Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
1 December 2008
Filed under:Humour & Entertainment at10:28 am

Earlier I was complaining that writers seemed to use the large number of characters to skimp on character development of individual characters. Now I read that TV producers are making sure there’s a “mini-story” in each episode of an ongoing show because:

The biggest problem networks have with serialized shows is that they’re closed shops: if you didn’t start watching at the beginning of the season, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on.

I would add that if at any point I stop watching (or you have to stop because a series ends) I find it harder to re-establish my enthusiasm when I start again. The only way I’ve managed to get around this problem is by consuming shows some time after they’ve started so I can watch them back to back without big pauses in between.


  1. This is one of the things I like about (many) BBC series. They produce smaller runs (6-10 episodes), so it is much easier to watch a whole season. BBC series (at least, the ones I watch 🙂 do seem to have good quality, season-long story arcs.

    I also like the example of Life on Mars (uk version), where they decided that they only needed 2 seasons to tell the story, so they _stopped_. A US network would never take the risk of stopping a popular series before it faded…

    I think the big US networks could learn a lot, both from this and from their own alternative networks, which have been doing the same thing; smaller “seasons”, with good character development and story arcs. But they won’t, of course. 🙂

    Comment by Harald — 1 December 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  2. Sorry, I do not agree at all with this or your previous blog post. Just because a drama is serialized does not mean that characters don’t develop. LOST is the perfect example where characters do develop, and it’s fully serialized, AND it has an end date (May 2010).

    In fact, I absolutely hate with passion episodic TV. I can’t stand it. They don’t manage to grab my attention and draw me into their world. The best TV shows for me are “Twin Peaks”, the “X-Files”‘ alien mythology only, and “LOST”, all fully serialized. Only TV shows that were able to satisfy me even if they were not fully serialized (only somewhat) were “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Firefly”.

    Please read my blog post here about what I envision as a perfect TV series — for me.

    Comment by Eugenia — 3 December 2008 @ 1:44 am

  3. I think serialized TV certainly *could* offer long-term character development and that it would offer a better way to do this than episodic TV. Unfortunately, I have found that in many cases (including Lost) the writers get sloppy and end up having characters change motivations and attitudes suddenly between episodes assuming I guess that most viewers won’t have noticed. Don’t get me wrong – I also tend to prefer serialized to episodic TV. It’s just that its weaknesses sometimes annoy me.

    Comment by David Brake — 4 December 2008 @ 8:19 am

  4. I agree with you, this happens on most series, but I think “Lost” is one of the series that this doesn’t happen. Ben is always spooky, Jack is always protective, Locke is always weird. I personally find the two writers of Lost, Lindelof and Cuse, to be the best writers on TV today.

    Comment by Eugenia — 4 December 2008 @ 8:42 am

  5. […] Lost since it began and at first found it really engaging but regular readers will note increasing disenchantment setting in. Even though I know I only need to ‘hang in there’ for a season and a half […]

    Pingback by The blog of David Brake academic, consultant & journalist — 25 February 2009 @ 9:50 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment