Serial offenders? Defining the boundaries of series and serial TV for screenwriting practice and theory

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Screenwriting, 2021, 12, (1), pp. 55-74
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Serial storytelling dominates the international TV landscape, yet the terms used to describe this form as distinct from ‘series’ vary across industry, scholarship and popular media. While many scholars have observed the series/serial ‘divide’, none of them have done so from the vantage point of screenwriting practice. This article argues there is both the scope and a need to provide clearer definitions for discussion of TV drama screenwriting, particularly as it intersects with extant notions such as ‘complex’ and ‘quality’ TV. In this article, we consolidate the literature on the series/serial and provide our own terms to describe contemporary trends in serial storytelling - finite, infinite and franchise - terms that we hope speak more directly to the screenwriter and screenwriting scholar.
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