[Note—If you are simply willing to acknowlege that there are two tastes in Buffy episodes and do not care about how this was determined, skip to the bottom of the page.]
Readers of the Phi-Phenomenon know that there are three distinct tastes in film. Some people have a Highbrow taste. They like silent films and films in languages other than English much more than other people do. Others have a Popular taste. They like recent films and genre films much more than other people do. Still others have a Mainstream taste. They like classic Hollywood films more than other people do.
In order to determine if there are separate tastes in Buffy episodes, an analysis was performed on a subset of lists that met the following criteria: (1) they considered all 144 episodes, even if they did not rate or rank all 144, and (2) no rating or category of episodes (including unranked or unrated episodes) contain 60 or more episodes.
Generally, these 135 lists were similar to the larger group of 3,381 lists in terms of which episodes were liked and disliked. There were a few episodes that this group liked more than the larger group did (most notably "The Initiative," "Consequences," and "No Place like Home") and a few that this group liked less than the larger group did (most notably "The Witch," "Nightmares," "Touched," and "Smashed").
The results suggested that there might be two different tastes in Buffy episodes. The more widely held of these two tastes, which, called "Loyalists," are held by fans who may not be all that fond of the first season, but liked all the other seasons roughly equally. However, a significant minority, called "Jumpers" after the the Jump the Shark idiom, believe that the show was consistantly increasing in quality for the first three seasons and consistantly declined in quality after that. The most commonly cited theories are graduation from high school, the introduction of Tara and her relationship with Willow, the introduction of Riley and his relationship with Buffy, and the Initiative arc.
Overall, about 43.7% of the lists clearly reflected the Loyalist taste, and 25.2% clearly reflected the Jumper taste. About 10.4% of the lists represented a blend between the two tastes, and the remaining 20.7% merely leaned toward one or both of the tastes, held tastes that were too rare to be detected with this population of episodes, or had idiosyncratic tastes.
The pages below compare a compilation of the 73 strongest Loyalist lists with a compilation of the 48 stongest Jumper lists (weighted by how strongly each list fit the particular taste). They are used to highlight differences between the tastes. They also test whether each of the commonly cited theories explain why Jumpers appear to dislike later episodes.
Episodes Ranked—How people with each taste would rank each of the 144 episodes.
Seasons Ranked—How the season in which an episode aired may affect the extent to which fans with each taste like or dislike Buffy episodes.
Characters Ranked—How major characters may affect the extent to which fans with each taste like or dislike Buffy episodes.
Writers Ranked—How the writers may affect the extent to which fans with each taste like or dislike Buffy episodes.
Directors Ranked—How the directors may affect the extent to which fans with each taste like or dislike Buffy episodes.
The differences between these tastes are exaggerated. Most fans fall somewhere between thes two tastes, and there may be other tastes that are too rare to be detected with this method. Also, raters had to view all 144 episodes of Buffy, so these analyses exclude Jumpers who were so disgusted with changes in the show that they stopped watching. Overall, the factors that this site examines explain 73.2% of the quality of episodes as seen by Loyalists and 77.4% of the qualilty of episodes as seen by Jumpers.