Serial Storytelling on TV

Posted by on Nov 2, 2013 in Storytelling
Serial Storytelling on TV

Unlike serial formats, many novels, films/movies or even a lot of video games consist of a clear beginning, a middle and an end. To a certain extent, they can be considered to be ONE-OFFS.

Fundamental characteristics of serials (in contrast to one-offs):

  • extended conversation ( depth of story and character)
  • emotional connection
  • more detailed stories

 

Weekly formats in serial TV

1. SERIAL

unit2_serial(Storymooc 2013 University of Applied Sciences Potsdam)

  • Ongoing Story
  • continious developping characters and dramatic plot in order to keep the audiences’ attention

e.g. Grace Anatomy / Desperate Houswives / Gilmore Girls / Game of Thrones / The Tudors

 

Megamovie

packed with characters and events of Dickensian dimension and color, their time and place observed with satiric exactitude, each has the kind of cohesive dramatic arc that defines a work complete unto itself. ( Vincent Canby)

e.g. Mad Men / Boardwalk Empire /  Game of Thrones / Lost / Breaking Bad

 

2. PROCEDURAL

unit2_procedural(Storymooc 2013 University of Applied Sciences Potsdam)

  • series of stand-alone episodes based on case-of-the-week theme
  • each episode contains several plot or rather story arcs

e.g. Monk / CSI / Castle / The Mentalist / House / Bones

 

How do writers achieve such a case or mystery?

Often a mystery in a narrative occurs when the plot withholds important events from our knowledge. [...] delaying the information about [event X] until [person Z] learns of it. (David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson)

RETARDATION TECHNIQUE (standard of nearly every mystery story, e.g. film, novel, movie or a game)

Only by delaying the revelation of some information can the [plot] arouse anticipation, curiosity, suspense and surprise. (David Bordwell)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Bomb Example

 

Difference in writing a procedural and a serial

e.g. CSI – a procedural:

  • Define the ARENA – the setting of the mystery (Where does the murder happen?)
  • Include a CLUE PATH  in order to plot the episode
  • red herring = wrong clues

> So the case-of-the-week and the Arena impact each episode, the plot and the overall story.
> Episodic storytelling

e.g. Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones – serial dramas:

  • a murder happens due to the development of the stories (not in the beginning)
  • place and time is not incentive for the story arcs but part of it and its characters behaviours

> The entire story, the plot and each episode are part of the Arena/the setting.
> Arc-driven storytelling

  • unit2_cluepath
  • unit2_proceduralsvsserial

 

Weeklies vs. Dailies

Weekly Formats:

  • Procedural/Serial
  • Half-Hour Comedy / Sitcom (e.g. How I Met Your Mother, Two and A Half Man, Friends, …)

Characters in Weeklies:

  • more freedom and time (months/years) to develop a character
  • show different traits 

Daily Formats:

  • Daily Soaps ( Good Time, Bad Time)

 

Characters in Dailies:

  • not overly complex / deep
  • simplifying but not boring 

 

TELENOVELA:

  • usually have a definite ending, whereas daily soaps just keep on going
  • Ending is the climax of the whole series

 

 

Production Process ( according to Des Doyle )

e.g. U.S Series have their own SHOWRUNNER: 

  • responsible for the creation of a series in regards to the creative and logistic process
  • duties are often a combination of those traditionally assigned to the writer, executive producer and script editor

 

Whereas daily dramas are developed within the whole Team/Writers’ room :

  • 1. FUTURING – decide story arc for the next month
  • 2. STORYLINING – storyline for a group of episodes (~5) and plot out the happening
  • 3. DIALOGUES – full script

 

 

Biggest challanges in creating TV Series

  • Emotional connection – make audience care about what’s happening
  • Audience might want to lean into the screen – make the plot so interesting that the audience forget about everything else
  • Getting peoples’ attention – a good hook: importance of characters and audiences’ interest and care for them