedding)
5 The Inbetweeners: Series 3, episode 1 The Fashion Show (Simon ends up modelling skimpy bathing trunks and, in his hurry to put them on, literally lets it all hang out)
6 Sex and the City: Season 6, episode 20 (An American Girl in Paris Part Deux: Big comes to Paris to win Carrie back)
7 Downton Abbey: series 3, episode 5 – (Sybil goes into labour. During the night she becomes very ill and dies.)
8 Doctor Who: Blink (Sally Sparrow receives a cryptic message from the Doctor about a mysterious new enemy species that is after the TARDIS.)
9 Lost: Season 1, episode 1 (the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 find themselves lost on an island)
10 Broadchurch: Season 1, episode 1 (Local detective sergeant Ellie Miller returns from holiday to find her desired promotion to inspector has gone to outsider Alec Hardy, anxious to prove himself after gaining a poor reputation)
11 Game of Thrones: season 3, episode 9 (The Rains of Castamere, aka Red Wedding) (Robb Stark’s army arrives at House Frey, for his uncle Edmure’s wedding. Lord Frey turns on the Starks after the wedding, killing both Robb and his wife and many other guests.)
12 The Office: final episode – Tim takes drastic action when he learns that Dawn has resigned in order to move to the USA with her boyfriend and leaves Tim heartbroken.
13 Breaking Bad: Season 5, episode 14 Ozymandias (Walt goes on the run. Jesse is taken hostage. Skyler believes it’s time to tell Flynn the truth)
14 Homeland: Season 2, episode 12 The Choice (Now Walden and Abu Nazir are killed, Brody and Carrie ponder their future, together or with her in the CIA, in her family’s lake cabin)
15 Life On Mars: Season 2, episode 8 The End Of The Line (The CID investigates the murder of a miner, and determine that a cop killer is behind it)
16 Prison Break: Season 1, episode 21 Go (Michael, Lincoln and the other inmates make a break for it, but after the alarm is sounded, find out who will make it over the wall, who will be left behind and who will leave the prison in a body bag)
17 Frasier: Goodnight Seattle (final episode) (Fraiser finds Martin and Ronee on the verge of matrimony, and Niles and Daphne preparing for labor. Meanwhile, Frasier prepares for his career in a new city.)
18 The Walking Dead: season 5, episode 1 (Carol takes drastic action to save Rick and the reunited group from the people of Terminus as she and Tyreese reach the compound)
19 Luther: season 3, episode 3 (John Luther is on the trail of a satanic occult killer who kidnaps a woman but leaves her baby in the living room)
20 Dexter: season 1, episode 10 Seeing Red (When the Ice Truck Killer leaves a horribly bloody crime scene at a hotel, Dexter digs deeper into his past)
21 Desperate Housewives: Season 3, episode 7 Bang (The day begins just as every other… Except today, there will be a deadly hostage situation in a local supermarket)
22 The Killing: series 1, episode 1. (Rosie Larsen has gone missing. Seattle detectives start an investigation into her disappearance which involves questioning Rosie’s family, friends, and neighbors.)
23 Modern Family: Season 1, episode 23 Hawaii (Jay’s plan to relax in Hawaii are thwarted. Phil tries to make the vacation special for Claire, but this results in the kids being unsupervised. Mitchell and Cameron debate on what to see)
24 Grey’s Anatomy: Season 6, episode 23 Sanctuary (Seattle Grace Hospital is hit with a crisis like no other in its history when a shooter makes his way around the hospital)
25 Happy Valley: Episode 4 (Catherine stumbles upon Ann and is attacked by Royce as she tries to get her to safety)
26 True Blood: Season 2, episode 9 I Will Rise Up (Luke the Frenemy’s suicide bombing of Dallas Vamp)
27 The Thick Of It: Season 3, episode 2 (Someone in the department has accidentally wiped the immigration records of 170,00 people over the past few months)
28 The Wire: Final Grades (2006) (The bodies from the vacants pile up while Burrell offers his support to Daniels and admonishes Rawls for crossing him. A distraught Bubbles finds himself at his wit’s end after his revenge plan backfires.)
29 Orange is the New Black: season 2 finale episode 13 (Several futures hang in the balance as the inmates face and confront their worst nightmares; Life will never be the same again)
30 House of Cards: season 1, chapter 11 (Following the collapse of Russo’s (Corey Stoll) campaign, Francis (Kevin Spacey) launches a risky ploy to join the Walker administration)
31 House M.D.: Season 4, episode 15 House’s Head (The episode where House receives a lap dance after being involved in a bus accident. After vaguely remembering seeing someone who is
32 The Bridge: Series 1 finale episode 10 (Swedish version: Saga does all she can to crack the case and catch the killer before it’s too late.)
33 American Horror Story: Season 2, episode 7 Dark Cousin (Grace is found bleeding to death after her operation but is brought back from the abyss just as she was to receive the kiss of death)
34 Peaky Blinders: series 2, episode 1 (As the 1920s begin to roar, business is booming for the Peaky Blinders gang. Tommy Shelby starts to expand his legal and illegal operations, with an eye on the racetracks of the south.)
35 Line Of Duty: series 2, episode 1 (Georgia and Steve attend at the hospital where somebody is trying to kill the witness and who kills Georgia)
36 The Good Wife: Season 5, episode 15 Dramatics Your Honour (Alicia agrees to a deposition with Nelson Dubeck, Will struggles to find a winning theory as he defends an accused killer, and Kalinda has new doubts about her future with Lockhart Gardner)
37 True Detective: season 1, episode 4 (Martin is faced with marital problems. The search for Reggie Ledoux leads the detectives to a motorcycle gang called The Iron Crusaders, which Rust worked undercover in the past).
38 Hannibal: season 2, episode 1 (While Will continues to assert his innocence, Hannibal and Jack try to come to terms with the fact that he’s in jail; Kade Purnell visits Will)
39 Utopia: first episode (Five strangers from an online comic book forum agree to meet after gaining possession of the original manuscript for the cult graphic novel ‘The Utopia Experiments’)
40 Skins: series 4, episode 8 season finale (With the cry of I’m Cook, Cook avenges the death of Freddie)
41 Gossip Girl: Season 2, episode 17 Carnal Knowledge (Blair starts a rumor that Miss Carr and Dan are romantically involved)
42 The Fall: Season 1, episode 1 (On the night that the police are called out to discover a cache of weapons in a car Spector, telling his wife that he is going to do voluntary work, kills Sarah Kay with police officers outside her house and unable to get in)
43 Battlestar Galactica: Exodus part 2 (2006) (The attack to rescue everyone on New Caprica begins. On the planet below, Tyrol and Anders lead the attack to free everyone from the prison.)
44 Top Of The Lake: Episode 1 (Tui, a 12 year old girl, walks into a remote mountain lake on New Zealand’s South Island as if to drown herself)
45 Mad Men: Season 4, episode 7 The Suitcase – (Don deliberately delays returning an important call from California, because he knows its bad news about Anna.)
46 Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8 episode 3 Palestinian Chicken (Larry plays
47 30 Rock: Season 6 episode 1 Dance Like Nobody’s Watching (Everybody becomes confused when Liz suddenly becomes cheerful, Jack tries to talk Jenna out of being the mean judge in a children’s reality talent show, and Kenneth prepares for what he believes to be the imminent Rapture)
48 Entourage: Season 4 episode 12 The Cannes Kids (The boys are in Cannes trying to seal the deal on Meddellin with big studio before the screening)
49 Arrested Development: season 3 episode 9 SOBs (George Sr. suggests a last-ditch effort to save the family by holding a fund raiser to raise money to pay their legal expenses)
50 Scandal: season 3 episode 13 finale The Price of Free and Fair Election (After Cyrus learns of Maya Pope’s latest plan to kill President Grant, his hesitance turns the tide of the election)
Image sources: BT TV / / / 
I work with BT in my day job, but I was not paid or asked to write this blog post. I chose to write about this as the subject interested me.

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