The terms you?re looking for are episodic and serial.
Episodic television shows tell a story in each episode about the same
cast of characters. Each episode tells a complete story and the viewer
does not need to watch the episodes in sequence. Both drama and comedy
shows can follow the episodic format. The characters rarely develop or
change and the stories tend to follow a basic formula.
Serial television shows tell stories that develop over a period of
time and the story arch requires sequential viewing to make sure the
viewer doesn?t miss anything. Mini-series are short versions of
Episodic television is excellent for syndication because the episodes
don?t have to be shown in order and reruns can go on forever because
each episode makes sense by itself. There is a current trend to
serials such as Lost or 24 where each episode builds on what has gone
before. It is more difficult to syndicate these shows but they have
been very successful in seasonal packages released on DVD.
Here are some articles that discuss the current trends with the
emergence of serials and their impact on episodic TV.
~ czh ~
episodic: a show in which nothing that happens on one episode
significantly impacts later episodes
serial: a show in which the plot develops from episode to episode; compare episodic
Oil/Water; Plot Arcs/Episodic TV
Things were so much simpler with TOS. People knew it was episodic
television, not a soap opera or a miniseries. Connections between
shows were limited to things like dead characters' not being around
anymore, actors' getting to put a little extra umph into certain
lines, a developing relationship, and, just maybe, someone's referring
to something from a previous episode in such a way that people
wouldn't be confused if they didn't get it.
The rules for this arrangement are familiar, but they are not simple.
In fact, doing episodic television well is quite demanding, and in
some ways more demanding than doing a continuous story.
(This is a long article that discusses the challenges involved in
writing episodic TV.)
EPISODIC VS. SERIAL
The defining quality of the soap opera form is its seriality. A serial
narrative is a story told through a series of individual, narratively
linked installments. Unlike episodic television programs, in which
there is no narrative linkage between episodes and each episode tells
a more or less self-contained story, the viewer's understanding of and
pleasure in any given serial installment is predicated, to some
degree, upon his or her knowledge of what has happened in previous
episodes. Furthermore, each serial episode always leaves narrative
loose ends for the next episode to take up. The viewer's relationship
with serial characters is also different from those in episodic
television. In the latter, characters cannot undergo changes that
transcend any given episode, and they seldom reference events from
previous episodes. Serial characters do change across episodes (they
age and even die), and they possess both histories and memories.
Serial television is not merely narratively segmented, its episodes
are designed to be parceled out in regular installments, so that both
the telling of the serial story and its reception by viewers is
institutionally regulated. (This generalization obviously does not
anticipate the use of the video tape recorder to "time shift"
Japanese vs. American Animation
And there is one thing prevalent in almost all American animation --
it is episodic. Episode after episode, the main characters return
unchanged and unaffected by the previous episode's events. It is
always possible to miss an episode here and there, or watch the
episodes out of order, and never be lost.
As mentioned above, many anime series are just that, series. The
storyline is continuous, with plot twists and character development,
and in my opinion, makes them more interesting to watch. The viewer
cannot simply sit back and expect the characters to all be the same as
the previous episode, and may miss something if they failed to catch
an episode or two.
How will the web affect TV shows?
tv shows episodic vs serial