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Anthology series

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An anthology series is a radio, television or book series that presents a different story and a different set of characters in each episode or season.[1] These usually have a different cast each week, but several series in the past, such as Four Star Playhouse, employed a permanent troupe of character actors who would appear in a different drama each week.[2] Some anthology series, such as Studio One, began on radio and then expanded to television.[3]

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From Ancient Greek ἀνθολογία (anthología, “flower-gathering”), from ἀνθολογέω (anthologéō, “I gather flowers”), from ἄνθος (ánthos, “flower”) + λέγω (légō, “I gather, pick up, collect”), coined by Meleager of Gadara circa 60 BCE, originally as Στέφανος (στέφανος (stéphanos, “garland”)) to describe a collection of poetry, later retitled anthology – see Greek Anthology. Anthologiai were collections of small Greek poems and epigrams, because in Greek culture the flower symbolized the finer sentiments that only poetry can express.


Many popular old-time radio programs were anthology series. On some series, such as Inner Sanctum Mysteries, the only constant was the host, who introduced and concluded each dramatic presentation. One of the earliest such programs was The Collier Hour, broadcast on the NBC Blue Network from 1927 to 1932.[4] As radio's first major dramatic anthology, it adapted stories and serials from Collier's Weekly in a calculated move to increase subscriptions and compete with The Saturday Evening Post. Airing on the Wednesday prior to each week's distribution of the magazine, the program soon moved to Sundays in order to avoid spoilers with dramatizations of stories simultaneously appearing in the magazine.[4]

Radio drama anthology series include:

Genre series

Radio anthology series provided a format for science fiction, horror, suspense, and mystery genres (all produced in the USA, unless noted):

Nelson Olmsted of NBC's Sleep No More fantasy series.
Nelson Olmsted of NBC's Sleep No More fantasy series.

The final episode of Suspense was broadcast on September 30, 1962, a date that has traditionally been seen as marking the end of the old-time radio era.[6] However, genre series produced since 1962 include:


In the history of television, live anthology dramas were especially popular during the Golden Age of Television of the 1950s with series such as The United States Steel Hour and The Philco Television Playhouse.[7][8]

Dick Powell came up with an idea for an anthology series, Four Star Playhouse, with a rotation of established stars every week, four stars in all. The stars would own the studio and the program, as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had done successfully with Desilu studio. Powell had intended for the program to feature himself, Charles Boyer, Joel McCrea, and Rosalind Russell. When Russell and McCrea backed out, David Niven came on board as the third star. The fourth star was initially a guest star. CBS liked the idea, and Four Star Playhouse made its debut in fall of 1952.[2] It ran on alternate weeks only during the first season, alternating with Amos 'n' Andy. It was successful enough to be renewed and became a weekly program from the second season until the end of its run in 1956. Ida Lupino was brought on board as the de facto fourth star, though unlike Powell, Boyer, and Niven, she owned no stock in the company.

American television networks would sometimes run summer anthology series which consisted of unsold television pilots.[9] Beginning in 1971, the long-run Masterpiece Theatre drama anthology series brought British productions to American television.

In 2011, American Horror Story debuted a new type of anthology format in the U.S. Each season, rather than each episode, is a standalone story. Several actors have appeared in the various seasons, but playing different roles—in an echo of the Four Star Playhouse format.[10]

The success of American Horror Story has spawned other season-long anthologies such as American Crime Story and Feud.[11]

American drama

British drama

Canadian drama

Indian drama

Pakistani drama


Children and family


Crime dramas





Mystery and suspense


Science fiction and horror


Title Started Ended Seasons Episodes Notes
Dead Man's Gun 1997 1999 2 44 -
Death Valley Days 1952 1970 18 452 -
Frontier 1955 1956 1 31 -
Frontier Theatre 1950 1950 - - No episodes are known to have survived.
Zane Grey Theater 1956 1961 5 149 -
Cheyenne 1957 1962 7 107 -

See also


  1. ^ "Anthology series changing television". UWIRE Text: 1. 23 October 2015 – via General OneFile.
  2. ^ a b "Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  3. ^ Sterling, Rob (2015). "About Writing for Television". Patterns. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1505707465.
  4. ^ a b Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
  5. ^ Page 20: Widner, James F & Frierson III, Meade. Science Fiction on Radio: A Revised Look At 1950–1975. Birmingham, Alabama: A.F.A.B. Publishing.
  6. ^ Chimes, Art. "Last Radio Drama". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  7. ^ Kraszewski, Jon (Fall 2006). "Adapting Scripts in the 1950s: The Economic and Political Incentives for Television Anthology Writers". Journal of Film and Video. 58 (3): 3–21 – via JSTOR.
  8. ^ Simon, Ron (2013). Riggs, Thomas (ed.). "Philco Television Playhouse". St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (2nd ed.). St. James Press. 4: 144–145 – via Gale Virtual Reference Library.
  9. ^ Ray Bradbury on Film and TV: Starlight Summer Theater (1954) Archived October 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ American Horror Story, retrieved 2019-04-19
  11. ^ Malone, Michael (2 May 2016). "Anthology format gets a 'true' rebirth: AMC is the latest of many nets modeling shows after True Detective and Fargo". Broadcasting & Cable. 146 (17): 24 – via Academic OneFile.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 April 2019, at 12:25
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