Episodic-Serial TV Show

Episodic-serial TV shows are a type of fictitious tv programming that are commonly seen aired on major networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, and HBO. These programs can vary in subject matter covered. An episodic-serial shows’ focus of the plot is usually over a whole season, rather than individual episodes. Shows like Game of Thrones follows a main cast of characters across a permanent, dynamically changing world where their actions have a direct effect on the plot that comes ahead. Furthermore, missing an episode or two of Game of Thrones will have a stronger negative impact on the viewer than episodic-chapter shows because the viewer will be missing crucial pieces of information given in episodes past. Episodic-serial TV shows have their roots in radio broadcasting, with shows like The Shadow being one of the first episodic-serial shows to be broadcasted to the masses.

Episodic-serial shows found their start in radio broadcasting, with The Shadow being one of the first popular serial shows on air. The Shadow was one of the first major superhero characters created and built upon. The show itself was about the adventures the Shadow, a mysterious character who had, “the power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. The show ran on radio from 1930 to 1935, becoming the early influence for many other famous superheroes we see in pop culture today (anon. 1998). Episodic-serial shows today on TV have become some of the most critically acclaimed TV programs currently on air. The Walking Dead has become AMC’s highest grossing tv show they offer by total number of viewers, with as many as 17 million people tuning in for the shows 5th and 7th season premiere (Otterson, 2017). Episodic-serial shows are also expensive to produce, even from episode to episode. HBO is expecting to spend 15 million dollars per episode during production of season 8 for Game of Thrones. Widely successful serial shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Have become the flagship programs for many networks, bringing in large numbers of viewers.

Episodic-serial shows have traditionally been shied away from in the past, due to the requirement that the viewer pays attention to the show, requiring the viewer to pay attention week in and week out, without missing an episode. Due to the ease of accessibility of shows today from services such as Netflix or HBO, episodic-serial shows are now increasing in demand. Viewers are now able to binge an entire season of a show, without having to wait a week between each episode, viewing entire seasons as quickly as one season per week (Dwyer, 2016).

With many episodic-serial shows, it is not uncommon to see them start out as episodic-chapter, and then naturally migrate to a more serialized show. The show Lost Was originally intended to be a very procedural, episodic-chapter show, but due to the huge early on success the show saw, producers were able to make the story between each episode the focal point rather than the afterthought. In the later seasons of Lost, the individual story of each member on the island stopped becoming the driving force of each episode’s plot, compared to the first several seasons, where the individual story told about each character each episode was the object that furthered the plot. Eventually the show evolved to the point where the rich, elaborate mythology of the island became the driving force of the plot, taking a whole season to tell the hero’s journey, rather than a single episode.


Anonymous (1998, July). The History Of The Shadow. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from https://web.archive.org/web/20120321072356/http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/kes/350/history.html

Dwyer, E. (2016, June 08). Netflix & Binge: New Binge Scale Reveals TV Series We Devour and Those We Savor. Retrieved December 06, 2017, from https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/netflix-binge-new-binge-scale-reveals-tv-series-we-devour-and-those-we-savor-1

Otterson, J. (2017, October 27). ‘Walking Dead’ Season 8 Premiere Draws Lowest Opening Ratings Since Season 3 (Updated). Retrieved December 06, 2017, from http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/walking-dead-season-8-premiere-ratings-1202596402/

Ryan, M. (2009, February 27). Has TV lost its nerve when it comes to complex dramas? Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2009/02/has-tv-lost-its-nerve-when-it-comes-to-complex-dramas.html

Written by Cole Wilhite, 2017