Episodic-Chapter TV Show

Episodic-Chapter Shows are stories that have a recurring set of characters who deal with conflict and resolution (Campbell 2017). It is the opposite of serial programs, which are shows that have a continuous storyline (Campbell 2017). Episodic-Chapter Shows can be watched and completely understood by viewers who have never seen a single episode of the show.  A wide variety of genres such as comedy, science fiction, detective shows, and drama fit the episodic-chapter format adequately (Campbell 2017).

In the 1930’s and 40’s, more and more televisions were being sold, and there were many questions about what type of television shows would take up air time (Thompson 2017).  Chapter shows were not introduced until the debut of television sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-1957) in 1951. This black and white sitcom follows Lucy Ricardo and her husband Ricky Ricardo in New York City. I Love Lucy followed the episodic-chapter structure instead of the typical variety show (Thompson 2017). The show was “the most watched on television for four of its six on the air” (Thompson 2017:1).

The Big Bang Theory cast

The popularity of this show revealed I Love Lucy established itself as the first episodic-chapter popular TV show and inspired other sitcom writers today to use this format. For example, Chuck Lorre’s The Big Bang Theory (2007-) follows the episodic-chapter style. The Big Bang Theory follows four socially awkward friends scientists living in California, and is a popular contemporary TV show today.

The growth of Netflix has helped episodic shows grow dramatically. Netflix allows people to watch “all episodes of a season at once” without worrying about having to watch a certain show at a specific time (Adalian 2017: 1). Many of the chapter shows on Netflix, such as Stranger Things are getting increasingly popular. Also in today’s world, new streaming technology helps ad-dependent programs by making it less stressful for them to produce huge ratings each week with services like Netflix and Hulu (Adalian 2017).


Adalian, J. (2017, August 03). The Return of the Episodic Anthology Series. Vulture.com.  Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-return-of-the-episodic-anthology-series.html.

Allen, S., & Thompson, R. J. (2017, October 18). Early Genres. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/art/television-in-the-United-States/Early-genres.

Campbell, R. (2017). Media and Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age. 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford Books/ St. Martin’s.

Image Attribution: The Big Bang Cast Photo By: BagoGames. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Written by Cole F. Storm, 2017