The Serial

Words by Alexander Thompson

So far I’ve spent an awful lot of my time talking about movies. But hey, TV shows are also a very large part of media. It’s weird that two forms of media that are so intrinsically similar have been at odds for so long. Ignoring all the technical and business aspects, the main difference between the two is that movies are one condensed story and TV shows tell a story over a series of shorts. In a strange way movies are like a short story, meant to be watched in one sitting. While TV shows are a novel, intended to be absorbed over an extended period of time. Now, many TV shows choose not to follow an overarching plot, just having their characters scramble their way through unrelated scenarios. And that works well for sitcoms or long running shows that eventually replace the entire cast with new characters. (I’m looking at you CSI). But I’m here to argue that TV storytelling is at its strongest in the form of the serial.

The overarching plot, this seasons villain, the theories, the mysteries, such in such is actually (Insert serial killer name here). By having so many episodes of a show to work with, writers are given the option to take their time with storytelling, laying out plot threads are character development to keep you following along and tuning in each week. Now it doesn’t always work out like that, some shows aren’t able to make use of their time and instead present the viewer with filler to bide time. However done correctly you end up really living with those characters in a way that movies are rarely able to do. It’s not just the extended format, but even the gaps between episodes. Play your cards right and the breaks between episodes can be more engaging than the episodes themselves. It’s a time for theories and speculation. Shows like Lost, Game of Thrones thrive by not showing all the cards at once. It’s that mystery that keeps people going.

So serial shows are great. Their method is so successful that even films take certain elements from them. Now the whole concepts of serial shows are greatly impacted by streaming services and binge watch culture, however that is a story for another day. And just like a serial show we’ll be back, same bat time, same bat channel.

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