In Honor of 11-11-11, A List of TV's Top 11 Numbers

By Tim Surette

Nov 11, 2011

Today is 11/11/11, which means a meteor will probably crash into the earth, the dead will rise from the grave, or the Rapture will finally happen. But in the small chance that none of it does, today is just a day when our calendars look funny and computers, robots, and other binary aficionados think "63" all day long. So, since this particular numerical occurrence won't won't happen for another 100 years, we broke out our abacuses and tallied up a list of the top eleven uses of numbers in television, including some that YOU suggested via Twitter.

11. Hawaii Five-0
Not only is Hawaii Five-0 one of television's most iconic shows, it gave rappers another synonym for the police. (Note: Five-0 just barely beat out 227 for a spot on this list. Jackee!)

What you said:

10. Game shows
Math is always on the mind when watching game shows. Think about The Price is Right: Whether someone's spinning the wheel to get into the Showcase Showdown or annoyingly bidding $1 to cheat his way toward hugging Bob Barker, it's about the numbers. There's also 1 vs. 100, Million Dollar Password, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Power of 10, Million Dollar Money Drop, and of course, the granddaddy of them all, and the only TV show to ever reflect inflation rates: The $10,000 Pyramid, The $20,000 Pyramid, The $25,000 Pyramid, The $50,000 Pyramid, and The $100,000 Pyramid!

9. Battlestar Galactica
Ronald D. Moore's remake of the '70s sci-fi show kicked off its regular run with an episode titled "33," a tense tale of hyperjumping every 33 minutes to keep the Cylons at bay. But the Cylons themselves were named according to their numeric models, of which there were 12. And let's not forget to thank Tricia Helfer for making Six the sexiest number ever. (Bonus: She was named after James Cooghan's character on The Prisoner, Number 6!)

8. Numb3rs
Not only did this procedural feature a math genius, it put a frickin' number right there in the title because letters were too boring! And it actually made sense to do! Unlike The EV3NT, which put a number in its title just to try to be cool, and failed miserably.

7. David Letterman's Top Ten
This base-ten-friendly segment of Letterman's late-night shows debuted in 1985 and has been going strong ever since. Reportedly started as a way to poke fun at People Magazine's own Top Ten lists, Letterman's very first Top Ten, on his NBC talk show Late Night, was "The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas." The idea may not have been wholly original, but Dave has made the franchise his own in the television landscape and inspired countless shows on music channels dedicated to ranking Beyonce's sexiest videos.

6. Star Trek
Fact: Nerds love Star Trek. Fact: Nerds love numbers. So it was only logical, captain, for Star Trek to embrace numbers. "1701" became the digits to represent The Enterprise, warp speeds went in varying degrees designated by number, and sexy Seven of Nine helped fans push the limits of their own little Enterprises in their pants.

What you said:

5. Letting us know how many characters are on a show
Eight is Enough, Just the 10 of Us, Three's Company, Party of Five, 7th Heaven, Kate Plus 8, 19 Kids and Counting, 2 Broke Girls, Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place, Two and a Half Men...

4. Educational number songs
Schoolhouse Rock gave us one of the best numerical jams ever in "Three is a Magic Number", all while teaching us multiplication and influencing one of the best hip-hop groups of all time. But I'll never ever forget the lyrics of the world's best number groove, Sesame Street's pinball song: "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11—" Ahhhh, I forgot the rest. Sidenote: Learning in the '70s was way more funky than it is today. Good luck getting this song out of your head:

What you said:

3. 90210
There are only two zip codes you're guaranteed to know by heart for your entire life: your own, and Beverly Hills'. Beverly Hills, 90210 not only taught kids about postal codes in California, it also taught them about sex, drugs, and sideburns, and went on to become a TV phenomenon. The number lives on in The CW's updated 90210.

2. 24
Jack Bauer saved your ass every week during the eight-season eight-day run of Fox's thriller. The show was presented in "real time," with each episode representing one hour of one day, and one day lasting for one season. Though no one will ever be able to explain how Jack got from one end of LA to the other during rush hour traffic over the course of half an episode, the show's ticking clock was one of the coolest things on television ever.

What you said:

1. Lost plays the lottery
4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42! The absolute most-absorbing numbers in television history are—without a doubt—those wacky numbers from Lost that appeared everywhere: on Hurley's lottery ticket, on the side of hatches, on flight numbers, on clocks, and just about anywhere a number could show up. At times we believed they were part of the Valenzetti Equation, a tool used to predict the end of humanity, at other times we believed they were just maddening digits used to frustrate us, but in the end, they corresponded to the "candidates" in the running to take over the job of maintaining the island. At least, that's what the show told us.

What you said:

And just for fun, here are a few more user-submitted suggestions:

What numbers would make YOUR list?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

  • Comments (31)
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  • AndrewMbuthia Dec 17, 2011

    Add a comment...24 is the BOMB no other can compare

  • AlisaJo Nov 17, 2011

    How about Room 222 an old show about High School days and teachers. There were so many shows that used numbers, it's hard to keep track of all of them. You'd have to go back and look at when Television first started. For instance, there was Playhouse 90. And how about ABC 20/20 or 60 Minutes. Even Adam 12. Just go to Hulu and browse through the television shows and you'll see what I mean.

  • SperryMN Nov 17, 2011

    The numbers 42 (the answer to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything) and 23 (it's an Illuminati thing) appear everywhere in shows. Most commonly as room numbers and locker numbers. And who the heck is James Cooghan? He's not even in IMDB!

  • The7thDoctor Nov 17, 2011

    The actor's name was Patrick McGoohan, NOT James Goohan. You're mixing him up with James Doohan from Star Trek.

  • kepa55 Nov 15, 2011

    Where's 47 from Alias?

  • mampel0307 Nov 14, 2011

    the only thing i can say is i would rather look at alex o'loughlin once a week than jackee any time of the week

  • AprilFox Nov 13, 2011

    The actor who played Six from "The Prisoner" was Patrick McGoohan. James Cooghan? dunno know who he is.

  • Writerpatrick Nov 13, 2011

    School House Rocks fans might be interested in these: or;=Uy-_T-_J-Ls

    And not to forget the numbers from not only Get Smart but the ones for the agents on The Man From Uncle. As well as the ones on The Prisoner. "Who is number one?" "You are number 6."

  • bostonbeliever Nov 13, 2011

    Lost's numbers were fantastic! They were so mysterious and though-provoking and they kept getting tied into the plot! And then the writers copped out and didn't give us a legitimate answer to what their purpose/power really was! Oh, wait...

    I loved that BSG made it on here: it doesn't get enough love (if only it had been broadcast on a major network...oh the emmys it could/should have won)

  • AnthonyMence Nov 13, 2011

    Babylon 5

    Deep Space 9 could have been in the Star Trek write up.

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