A television series is a work generally narrative of audiovisual nature that is broadcast on television, in periodic deliveries, each of them maintaining a unity and continuity of plot or at least thematic with the previous and subsequent episodes. It can consist of one or more seasons.
Periodicity and production
Television series can be broadcast by seasons or sets of chapters that may or may not present a theme of their own and parallel to the general argument of the series. Although the term is popularly used to designate serial fiction, other genres can be offered in series, such as documentaries.
The television series should not be confused with the film or movie, although the latter may also have second parts (sequels), analepsis (pre-schools), re-melting or reboots or form more or less extensive cycles around a character, the so-called franchises, film series or sagas (for example, those formed around the character of James Bond or Indiana Jones, or the trilogies hosted under the Star Wars label). On the other hand, a secondary character in a television series can give rise to another in which this character is the main character (for example, from a character in the series Cheers came Frasier, and from another in Breaking Bad came Better Call Saul). The series born in this way is called a spin-off.
To create a series, the usual procedure is to create a proof of concept called a pilot episode, which allows producers to check whether the formula adopted is good, has a high audience and good reviews, and whether more money can be invested to ensure continuity, or to correct any minor defects that may be perceived. Very important are the teams of scriptwriters, supervised by the executive producer or showrunner, in charge of all the creative aspects of the serial and almost always its chief editor. Usually, screenwriting software such as Final Draft, Celtx or others is used.
The initial idea for an episode is called “trampoline”, “lever” or springboard. Often a preview or trailer of what happened in previous episodes is needed to refresh the memory of the plot. Then, before the credits, an initial part of the narration that serves as a “hook” to capture the interest of the audience, the so-called conflict, problem or teaser, almost always a brete that serves to focus the viewer’s attention. In the structure, the “tag” is also important, the final scene or scenes that come after the last commercial break, which serves to tie up loose ends, propose later intrigues and sustain the long-term continuity of the plot, so that they encourage fidelity to the series.
In the elaboration of the script, the so-called “couplets” are important, two-line dialogues in which one character answers another in an epigrammatic or ingenious way. The scriptwriter divides the literary script into scenes to form the technical script, trying to make them meaningful and rounded in themselves. When there is a delay in production or a lack of budget, a recapitulatory episode or “clipping episode” is usually used, which contains various flash-backs of previous episodes, outstanding and already known passages, framed in a minimum of new material.
In the case of comedies, post-production is important, since different types of effects are added to underline the gags: sound effects such as canned laughter or fake shots. Another phenomenon to take into account is the documentaries about the shooting, which constitute a genre of their own, destined to exploit the market constituted by the fans of the same, since each series also generates an important merchandising.
The genre was influenced at the beginning by the radio serial and the romantic novel. Argumentally, they almost always develop serialized plots around lies and secrets that are gradually revealed. Later on, a great diversity of plots was established in the genre, which even hybridizes the genres, something that usually offers quite a lot of possibilities for success:
Two factors that were of great importance for the emergence of this form of entertainment were radio and cinema. During the 20th century, middle-class families who had a radio in their home and around which they gathered to listen to the stories that were told in the different radio broadcasts. As for the cinema, it is obvious that the television series adopted its audiovisual format on a smaller screen than in the projection rooms. Thus, television became popular thanks to the fusion of two languages: the immediacy of radio and the audiovisual language of cinema.
During the 1940s, a television phenomenon developed that had its starring role from the 1950s, when the presence of a television in the home became standardized. The factors that favored the television to become a consumer good were its easy and inexpensive production and the innovation it meant for the people of that time.
There are productions that do not meet the requirement of having a narrative structure; however, they are considered as series, because of their invoice, production process and way of programming.
As a rule, fiction series are much more expensive productions than serials. This is due to the fact that they are usually produced to cover the hours of greatest television consumption or prime time, while the latter are destined to daytime bands, where the audience levels are lower.
Due to their considerable cost, they are programmed once a week (occasionally, two or three) and almost never in a daily strip, which is how serials are usually broadcast.
A series is usually conceived in a closed way, with an expected end, but leaving open the possibility of expanding the production, depending on the results of the audience. The most usual is that a first series of thirteen episodes is made and, if the success is accompanied, it is very probable that the series will return with new deliveries.
Friends is one of the most popular TV series.
Situation comedy. (Sitcom in English) From the point of view of production and programming, they are defined by a duration between 20 and 40 minutes because of their limited scenarios (one or two and almost always inside) and because they are recorded with the assistance of the public.
Teleseries or long distance series: Each chapter lasts between 50 and 60 minutes, although in some countries, such as Spain, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, the footage can be much higher. They have different scenarios, both indoor and outdoor. They are distinguished between dramas and comedies.
Anthology: This is a type of series that, in each chapter, changes characters, settings and even production equipment. The continuity between one and the other is achieved through the theme, the same for all the episodes. An example is the Spanish production La huella del crimen (1985), which, in each episode, dealt with a different criminal case, based on real events. An example of an anthology series where the characters change, but the production team and actors are the same, is American Horror Story (2011).
Mini-series: It is a type of production halfway between TV series and TV movies (in English, TV Movie). They are usually planned for at least three episodes, with a duration of approximately 90 minutes each, that is, the standard that the American television industry has assigned to TV movies.
Microseries: Production that lasts between 3 and 5 minutes. Like sitcoms, they have few scenarios but; with a clear narrative and strong themes. They can have minimum episodes of 20, even by seasons, they are mostly handled on the Internet.
The documentary genre can be the object of a serial broadcast on television, as well as its different variants, arising from a process of incorporating techniques characteristic of other genres. This is the case of the information contained in the docudramas in which the reality is approached with narrative resources typical of fiction series, such as the scriptwriting from plots and even characters. An example of a serial docudrama is the Spanish production Vivir cada día, broadcast by TVE1 between 1978 and 1988.
Another variant of the documentary is the docu-soap (docu, for documentary; soap, for soap opera), although, in this case, the narrative techniques used do not come from fiction series, but from television serials. As in these, the plots are open from one chapter to another. The Catalan production Bellvitge Hospital, offered by the Catalan regional television channel TV3, is an example of docu-soap.
These days we are witnessing a renewed consumerist fever with the celebration of a new edition of Black Friday. On Vaya Tele! we take a long look at the most outstanding offers and perhaps some of you will end up buying something. I’m telling you that I did, but the truth is that I took much more advantage of the many bargains related to the world of cinema.
All of this has led me to ask myself if it still makes sense to continue buying TV series on dvd or blu-ray. The truth is that packs take up a lot of space -especially if they are editions for collectors and not mere compilations of episodes- and we are currently living a VOD boom that keeps on growing. Leaving aside those who continue to consume only downloaded episodes, is it better to let ourselves be carried away by the convenience of Netflix, Movistar or HBO services?
In an ideal world there would be a vod service that would have almost all existing series at such an affordable price that it would no longer make sense to resort to random downloads. I would love to live in the alternative universe where that exists, but the truth is that there are many platforms and it is not within my possibilities to pay to have all of them, but even if it were, it is not an option that satisfies me.
I believe that it will happen to many of us that we really don’t want to have everything, but we do want to have everything that really interests us and that awakens our curiosity, even though we may never see it. The problem is that this customized service is something that cannot be taken for granted and that is where it comes in, as far as our personal economy allows, to have everything we can really have at home on DVD or Blu-ray.
What I do not understand is that we are voracious consumers of television series and we have not bought any or almost any television series over the years. There have been packs for all tastes and with very affordable prices, unless one knew how to look for or wait for the right occasion. In addition, there enters in scene “to reward” to the titles that more have conquered to you as the fact to be able to say that you have this or that series.
It is obvious that the best thing is to have seen it, but there is something special in the fact of possession, very much in line with that curious feeling of personal fulfillment when as children we made a collection of stickers and got one of those we were missing. Having it downloaded and safely stored on a hard drive would be the equivalent of paying extra to get a few. Yes, you do, but it’s not the same.
It is precisely in that sense of belonging that what I think is the other big problem I have with VOD services arises. Yes, they’re there and you can see them whenever you want… as long as they don’t run out of rights and just disappear. That’s something that, for example, doesn’t happen with Netflix and their own productions, which is a great added value, but it does happen with the rest of their catalog.
I understand that this can be compensated for by giving priority to the viewing of what you know is going to disappear, but there is also an inconvenience there, not to mention that you may simply not have time during that margin they give you – and that is if you even know about it. It is also a constant reminder that it is a simple service and that what you gain in space in your home, you lose in the fact that nothing is really yours.
However, the industry is increasingly moving towards digital as the future of consumption of both television series and movies. It’s still a lot more convenient than having to supply countless stores with physical copies that the buyer can treasure for a lifetime -or at least until it’s impossible to find a player of the format in question-, but does that compensate us consumers?
In the case of the series, I must confess that at first I thought it was a bit stupid to buy fictions that I could see on TV, in some cases very regularly -how many times has Antena 3 already broadcast the first seasons of ‘The Simpsons’?-, something that did not happen to me with the movies. It didn’t take me long to change my mind, but with the rise of VOD services, it has come to a point where I make a clear distinction between films and series.
It is true that the percentage of films and series that I see again is quite low and that in many cases it is more of a collection than anything else, but with a film I can really think that at any moment I will see it again, while with a series it is quite exceptional to see it again from the beginning. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the series that I have seen whole again after having bought them.
That’s where the advantages of VOD come back, because that limited possibility acquires another dimension in the line of those films or series that they have in their catalog that you always say you want to see and then never do. What do you really have the absolute need to see a particular one that they don’t have? Well, you go to Amazon, Zavvi, Fnac or any other store and buy it.
It won’t be immediate -although it will be digital copies, which have also existed for a long time-, but I doubt it will happen more than… once a year? Why then do many of us continue to buy series, in some cases to the point of obsession? Partly because we can -if there is no money, then it is impossible-, but also because we want to have them, make them ours.
There will be many strong arguments against it -the lack of space is the most convincing, sometimes because it becomes a serious problem impossible to solve- and little by little more and more people simply believe that physical copies no longer make sense to them -the same thing is happening with books and ebooks to cite another comparable example-.
However, there are those who simply want to have what they like and that services such as those of Netflix are a complement, sometimes so important that it makes us see things that otherwise we would systematically ignore, even if it would have caught our attention -there is no time for everything!-, but I want to be able to go to the shelf, take a series or a film and be able to put it on without stopping to think about other people’s catalogs.
You just make the rules, even if you find that they don’t edit a certain series or movie or that they do but only on DVD when you have decided that you only buy blu-rays. I wish everything was wonderful for those of us who follow that path and everything we want is released, in the best possible quality and at laughable prices, but that’s not the case either. Nevertheless, some of us, and not a few -although less and less- prefer it.
Don’t know which series to get hooked on? Well, autumn is full of new things and new seasons that show that it is not true that second seasons were always bad. In a selection of the best of all platforms, we have 15 essential ones with space for all genres: from the action of the long-awaited Antidisturbios, with the support of the direction of Rodrigo Sorogoyen and the interpretation of Raúl Arévalo; through the teenage love affairs of We are who we are to the terror of The Curse of Bly Manor. A new season of The Crown, one of the best in history, will also arrive; Gangs of London, one of the series-phenomena of the season, will be premiered, although not yet dated, and of course, we will see that series that long before its premiere was already the most awaited by critics and audiences. Patria, of course. Can you ask for more? Well, don’t miss the one starring Kidman and Hugh Grant or the adaptation of the immense play Juicio a una Zorra, by Miguel del Arco, with Carmen Machi… Who said that TV was the little sister of cinema?
TV’s top superheroes achieved huge success with their first season, so this second season they are coming more and better. The unprejudiced and very brilliant adaptation of the comic book by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson has a lot of time on its hands.
Hillary Swank and Josh Charles (the late Will from The Good Wife) star in this science fiction story with a strong emotional character. It is the chronicle of a trip to Mars as seen through the eyes of both the crew of the spacecraft in charge of the mission and their relatives on Earth.
The spectacular trailer of this series gave us the long teeth. And the fact that Ridley Scott is involved in this science fiction production with a conceptual touch (robots raising human children on an enigmatic planet) assures us that there is plenty of production money (and ambition). Starring Travis Fimmel (Vikings).
Pizpireta but with a lot of background, this British series, created by Oliver Lansley and starring the charismatic Anna Paquin, travels through human miseries through Robyn (Paquin), a public relations expert who specializes in some of her clients’ things that are not that, public
The actresses Irene Escolar and Barbara Lennie are the promoters of this project that aims to bring the theater to the screen… or vice versa. Plays turned into self-concluding episodes. Just for the option of being able to watch all the times you want the immeasurable Trial of a Vixen, by Miguel del Arco, with Carmen Machi, this series is already worth it.
The tone (some will say toniquete) that has also worked for Luca Guadagnino in his filmography (Io sono l’amore, Call Me by Your Name) seems to be present in this story of contemporary adolescents set in an American military base in Italy.
Ryan Murphy, one of television’s most prolific producers, always has something interesting in store for him. In this case, his portrait of Nurse Ratched from Someone Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring his muse Sarah Paulson.
The latest controversy in the adaptation of Fernando Aramburu’s novel: his provocative poster. But what did we expect from a series that raised blisters before it was written. In any case, it is the most important Spanish television premiere of the fall. And perhaps of all 2020.
Matthew Macfadyen (Succession) and Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) are the heads of this British series created by playwright James Graham, who adapts to the screen his own play about a real event: the story of Charles Ingram, a contestant in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? suspected of not having won the contest (i.e. the money) fairly.
His first season couldn’t (didn’t want to?) make a global debut, but the second will certainly. The entertaining and visually overwhelming series of the Star Wars universe will also have new faces in its second installment, some already known to fans of the film saga.
Finally, the American remake of one of the series that at the time (2013-2014) was a surprise and an obsession. After many (MANY) knocks, the project already has a release date. The person in charge of carrying it out has been none other than Gillian Flynn, the author of Perdida. With these precedents, how can we not be obsessed with Utopia again?
After Hill House, Bly Manor Mike Flanagan has looked for another house and, hopefully, other terrors to repeat the success (of critics and public) of the best (i.e. worst) haunted house on TV. The new season-series is based-inspired by a classic, Henry James’ Other Turn of the Screw. Funny fact: a large part of the Hill House cast repeats in Bly Manor.
Sorogoyen, the filmmaker of (toxic?) masculinities also has a series. And his title makes it clear where the, ahem, shots will go. After the very well received La Unidad, Movistar+ is once again betting on action.
As in that very modern Eyes Wide Shut promo that simply launched the names of its stars (Kubrick, Cruise, Kidman), The Undoing sells itself by simply quoting who is in front of and behind its cameras: David E. Kelley (screenwriter) and Susanne Bier (director) behind, Kidman and Hugh Grant in front. No further questions, Your Honor.
2020 YES can improve. In fact, we know that it will when Peter Morgan’s series, one of the best in history (just like that), opens its fourth season, the second in which Queen Elizabeth II is played by that prodigious actor, Olivia Colman.
One of the series-phenomena of the season will come to Spain, like the excellent The Great, Normal People and Ramy, from the hand of Starzplay. This fiction of modern-day London mobsters, written by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery, has received rave reviews.