Serial Programming a Format or a Genre

11 01 2007

“Is Serial Programming a Format or a Genre? Slippery Language in the Popular Press”

The New York Times is the latest authority to chime in on the controversy of the Fall 2006 television lineup, as people still debate about complex television and the failure of some of the new shows this fall.

By this point, I find that so much of the negativity surrounding seriality has become the way the failure of these various shows have been covered in the popular press, particularly in considering serial programming a genre. That’s the language used by reporter Edward Wyatt in this story. After first calling serial programming a ‘format,’ he later writes, ‘All of which has left some fans of the genre wondering whether it is worth committing to untested new serials, or better to wait and see if a new series will be around for more than a few weeks.’

That raises an interesting question. Serial programming is not new. Maybe there is a particular bent of serial programming to this new format, but the idea of storylines that connect from week-to-week has helped drive narrative interest in some shows for a long time now. But, to me, the serial format is a mode of storytelling, not a genre of story, at least not in the sense television genres are usually discussed in.

What we have here is a question about genre and h”

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