Americans Miss Their “Friends”

For many Americans, spring is a season of tension and anxiety as adults sit on the edge of their seats, wide-eyed and ready to view the season finales of their favorite shows. Some will have to wait for cliffhangers to resolve in the fall, while others may face the heartbreak of their favorite shows going off the air for good.  But which TV program most upset Americans when it went off the air, whether according to plan or out of the blue?

Though it lasted ten seasons, Americans are still distraught that they can no longer share in any new adventures with their Friends.  The sitcom about six pals learning to live and love as twenty-something adults is currently the number one show that crushed hearts on its way out the door. 

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,170 U.S. adults surveyed online and in English between April 15 and 20, 2015.

The long and the short of it

Their original run may have ended over thirty years ago, but clearly the army buddies of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital are still sorely missed as M*A*S*H ranks second on the list of TV heartbreakers.  Meanwhile, number three on the chart could not be more different.  Where M*A*S*H’s 11 seasons make it the longest running show on the list, the crew of the Firefly-class ship “Serenity” lasted only 11 episodes on the air.  Joss Whedon eventually released a feature film follow up, Serenity, which tied up many of the series’ loose ends – but clearly fans are still feeling less than serene about the show’s departure.

Standup comedy or a life of crime?

Rounding out the top five are two shows that aired ten years apart, but which equally distressed fans when they concluded.  The sensational sitcom originally intended to show how comedians get their material (but more famously described by many of its fans as a show about nothing), Seinfeld, ties with the meth-making drama Breaking Bad, for the fourth spot on The Harris Poll’s list of most heartbreaking TV program cancellations.

Gone but not forgotten

Coming in at number six is The Sopranos, the crime family classic that put New Jersey on the map long before Snooki arrived on the scene.  Next up is another science fiction phenomenon: J.J. Abrams’ Lost finds its place at seventh.  Ending their reigns only a month apart, family drama Parenthood and motorcycle mayhem saga Sons of Anarchy hit the list at eighth and ninth, respectively.  And coming in at number 10 is perhaps the longest “meet cute” story ever told, How I Met Your Mother.

Demographic disparities

The top three shows men are most broken up over the cancelations of are M*A*S*H, Firefly, and Breaking Bad.  Meanwhile, women appear to be more torn up over Friends, Parenthood, and M*A*S*H.

Adults hailing from urban and rural areas agree that losing M*A*S*H was the most upsetting, followed by Friends, while the order is flipped among suburbanites.  Ultimately, none of the three agrees on their third choices.  Urbanites look to Seinfeld, while those from the suburbs write in Firefly and adults from rural areas lament the loss of Breaking Bad.

The young and old can’t seem to agree either.  Not too surprisingly, Millennials most miss the more recent TV programs, with Friends, Breaking Bad and Firefly coming in first, second and third.  Meanwhile, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures come together and rank M*A*S*H as the most heartbreaking cancellation, but diverge on their second and third choices.  Members of Generation X finish out their top three with Friends and a tie between The Sopranos and Lost, while Baby Boomers are upset over the loss of Seinfeld, followed by The Sopranos. 

Matures actually have some good news on the horizon.  Though they were devastated enough when the mid-western crime series Longmire left the air to rank it second on their list of the most heartbreaking cancelations, those tears can now be dried as the show has new episodes on the way after all.  Moreover, though the actual shows are long gone, two programs out of their three-way-tie for third place are still alive in some fashion. 

  • Star Trek: The Original Series lived long and prospered into many spin off shows and a movie franchise rumored to be releasing another installment in 2016. 
  • JAG also successfully spun off into NCIS, Americans’ favorite current TV show, which in turn spun off into NCIS: LA and NCIS: New Orleans, all of which are still on the air. 

For now, there is no return on the horizon for Parenthood, the third wheel in Matures’ tie for third most upsetting series to leave the air.

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TABLE 1

MOST HEARTBREAKING TV PROGRAM CANCELATION

“Which one TV program most upset you or broke your heart when it went off the air?”

Unprompted responses

Base: All adults

 

Rank

Original Run Dates

# of Seasons

# of Episodes

Friends

1

1994 – 2004

10

236

M*A*S*H

2

1972 – 1983

11

256

Firefly

3

2002 –2002

1

11 aired /

14 produced

Seinfeld

=4

1989 – 1998

9

180

Breaking Bad

=4

2008 – 2013

5

62

The Sopranos

6

1999 – 2007

6

86

Lost

7

2004 – 2010

6

121

Parenthood

8

2010 – 2015

6

103

Sons of Anarchy

9

2008 – 2014

7

92

How I Met Your Mother

10

2005 – 2014

9

208

“=” prior to a number indicates a tie 


 

TABLE 2

MOST HEARTBREAKING TV PROGRAM CANCELATION AMONG DIFFERENT GROUPS

 “Which one TV program most upset you or broke your heart when it went off the air?”

Unprompted responses

Base: All adults

Group

First Choice

Second Choice

Third Choice

 

Men

M*A*S*H

Firefly

Breaking Bad

Women

Friends

Parenthood

M*A*S*H

 

East

Seinfeld

M*A*S*H & The Sopranos

Midwest

Friends

Parenthood

Firefly

South

Friends

M*A*S*H

Lost

West

Breaking Bad

Firefly

Friends & M*A*S*H

 

Millennials (18-37)

Friends

Breaking Bad

Firefly

Gen X (38-49)

M*A*S*H

Friends

The Sopranos & Lost

Baby Boomers (50-68)

M*A*S*H

Seinfeld

The Sopranos

Matures (69+)

M*A*S*H

Longmire

Parenthood &
Star Trek: The Original Series & JAG

 

Urban

M*A*S*H

Friends

Seinfeld

Suburban

Friends

M*A*S*H

Firefly

Rural

M*A*S*H

Friends

Breaking Bad

 

HS or less

M*A*S*H

Friends

Breaking Bad

Some College

Friends

Firefly

M*A*S*H & The Sopranos

College graduate

Seinfeld

Firefly

Friends & Breaking Bad

Post grad

Friends & The Sopranos

M*A*S*H

 

 

 


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 15 and 20, 2015 among 2,170 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

 

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

 

The Harris Poll® #28, May 28, 2015

By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst