Episodic vs. serialized

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by 11Alive, Sep 14, 2020.

?

What format of show do you prefer?

  1. Episodic

    13 vote(s)
    41.9%
  2. Serialized

    9 vote(s)
    29.0%
  3. No preference

    9 vote(s)
    29.0%
  1. 11Alive

    11Alive Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    What's your preference? I have to admit with my attention span getting shorter by the year that I have less patience for serialized. There are so many recent shows where if I miss one or two episodes, that show is dead to me. I watched all of Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow until the 2019 season. Then I missed the premieres and to this day I still haven't watched any of last season's episodes. It's just too hard to pick an episode and watch without knowing the previous ones. You have to be willing to binge-watch all of them. Worse yet with the Arrowverse are the yearly crossovers. You basically have to watch all the episodes of all the shows in the season leading up to the crossovers to keep from being confused in that complex and convoluted universe. Wait, isn't that character dead? Oh, he's been resurrected. And killed again. And resurrected, for the third time. Likewise, Agents of SHIELD lost me when I missed the first couple of episodes of season 4. I miss the days when one could watch any episode of TOS or even TNG without having to know continuity from the last few episodes. DS9 and Voyager may have had story arcs, but one could still basically jump in at any point.
     
  2. auntiehill

    auntiehill The Blooness Premium Member

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    I think I have a slight preference for serialized. I love TNG with all my Trekkie heart, and it's eminently re-watchabke but I think DS9 was a better show. Some of my most beloved shows in recent years-- Deadwood, Game of Thrones, Supernatural --all have a more serialized approach. It keeps me more actively engaged and I can't wait to see what will happen next. I do, however, appreciate the mixed approach taken by shows like Supernatural, for example, where a few episodes each season are basically stand-alone, "bottle" episodes that only refer to the major story-arc tangentially.

    As for missing shows, with cable having DVRs, On-Demand episodes, cable channels & streaming services that have the entire seasons at your fingertips, that's not much of a problem.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
  3. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I would have voted if there was a third option. "Both"

    DS9 is a good example of a show that did both. And that's what I prefer. Arcs can and do happen, but each season is not necessarily beholden to some grand plan.
     
  4. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    I'll go with episodic. Technically, neither is superior-- it's just a matter of the type of storytelling, and the same question could be asked of short stories versus novels. With episodic series, you get a variety of stories, each with a tight plot and satisfying conclusion (ideally). With a serialized show, you potentially get a more complex plot and more chances at character development. But the difference between a novel and a serialized TV show is that a novel is one person's vision and is complete when you start it-- a TV show is almost always created and written by committee with diverse hands involved, including a studio and a network. It is vulnerable to behind-the-scenes problems which can derail it in the middle of the story, and there is no guarantee that it will be completed, especially if the story is supposed to last more than a season. In practice, episodic storytelling on television is far more likely to be successful than serialized storytelling.
     
  5. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Commodore Commodore

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    My general feeling has always been "episodic" should be the primary format. That DOESN'T mean that a really good story can't be told over multiple episodes though. A two or even three part story (again, if it's good) can work.
     
  6. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I enjoy both, but generally prefer episodic because it makes the show easier to follow, and with my failing memory, I can easily forget details from episode to episode,making a serialized show a littler harder.
     
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  7. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think it depends on the context, and how well a show is executed. For example, I'm currently watching The Musketeers, which is an episodic show for the most part, and it works well like that, and I don't think it'd work quite as well as a serialized show. I think it's somewhat freeing to not have to depend on an entire storyline to move something forward, that episodes can stand alone if need be. Meanwhile, you have a show like Dark, which needs to be serialized for anything to make sense, as everything is built up from the last.

    Then you have the shows that are episodic for the most part, but carry a B-storyline, usually related to characters tying episodes together.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2020
  8. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I generally lean towards limited series that have an arc and, perhaps more importantly, an end. But for a traditional US type series with 20+ episodes a season and no end in sight until cancellation, episodic works well. The best of those were hybrids like Hill Street Blues or St Elsewhere with mini-arcs lasting 3-4 episodes within a season and occasional call-backs to earlier events.
     
  9. 11Alive

    11Alive Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm not sure DS9 really qualifies as serialized. It has story arcs, yes, but you generally don't need to watch all the preceding episodes to get into it. About the only things I found somewhat confusing when I missed an episode here or there was the sudden appearance of the new regular adversary, the Breen, or why Gul Dukat no longer looked Cardassian. Most of the episodes were standalone stories with only loose ties to other episodes. If you had only an hour to kill, you could watch "Blood Oath," "The Visitor," "One Little Ship," "Trials and Tribble-ations" or "Who Mourns for Morn" without wracking your brain about what happened before or after that episode. Likewise Voyager. Despite the consistent goal of trying to get home, few episodes needed the viewer to know continuity from other episodes. SG-1 and Atlantis were much the same, even with their detailed mythologies.
    It's not a matter of having all the episodes available, but rather just how many you are willing to watch. If one isn't in the mood or doesn't have the time to binge a whole season, it's tough to just grab an episode and watch. Something like Stranger Things, for example, it's impossible to just pick any episode and hope to get a grasp on the show or the season.
     
  10. BillJ

    BillJ Canon Warrior Premium Member

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    Just want a good story. Both ways can do that.
     
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  11. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    Both can work really well. Serialized makes a better first viewing but episodic with ongoing arcs tend to make the most rewatch able shows.
     
  12. BillJ

    BillJ Canon Warrior Premium Member

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    The problem with serialization is that if you don’t care for the general story, you’re done before it ever really gets off the ground, or if they screw up the last couple of episodes of a story.
     
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  13. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I lean toward episodic, but with some leeway for character growth, situational development, small arcs etc... It's just the tv I gravitate to more, not that I'm against watching a serial, but they really have to catch my attention, & lately they have to work to keep it, or I bail.

    I feel like serialization became more popular because they think it's more freeing, but I'm not sure that's true. It's more risky, so the stakes are higher, & the consequences are more severe. In order for it to truly work imho, you have to have a complete story concept from the beginning, & then you have to be able to execute it... & then it has to be good. If any one of those things isn't there, it will fall apart & lose its way, or the budget will get cut, dry up, get cancelled, or even worse, the suits start deciding its direction, or at best the writers will begin meandering just to keep it alive. Heck, there's been serials where all those things happened before they put it down

    If you want a show that's going to be on for a long time, your best bet is episodic. With format comes order. Business relies on order. They are more likely to trust it, & format is nothing to fear or deride. Sometimes artistic creativity thrives when you willingly set parameters. People only balk at it now, because it's fallen out of fashion, & that's because for the longest time it was television religion.

    However, if you have a truly excellent story to tell, serialized can work, but I'm of the belief that they have to go into it with an endgame, like it's a multiseason miniseries, otherwise we begin feeling like we're being taken on a wild goose chase after a while. You stop caring wherever the hell it's going.
     
  14. gblews

    gblews Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Serialized storytelling allows for the build up of drama in ways that stand alone episodes cannot. When it comes to drama, I’ll take serialization.
     
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  15. DigificWriter

    DigificWriter Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm going to ignore the poll and say "both", especially since some of my favorite series - such as Star Trek Voyager, ANGEL, Haven, Elementary, FRINGE, BONES, Sleepy Hollow, and Dollhouse, amongst others - are hybrids of the two formats and fall into the category of what I call the "Serialized Procedural".
     
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  16. JulieYBM

    JulieYBM Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm in favor of just both. Pokemon has been handling this pretty well since 2006. There's a mix of episodic episodes with story arcs, two-parters (heck, we just got our first ever four-parter in 2019) and the occasional one-episode gym battle or rival battle. The half-hour weekly format really lends itself to tighter storytelling while also leaving room for variety of different story types. Something I think US dramas can learn from is not necessarily relying on the one-hour drama structure. One-hour doesn't mean 'for adults' nor does half-hour mean 'for children'. Heck, look at what Shin Seiki Evangelion would manage to pull of in each of its twenty-six half-hour episodes.

    I think there's a strong argument to make that the production schedules of these works are also to blame for quality. Six-to-eight days to film a one-hour episode for a 22+ episode season is really not enough. Bare in mind, most of what I consume now is the DC/Trek/geek stuff in the one-hour format. You're looking at creators unnaturally trying to stretch a storyline out across 22 episodes! That's like 44 half-hour episodes, nearly a year's worth of weekly episodes. Dramas with season-long arcs have to stop dragging arcs out like that. Develop a damned story and think of the best way to end it quickly, whether that means two, three, or six episodes. Also, for the love of god, don't murder your staff and give them more lead time to refine storylines and cinematography.
     
  17. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yep, agreed. There are even times where the direction of a serial will completely change and drop storylines n order to retool itself, such as Homeland after season 3.

    I think what really helped episodic shows to become popular was syndication. To get into syndication, it was much easier to pump out episodes to get to meet a certain quota. Also makes more sense for cartoon series as there's no immediately noticeable start, end or seasonal changes. Syndication waned and episodic shows have started to lose favor as streaming became more popular along with serialized shows which streaming made easier to follow.
     
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  18. 11Alive

    11Alive Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think episode without arcs are even more rewatchable. Grab almost any episode of TOS and you're good for an hour's diversion. But if you watch just one part of "The Menagerie," it won't feel right.
    Exactly. If a serialized show loses your interest, that show is done for you. The odds of picking it up again are pretty slim. I can't remember the last time a serialized show was shown in syndication, except for the Galactica reboot on Comet. I have no interest in that, not only because it was depressing and I really don't care about any of those characters, but if I tried to watch it from anything except the very beginning, I'd be confused as heck. The same can't be said of the original Galactica, which I can watch any episode at any time, although the two-parters should be watched together.
     
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  19. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Admiral Admiral

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    If there's no arcs or at least emotional throughlines, once that episode is done, you have no hook to be excited about the next.

    It's why shows like Parks & Rec, Buffy, etc that are the most rewatchable of them all. The story is cut into neat digestible bits, but you have things like Leslie's city council campaign that give characters long term goals to work toward that build up to a climax and emotional payoff.

    Without that emotional payoff, if I know every episode is just going to be zero sum without any actual consequences, I'm much less excited to keep going. There's no tension if I know all the consequences will be erased at the end of the episode.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
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  20. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Commodore Commodore

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    Unless each of those independent episodes is well written and acted... Then you have satisfaction (can't get no) each time you watch.

    Adding a touch of continuity from episode to episode isn't that hard to do as an add-on element. You can even do that in reverse and have a -very- casual comment in a few episodes lead to something big down the road and still have each episode work just fine as a standalone.