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Television show

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A live television show set and cameras
A live television show set and cameras

A television show (often simply TV show) is any content produced for broadcast via over-the-air, satellite, cable, or internet and typically viewed on a television set, excluding breaking news, advertisements, or trailers that are typically placed between shows. Television shows are most often scheduled well ahead of time and appear on electronic guides or other TV listings.

A television show might also be called a television program (British English: programme), especially if it lacks a narrative structure. A television series is usually released in episodes that follow a narrative, and are usually divided into seasons (US and Canada) or series (UK) – yearly or semiannual sets of new episodes. A show with a limited number of episodes may be called a miniseries, serial, or limited series. A one-time show may be called a "special". A television film ("made-for-TV movie" or "television movie") is a film that is initially broadcast on television rather than released in theaters or direct-to-video.

Television shows can be viewed as they are broadcast in real time (live), be recorded on home video or a digital video recorder for later viewing, or be viewed on demand via a set-top box or streamed over the internet.

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  • ✪ Television Production: Crash Course Film Production #15


These days, you might turn on the TV and think you’d been transported to a movie theater. Oscar-winning movie stars are all over television shows, Directors known for big screen blockbusters, like David Fincher and Martin Scorsese, have found success working in television. And the advent of streaming services and premium cable networks have expanded not only how we watch shows, but also the kinds of shows that get produced. Edgier content that used to be reserved for feature films is now being explored every day on TV. As the line between cinema and television continues to blur, no discussion of film production would be complete without tackling the TV landscape and how television production has come to look a lot like making movies. [Opening Music Plays] Television includes a huge variety of content that can be broken down into a bunch of different categories, from prestige dramas and traditional sitcoms, to infomercials, soap operas, and 24-hour news networks. One of the most basic ways to categorize TV shows is to divide up scripted and unscripted content. Scripted TV simply means there was a script written for the show. So that’s everything from Game of Thrones and Empire to Family Ties and Quantum Leap. Unscripted TV is – you guessed it – any show made without a script. This can include reality TV, like The Bachelor or House Hunters, as well as sports games, awards shows, and cable news. Today we’ll talk about scripted TV, since that’s closest to film. We’re also going to focus on television in the United States. We’d be here all day if we dove into how other countries produce and monetize TV shows! Now, television can also be broken down in terms of how it’s delivered to the audience, which has a major impact in how the money is made and what shows make it onto the air. The four main kinds of contemporary TV networks are broadcast networks, basic cable, premium cable, and streaming services. Today, there are five major broadcast networks in the United States: NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and The CW. There are a handful of other ones, like PBS, which offer more specialized programming and operate under different economic models. But these five major broadcast networks make most of their money through on-air advertising – things like restaurant commercials, pharmaceutical ads, or geckos selling you car insurance. So broadcast networks want to reach as many eyeballs as possible, by making their shows widely appealing. A season is traditionally a year’s worth of episodes – often 22 for broadcast network dramas and sitcoms, and more like 8 to 12 on cable. And if networks cram more episodes into each season, they can sell more commercial blocks. Which is why NCIS runs for 22 episodes a season on CBS, and has since 2003! The more people watching a network’s shows, the more money advertisers will pay, which is why ratings matter to broadcast networks. Ratings are a measurement of how many viewers watch each episode of television. In the United States, the Nielsen Research Media rating system has become the industry standard for figuring out how popular a show is. Nielsen ratings rely on complex statistical sampling, the same technique used for predicting the outcome of political elections. The Nielsen team monitors the TV viewing habits of a sample of American households, and then extrapolates from those numbers to arrive at a rating for each episode. Among the various problems with this system, the sample size is really small. Something like 5,000 households are used to determine the entire nation’s viewing habits. Also, the advent of DVRs has made collecting reliable viewership data trickier, because lots of people record shows and watch them later. Officially, Nielsen Research Media counts DVR numbers in a show’s rating if the episode is watched within one week of the original air date. But if you save up every episode of American Horror Story to marathon in one terrifying sitting, that doesn’t count. Even with these flaws, broadcast networks continue to use Nielsen ratings to decide which shows get renewed and which get the ax. Basic cable networks operate similarly, but don’t have as much pressure to reach a massive audience. These include all the channels you get with the standard package from your cable company, like TNT, USA, AMC, the Disney Channel, the History Channel, and Sy-Fy… Plus all those other channels you zip past to get to your favorites. Basic cable networks make money through on-air advertising, like broadcast networks. But they also charge a carriage fee to the cable company that “carries” the network into your home. That means that basic cable shows can appeal to a more niche audience, and still make a profit. Especially if that audience is likely to spend money on high-end and luxury products. So Mad Men was a hit for AMC, even though only 2 million people watched it each week, while each episode of The Big Bang Theory reaches almost 20 million people for CBS. Premium cable networks, like HBO, Showtime, and Starz, abandon on-air advertising altogether, and rely largely on monthly fees paid by each viewing household for income. So ratings matter much less for these channels, and they measure success in other ways. Game of Thrones and Girls aren’t expected to draw 15 million viewers each week. Instead, HBO hopes lopped-off heads and hilarious 20-somethings will create enough cultural excitement that more people sign up for the network. Streaming services that produce original content, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, also rely on a subscription model. A show like Transparent is a hit because it makes more people pay for Amazon Prime, not because it can compete with Quantico for viewers. All these different kinds of networks matter because they affect which shows get made, how they’re produced, and what subject matter they can tackle! Since broadcast network shows need to appeal to a wide audience to make money, premium cable and streaming series can tell more challenging stories with higher levels of sexuality, violence, and harsh language. That doesn’t make premium cable shows better, but it certainly makes them different! And just like film distribution went through big changes after home video, video-on-demand, and now streaming services, TV networks have many ways to get their shows to an audience. The old broadcast model used to rely on first-run episodes followed by re-runs, where the network would air old episodes of their own shows later in the week or over the summer. If a show was successful enough to run a hundred episodes or so, it might be sold into syndication. This is where the studio that actually made the show starts licensing the existing seasons directly to local TV affiliates. These days, premium cable series sometimes make the syndication leap to basic cable networks, like when A&E bought the rights to air a slightly tamer edit of The Sopranos, which originally aired on HBO. Premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime have set up their own streaming services too. That way, they can keep sole ownership of their content and sometimes bypass cable companies altogether. Now, in many ways, producing scripted television and making feature films are remarkably similar. Writers write scripts, producers assemble crews of cinematographers, gaffers, costume designers, and so on, directors oversee the shooting of the scenes, and editors cut them together. In other ways, they’re fundamentally different. Most obviously, TV series are way longer. A show might run anywhere from 6 episodes per season on premium cable, to a whopping 22 episodes per season on a broadcast network. And super successful shows like Friends or Grey’s Anatomy might keep airing for more than a decade. That’s a lot of story, which means a lot of scripts, locations, characters, and shooting days, which means more writers, producers, actors, and crew. And longer shooting schedules. If film shoots are grueling, shooting a TV series can be a full-on marathon! Also, unlike feature films, the main creative decision-maker on a TV series is a writer-producer called a showrunner. Very often, the showrunner is also the creator of the series and the sole writer of the show’s pilot, a test episode that helps the network choose which series to make. Showrunners can oversee everything from the story direction and writing, to hiring directors, and even editing the series. Most shows have a writers room, where a group of writers gather to outline and write the series’ episodes. On broadcast network shows, the writers room may have as many as 15 or 20 people. But for cable series, the writers room is often much smaller. One season of Game of Thrones is regularly written by only three or four people. And on rare occasions, a single writer may be responsible for an entire season. Michael Hirst writes every episode of Vikings. And Nic Pizzolatto wrote the first two seasons of True Detective. When it comes time to film the show, most series divide their episodes among a number of different directors. Usually, the director of the pilot helps set the look and feel of the series, and stays involved as a producer to make sure future episodes remain true to the original vision. On occasion, a season of a premium cable or streaming series might all be directed by one person. Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of True Detective season one, giving that story a cohesive quality that’s unusual on television. For actors, working on a TV series can be a major commitment. Most series are designed to last for several seasons, so an actor might spend years playing the same part. That’s great for job security – something many actors struggle with – but it can also make an actor feel trapped in a role or a show. While film franchises do have recurring characters, like Harry Potter, James Bond, or any of those Fast and Furious drivers, they’re the exception rather than the rule. More and more, TV series are being produced like feature films. This is especially true for single-camera shows – everything from comedies like Atlanta or Master of None to mysteries like Castle, sci-fi epics like The Expanse, or realistic dramas like Friday Night Lights. They look and feel like movies, as though each scene is happening in an actual location within the world of the story. They also allow for more control over the shooting and editing of the show. Three-camera shows, on the other hand, are about as far away from feature films as scripted TV gets! They’re almost always sitcoms, and often performed on a stage in front of a “live” studio audience. Think of Cheers or The Big Bang Theory. These shows look more artificial because… well... they clearly are. Multiple cameras capture the action, the sets are designed to only be shot from one direction, and the editing mixes mostly wide shots with pre-recorded or enhanced laugh tracks. They can be hysterically funny, but they don’t seem that real. Across different types of productions, more actors, directors, writers, producers, and crew members are working in both TV and film. We even have universes that crossover, thanks to Marvel, and limited TV series like HBO’s Big Little Lies that feel like extended movies. It’s an exciting time to be involved in both movies and TV, as an artist and a viewer, where the only downside is there’s not enough time to see it all! Today we talked about the difference between broadcast and cable networks, and how new streaming services are changing the definition of television. We looked at how ratings impact what shows make it to air, and how the subscriber model of premium cable and the streaming services allow them to make edgier shows. And we discussed how TV shows are actually made, from the power of the showrunner to the difference between single camera and 3-camera shows. Next time, we’ll switch gears and start watching and thinking critically about films together, starting with Citizen Kane. And you’ll be getting a brand new host: Michael Aranda, who’s a very talented human and has been working on Crash Course behind the camera for years! Crash Course Film Production is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check out a playlist of their latest shows, like The Art Assignment, Gross Science, and ACS Reactions. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.



The first television shows were experimental, sporadic broadcasts viewable only within a very short range from the broadcast tower starting in the 1930s. Televised events such as the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany, the 1937 coronation of King George VI in the UK, and David Sarnoff's famous introduction at the 1939 New York World's Fair in the US spurred a growth in the medium, but World War II put a halt to development until after the war. The 1947 World Series inspired many Americans to buy their first television set and then in 1948, the popular radio show Texaco Star Theater made the move and became the first weekly televised variety show, earning host Milton Berle the name "Mr Television" and demonstrating that the medium was a stable, modern form of entertainment which could attract advertisers. The first national live television broadcast in the US took place on September 4, 1951 when President Harry Truman's speech at the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco was transmitted over AT&T's transcontinental cable and microwave radio relay system to broadcast stations in local markets.[1][2][3]

The first national color broadcast (the 1954 Tournament of Roses Parade) in the US occurred on January 1, 1954. During the following ten years most network broadcasts, and nearly all local programming, continued to be in black-and-white. A color transition was announced for the fall of 1965, during which over half of all network prime-time programming would be broadcast in color. The first all-color prime-time season came just one year later. In 1972, the last holdout among daytime network shows converted to color, resulting in the first completely all-color network season.

Formats and genres

Television shows are more varied than most other forms of media due wide variety formats and genres that can be presented. A show may be fictional (as in comedies and dramas), or non-fictional (as in documentary, news, and reality television). It may be topical (as in the case of a local newscast and some made-for-television films), or historical (as in the case of many documentaries and fictional series). They could be primarily instructional or educational, or entertaining as is the case in situation comedy and game shows.[citation needed]

A drama program usually features a set of actors playing characters in a historical or contemporary setting. The program follows their lives and adventures. Except for soap opera-type serials, many shows especially before the 1980s, remained static without story arcs, and the main characters and premise changed little.[citation needed] If some change happened to the characters' lives during the episode, it was usually undone by the end. Because of this, the episodes could be broadcast in any order.[citation needed] Since the 1980s, there are many series that feature progressive change to the plot, the characters, or both. For instance, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere were two of the first American prime time drama television series to have this kind of dramatic structure.[4][better source needed] While the later series, Babylon 5 is an extreme example of such production that had a predetermined story running over its intended five-season run.[citation needed]

In 2012, it was reported that television was growing into a larger component of major media companies' revenues than film.[5] Some also noted the increase in quality of some television programs. In 2012, Academy-Award-winning film director Steven Soderbergh, commenting on ambiguity and complexity of character and narrative, stated: "I think those qualities are now being seen on television and that people who want to see stories that have those kinds of qualities are watching television."[6]



United States

When a person or company decides to create a new series, they develop the show's elements, consisting of the concept, the characters, the crew, and cast. Then they often "pitch" it to the various networks in an attempt to find one interested enough to order a prototype first episode of the series, known as a pilot.[citation needed] Eric Coleman, an animation executive at Disney, told an interviewer, "One misconception is that it's very difficult to get in and pitch your show, when the truth is that development executives at networks want very much to hear ideas. They want very much to get the word out on what types of shows they're looking for."[7]

To create the pilot, the structure and team of the whole series must be put together. If audiences respond well to the pilot, the network will pick up the show to air it the next season (usually Fall).[citation needed] Sometimes they save it for mid-season, or request rewrites and father review (known in the industry as development hell).[citation needed] Other times, they pass entirely, forcing the show's creator to "shop it around" to other networks. Many shows never make it past the pilot stage.[citation needed]

The show hires a stable of writers, who usually work in parallel: the first writer works on the first episode, the second on the second episode, etc.[citation needed] When all the writers have been used, episode assignment starts again with the first writer.[citation needed] On other shows, however, the writers work as a team. Sometimes they develop story ideas individually, and pitch them to the show's creator, who folds them together into a script and rewrites them.[citation needed]

If the show is picked up, the network orders a "run" of episodes—usually only six or 13 episodes at first, though a season typically consists of at least 22 episodes.[citation needed] The midseason seven and last nine episodes are sometimes called the "mid-seven" and "back nine"—borrowing the colloquial terms from bowling and golf.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

The method of "team writing" is employed on some longer dramatic series (usually running up to a maximum of around 13 episodes) . The idea for such a program may be generated "in-house" by one of the networks; it could originate from an independent production company (sometimes a product of both). For example, the BBC's long-running soap opera EastEnders is wholly a BBC production, whereas its popular drama Life on Mars was developed by Kudos in association with the broadcaster.

There are still a significant number of programs, however, (usually sitcoms) that are built around just one or two writers, and a small, close-knit production team. These are "pitched" in the traditional way, but since the creator(s) handle all the writing requirements, there is a run of six or seven episodes per series once approval has been given. Many of the most popular British comedies have been made this way, including Monty Python's Flying Circus (albeit with an exclusive team of six writer-performers), Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and The Office.

Other nations

The production company is often separate from the broadcaster. The executive producer, often the show's creator, is in charge of running the show. They pick the crew and help cast the actors, approve and sometimes write series plots—some even write or direct major episodes—while various other producers help to ensure that the show runs smoothly. Very occasionally, the executive producer will cast themselves in the show. As with filmmaking or other electronic media production, producing of an individual episode can be divided into three parts: pre-production, principal photography, and post-production.


Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Pre-production begins when a script is approved. A director is chosen to plan the episode's final look.

Pre-production tasks include storyboarding, construction of sets, props, and costumes, casting guest stars, budgeting, acquiring resources like lighting, special effects, stunts, etc. Once the show is planned, it must then be scheduled; scenes are often filmed out of sequence, guest actors or even regulars may only be available at certain times. Sometimes the principal photography of different episodes must be done at the same time, complicating the schedule (a guest star might shoot scenes from two episodes on the same afternoon). Complex scenes are translated from storyboard to animatics to further clarify the action. Scripts are adjusted to meet altering requirements.

Some shows have a small stable of directors, but also usually rely on outside directors. Given the time constraints of broadcasting, a single show might have two or three episodes in pre-production, one or two episodes in principal photography, and a few more in various stages of post-production. The task of directing is complex enough that a single director can usually not work on more than one episode or show at a time, hence the need for multiple directors.

Principal photography

Principal photography is the actual filming of the episode. Director, actors and crew gather at a television studio or on location for filming or videoing a scene. A scene is further divided into shots, which should be planned during pre-production. Depending on scheduling, a scene may be shot in non-sequential order of the story. Conversations may be filmed twice from different camera angles, often using stand-ins, so one actor might perform all their lines in one set of shots, and then the other side of the conversation is filmed from the opposite perspective. To complete a production on time, a second unit may be filming a different scene on another set or location at the same time, using a different set of actors, an assistant director, and a second unit crew. A director of photography supervises the lighting of each shot to ensure consistency.

Live events are usually covered by Outside Broadcast crews using mobile television studios, known as scanners or OB trucks. Although varying greatly depending on the era and subject covered, these trucks were normally crewed by up to 15 skilled operators and production personnel. In the UK, for most of the 20th century, the BBC was the preeminent provider of outside broadcast coverage. BBC crews worked on almost every major event, including Royal weddings and funerals, major political and sporting events, and even drama programmes.[8]


Once principal photography is complete, producers coordinate tasks to begin the video editing. Visual and digital video effects are added to the film; this is often outsourced to companies specializing in these areas. Often music is performed with the conductor using the film as a time reference (other musical elements may be previously recorded). An editor cuts the various pieces of film together, adds the musical score and effects, determines scene transitions, and assembles the completed show.

Budgets and revenues

Most television networks throughout the world are 'commercial', dependent on selling advertising time or acquiring sponsors.[citation needed] Broadcasting executives' main concern over their programming is on audience size.[citation needed] Once the number of 'free to air' stations was restricted by the availability of channel frequencies, but cable TV (outside the United States, satellite television) technology has allowed an expansion in the number of channels available to viewers (sometimes at premium rates) in a much more competitive environment.[citation needed]

In the United States, the average broadcast network drama costs $3 million an episode to produce, while cable dramas cost $2 million on average.[9] The pilot episode may be more expensive than a regular episode.[citation needed] In 2004, Lost's two-hour pilot cost $10–$14 million, in 2008 Fringe's two-hour pilot cost $10 million, and in 2010, Boardwalk Empire was $18 million for the first episode. In 2011, Game of Thrones was $5–$10 million, Pan Am cost an estimated $10 million, while Terra Nova's two-hour pilot was between $10 to $20 million.[10][11]

Many scripted network television shows in the United States are financed through deficit financing: a studio finances the production cost of a show and a network pays a license fee to the studio for the right to air the show. This license fee does not cover the show's production costs, leading to the deficit. Although the studio does not make its money back in the original airing of the show, it retains ownership of the show. This ownership retention allows the studio to make its money back and earn a profit through syndication and DVD and Blu-ray disc sales. This system places most of the financial risk on the studios, however a show that is a hit in the syndication and home video markets can more than make up for the misses. Although the deficit financing system places minimal financial risk on the networks, they lose out on the future profits of big hits, since they are only licensing the shows.[12]

Costs are recouped mainly by advertising revenues for broadcast networks and some cable channels, while other cable channels depend on subscription revenues. In general, advertisers, and consequently networks that depend on advertising revenues, are more interested in the number of viewers within the 18–49 age range than the total number of viewers.[13][14] Advertisers are willing to pay more to advertise on shows successful with young adults because they watch less television and are harder to reach than older adults.[15] According to Advertising Age, during the 2007–08 season, Grey's Anatomy was able to charge $419,000 per commercial, compared to only $248,000 for a commercial during CSI, despite CSI having almost five million more viewers on average.[16] Due to its strength in young demos, Friends was able to charge almost three times as much for a commercial as Murder, She Wrote, even though the two series had similar total viewer numbers during the seasons they were on the air together.[13] Glee and The Office drew fewer total viewers than NCIS during the 2009–10 season, but earned an average of $272,694 and $213,617 respectively, compared to $150,708 for NCIS.[17]


After production, the show is handed over to the television network, which sends it out to its affiliate stations, which broadcast it in the specified broadcast programming time slot. If the Nielsen ratings are good, the show is kept alive as long as possible. If not, the show is usually canceled. The show's creators are then left to shop around remaining episodes, and the possibility of future episodes, to other networks. On especially successful series, the producers sometimes call a halt to a series on their own like Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, Corner Gas, and M*A*S*H and end it with a concluding episode, which sometimes is a big series finale.

On rare occasions, a series that has not attracted particularly high ratings and has been canceled can be given a reprieve if home video viewership has been particularly strong. This has happened in the cases of Family Guy in the US and Peep Show in the UK.

If the show is popular or lucrative, and a number of episodes (usually 100 episodes or more) are made, it goes into broadcast syndication (in the United States) where rights to broadcast the program are then resold for cash or put into a barter exchange (offered to an outlet for free in exchange for airing additional commercials elsewhere in the station's broadcast day).


The terminology used to define a set of episodes produced by a television series varies from country to country.

North American usage

In North American television, a series is a connected set of television program episodes that run under the same title, possibly spanning many seasons. Since the late 1960s, this broadcast programming schedule typically includes between 20 and 26 episodes. Before then, a regular television season could average at least 30 episodes, and some TV series may have had as many as 39 episodes in a season.

Until the 1980s, most (but certainly not all) new programs for the American broadcast networks debuted in the "fall season", which ran from September through March and nominally contained from 24 to 26 episodes. These episodes were rebroadcast during the spring (or summer) season, from April through August. Because of cable television and the Nielsen sweeps, the "fall" season now normally extends to May. Thus, a "full season" on a broadcast network now usually runs from September through May for at least 22 episodes.[18]

A full season is sometimes split into two separate units with a hiatus around the end of the calendar year, such as the first season of Jericho on CBS. When this split occurs, the last half of the episodes sometimes are referred to with the letter B as in "The last nine episodes (of The Sopranos) will be part of what is being called either "Season 6, Part 2" or "Season 6B",[19] or in "Futurama is splitting its seasons similar to how South Park does, doing half a season at a time, so this is season 6B for them."[20] Since the 1990s, these shorter seasons also have been referred to as ".5" or half seasons, where the run of shows between September and December is labeled "Season X", and the second run between January and May labeled "Season X.5". Examples of this include the 2004 incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, ABC's FlashForward, and ABC Family's Make It or Break It.

Since at least the 2000s, new broadcast television series are often ordered (funded) for just the first 10 to 13 episodes, to gauge audience interest. If a series is popular, the network places a "back nine order" and the season is completed to the regular 20 to 26 episodes. An established series which is already popular, however, will typically receive an immediate full-season order at the outset of the season. A midseason replacement is a less-expensive short-run show of generally 10–13 episodes designed to take the place of an original series that failed to garner an audience and has not been picked up. A "series finale" is the last show of the series before the show is no longer produced. (In the UK, it means the end of a season, what is known in the United States as a "season finale").

A standard television season in United States television runs predominantly across the fall and winter, from September to May. Historically, the US networks filled their summer schedules primarily by airing reruns of their fall and winter shows, although they now typically air a more diverse mixture of reruns, burnoff runs of cancelled series, new limited or event series or reality shows, and other specials.

In Canada, the commercial networks air most US programming in tandem with the US television season, but their original Canadian shows follow a model closer to British than American television production. Due to the smaller production budgets available in Canada, a Canadian show's season normally runs to a maximum of 13 episodes rather than 20 or more, although an exceptionally popular series such as Corner Gas or Murdoch Mysteries might receive 20-episode orders in later seasons. Canadian shows do not normally receive "back nine" extensions within the same season, however; even a popular series simply ends for the year when the original production order has finished airing, and an expanded order of more than 13 episodes is applied to the next season's renewal order rather than an extension of the current season. Only the public CBC Television normally schedules Canadian-produced programming throughout the year; the commercial networks typically now avoid scheduling Canadian productions to air in the fall, as such shows commonly get lost amid the publicity onslaught of the US fall season. Instead, Canadian-produced shows on the commercial networks typically air either in the winter as mid-season replacements for cancelled US shows, or in the summer.[21]

Miniseries, limited series, and event series

While network orders for 13- or 22-episode seasons are still pervasive in the television industry, several shows have deviated from this traditional trend. Written to be close-ended and of shorter length than other shows, they are marketed with a variety of terms.

  • Miniseries: a very short, closed-ended series, typically six or more hours in two or more parts (nights), similar to an extended television movie. Many early miniseries were adaptations of popular novels of the day, such as The National Dream (1974), Roots (1977), and North and South (1985). In recent years, as described by several television executives interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, the term miniseries has grown to have a negative connotations within the industry, having become associated with melodrama-heavy works that were commonly produced under the format, while limited series or event series receive higher respect.[22]

UK and Australia usage

In the United Kingdom and other countries, these sets of episodes are referred to as a "series". In Australia, the broadcasting may be different from North American usage; however, the terms series and season are both used and are the same. For example, Battlestar Galactica has an original series as well as a remake, both are considered a different series each with their own number of individual seasons.

Australian television does not follow "seasons" in the way that US television does; for example, there is no "fall season" or "fall schedule". For many years, popular night-time dramas in Australia would run for much of the year, and would only go into recess during the summer period (December–February, as Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere), when ratings are not taken. Therefore, popular dramas would usually run from February through November each year. This schedule was used in the 1970s for popular dramas including Number 96. Many drama series, such as McLeod's Daughters, have received in the majority of between 22 and 32 episodes per season. Typically, a soap opera such as Home and Away would begin a new season in late January and the season finale would air in late November, with 220–230 episodes per season. However, during the Olympics, Home and Away would often go on hiatus, which is referred to as an "Olympic cliffhanger". Therefore, the number of episodes would decrease. Australian situation comedy series' seasons are approximately 13 episodes long and premiere any time in between February and November.

British shows have tended toward shorter series in recent years. For example, the first series of long-running science fiction show Doctor Who in 1963 featured forty-two 25‑minute episodes, this dropped to twenty-five by 1970 to accommodate changes in production and continued to 1984. For 1985 fewer but longer episodes were shown, but even after a return to shorter episodes in 1986, lack of support within the BBC meant fewer episodes were commissioned leading to only fourteen 25‑minute episodes up to those in 1989 after which it was cancelled. The revival of Doctor Who from 2005 has comprised thirteen 45‑minute installments. However, there are some series in the UK that have a larger number of episodes, for example Waterloo Road started with 8 to 12 episodes, but from series three onward it increased to twenty episodes, and series seven will contain 30 episodes. Recently, American non-cable networks have also begun to experiment with shorter series for some programs, particularly reality shows, such as Survivor. However, they often air two series per year, resulting in roughly the same number of episodes per year as a drama.

This is a reduction from the 1950s, in which many American shows (e.g. Gunsmoke) had between 29 and 39 episodes per season. Actual storytelling time within a commercial television hour has also gradually reduced over the years, from 50 minutes out of every 60 to the current 44 (and even less on some networks), beginning in the early 21st century.

The usage of "season" and "series" differ for DVD and Blu-ray releases in both Australia and the UK. In Australia, many locally produced shows are termed differently on home video releases. For example, a set of the television drama series Packed to the Rafters or Wentworth is referred to as "season" ("The Complete First Season", etc.), whereas drama series such as Tangle are known as a "series" ("Series 1", etc.). However, British-produced shows such as Mrs. Brown's Boys are referred to as "season" in Australia for the DVD and Blu-ray releases.

In the UK, most programmes are referred to as "series". However, "season" is now starting to be used for some American and international releases.

Running time

In the United States, dramas produced for hour-long time slots typically are 39 to 42 minutes in length (excluding advertisements), while sitcoms produced for 30-minute time slots typically are 18 to 21 minutes long. There are exceptions as subscription-based TV channels (such as HBO, Starz, Cinemax, and Showtime) have episodes with 45 to 48 minutes of program, similar to Britain.

In Britain dramas typically run from 46 to 48 minutes on commercial channels, and 57 to 59 minutes on the BBC. Half-hour programmes are around 22 minutes on commercial channels, and around 28 minutes on the BBC. The longer duration on the BBC is due to the lack of advertising breaks.

In France most television shows (whether dramas, game shows or documentaries) have a duration of 52 minutes. This is the same on nearly all French networks (TF1, France 2, France 5, M6, Canal+, etc.).[24]

See also


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  2. ^ "Television Highlights", The Washington Post, September 4, 1951, p. B13.
  3. ^ "Coast to Coast Television" (CBS advertisement), The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 1951, p. 9.
  4. ^ "Hill Street Blues A Cop TV Turning Point". Mysterynet.
  5. ^ Lang, Brent (June 6, 2012). "Why Television Is Trouncing Film at Major Media Companies".
  6. ^ Zakarin, Jordan (June 29, 2012). "Steven Soderbergh Hints at Switch to Television". The Hollywood Reporter.
  7. ^ Heintjies, Tom (September 21, 2012). "The Oral History of SpongeBob SquarePants" (#17). Hogan's Alley. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  8. ^ Ellis, John; Hall, Nick (2017): ADAPT. figshare. Collection.
  9. ^ Carter, Bill (April 4, 2010). "Weighty Dramas Flourish on Cable". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  10. ^ Fernandez, Sofia M. (September 26, 2011). "'Pan Am' Among Season's Priciest Pilots". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  11. ^ Barnes, Brooks (August 28, 2011). "Prime Time Ambitions". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  12. ^ Lotz, Amanda (2007). The Television will be Revolutionized. New York and London: New York University Press. pp. 82–85.
  13. ^ a b Storey, Michael (2009-04-23). "THE TV COLUMN: Not in 18–49 age group? TV execs write you off". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
  14. ^ Carter, Bill (April 6, 2010). "An 'Idol' Ratings Loss, but Not in Its Pocketbook". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  15. ^ "ABC, "Dancing with the Stars" Again Top Monday Television Ratings". City News Service. Beverly Hills Courier. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  16. ^ Santiago, Rosario (2007-10-03). "For Advertising Purposes, 'Grey's Anatomy' May Well be Colored Green". BuddyTV. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  17. ^ Steinberg, Brian (October 18, 2010). "Simon Who? 'Idol' Spots Still Priciest in Prime Time". Advertising Age. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  18. ^ Schneider, Michael (July 8, 2015). "Networks Put in Short Orders for Next Season". Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  19. ^ "Vacation's Over; 'the Sopranos' Returning for One Last Shot". Milwaukee Journal. March 28, 2007. Archived from the original on November 4, 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  20. ^ Bozeman, Bobby (June 24, 2011). "Pop Cultured: When summer and the Braves get you down, just flip around". Anniston Star. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  21. ^ "For Canadian TV, summer is the new growing season". The Globe and Mail, June 8, 2011.
  22. ^ a b Rose, Lacey; Goldberg, Lesley (February 28, 2014). "Heroes, 24: What's the Difference Between a 'Miniseries,' 'Limited' or 'Event' Series?". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  23. ^ Turitz, Neil (June 11, 2015). "From 'American Crime' to 'Wayward Pines,' Limited Series Invade Network TV". Variety. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  24. ^ Morin, Fabien (2015-03-09). "Pourquoi les programmes durent-ils 52 minutes à la télévision ?". TV Magazine (in French). Retrieved 2017-07-24.

External links

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