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Do you prefer "episodic" or "serial" TV

TV Talk Talk about Shows on TV
View Poll Results: Which do you prefer
"serial" - continually developing story, can be watched in "one sitting"
63
70.79%
"episodic" - each show is stand alone, can miss episodes and not fall behind
5
5.62%
Different styles for different genres (drama - serial, comedy - episodic)
19
21.35%
I have no idea what you're talking about... who are you anyway
2
2.25%
Voters: 89. You may not vote on this poll

Do you prefer "episodic" or "serial" TV

Old 10-30-05, 10:08 PM
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Do you prefer "episodic" or "serial" TV

I just started watching Alias s#4 and I have to say so far I'm a little disappointed. The one thing I really liked about the first seasons was the "rich" storyline where every eps blended into the other and you really could/needed to watch the whole thing as a single movie (although it's been awhile since I've seen s#1 & 2 so maybe I'm misremembering ). It's one of the things I really like about 24 and Lost as well, to use better examples. Season 4 of Alias so far has been the typical, present the problem in the teaser and wrap it up in 40mins formula. There's a little "carry over" from eps to eps but certainly not like it was before.

It got me thinking about the evolution of TV though. For example most of the old series seemed to have very little continuity from eps to eps, just look at the original Battlestar Galactica compared to the new one. There's plenty of other examples as well, Emergency compared to Rescue Me or SWAT compared to The Shield. Granted some of these are different just because of the evolution of society (there are certainly things people get away w/ now they never would have attempted in the 60s or 70s) and in part it may be because I've grown up too However I'm finding for the most part the series I really enjoy are those like 24 or what I call "serial" (not sure that's the best term but it was the first that came to mind). Maybe in part though it also has to do w/ the particular show since I would term CSI "episodic" but I still generally watch/like that.

So is it just my faulty memory or have I been watching the wrong shows (then or now)? Has TV evolved like this? Actually, I'm not really sure I'm describing this in the best way to get a conversation going but hopefully you know what I mean
Old 10-30-05, 10:35 PM
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No preference. I prefer quality television. Just because a drama is stand-alone or serial doesn't automatically make it better.
Old 10-30-05, 10:55 PM
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I like it mixed like Buffy and Angel. If a show gets to serialized it hurts the replay value.
Old 10-30-05, 11:32 PM
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Mixed. I like seasonal and series long arcs, it rewards the viewer and makes the show seem like it is progressing. But the show doesn't need to focus on the main arc all the time. It's fun for them to explore something different, do something unexpected, shake up expectations every once in a while. Buffy, Angel, Homicide, Babylon 5 are the best examples I can think of right now and happen to be some of my favorite shows because of it.

It is hard to get the right balance, of course, as the X-files proved. There they tried to keep building a main story line without much forethought and the whole thing collapsed on itself somewhere around season 6. Also, I hate when shows that are primarily episodic drag out the "big continuing mystery" during sweeps weeks as a stunt- Monk's wife's murder and Crossing Jordan's mother's murder are two great examples of this method. They promote the episodes as a secret finally revealed, or all questions answered, but they wind up creating more questions or "rebooting" by the end of the episode.

As far as pure episodic TV, if Jack, Janet and Chrissy are never going to learn that it's wrong to listen in on other people's conversations and jump to conclusions why do I need to tune in every week to see them make the same mistakes again and again?
Old 10-30-05, 11:34 PM
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Great idea for a poll. As someone in the "episodic" category, I'm surprised at the early results.
Old 10-30-05, 11:59 PM
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While the first 2 seasons of 24 were some of the best television in recent memory, I think that show tends to be too serial.

Lost and the earlier days of Alias are the cream of the crop in my opinion. Lost has the ability to be extremely serial, yet each episode is very re-watchable to me. Not even when I'm watching the whole season in order either. Some episodes have enough depth in the flashbacks to work as an independent episode.
Old 10-31-05, 12:08 AM
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I like both. Season stories for 24, Alias & Lost but stand-alone episodes like NCIS, Crossing Jordan, & Simpsons. Episodic provides a broader story range since one week might involve boxing and the next could be a bank holdup.
Old 10-31-05, 12:10 AM
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Mixed. Serial for some good drama/mystery, and episodic for some good laughs, like Arrested Development (which also progresses well from week to week). For these reasons, I've always enjoyed watching shows like Buffy, Babylon 5, Veronica Mars, Lost, Six Feet Under. What I don't want to see is for the show to have a long story arc that doesn't have a good resolution, where it just seems the writers/producers just hash things out of their ass to keep the story going and get viewers hooked. Alias is what I'm referring to. The first two seasons were great, but it got ridiculously tedious by the start of season 4 where I kept asking myself: "Isn't this the 5th time they've done this in this show?" and "I can't believe they're working with Sloane" I've abandoned Alias because of this. Good writing is what I'm most interested in.....
Old 10-31-05, 12:12 AM
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The first two seasons were great, but it got ridiculously tedious by the start of season 4 where I kept asking myself: "Isn't this the 5th time they've done this in this show?"
That's about where I am w/ Alias too. Fortunately I've been renting them instead of buying them I think it really jumped the shark when they did the time jump thing.


Thinking about it now I guess I should have added a "mixed" to the list. Since my favorite show SG1 definately has elements of both. I certainly like the arc/"serial" eps better but some of the stand alone ones are fairly amusing/worthwhile too. Although I guess really even a lot of the "stand alone" one incorporated things from the main story, and vice versa (or sub-arcs that played out over multiple seasons formed).

Last edited by nemein; 10-31-05 at 12:16 AM.
Old 10-31-05, 12:55 AM
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Red Dog

No preference. I prefer quality television. Just because a drama is stand-alone or serial doesn't automatically make it better.
This is a cop-out response, but it's mine as well.

If comparing high quality vs. high quality, I'm more likely to be drawn to the larger story arcs, because they present more opportunity for character growth and more detailed stories. However, if the quality isn't high -- like all these stupid shows that were greenlit after the success of Desperate Housewives and Lost -- I'm likely to have less patience and be more irritated than I might be with a harmless episodic show. There's nothing more annoying than being strung along through a tedious and insulting story arc without any substance.

das
Old 10-31-05, 12:59 AM
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Many sitcoms work fine as episodic TV, but aside from them the only thing that is episodic that I can stand is CSI. Other than that I need wider strokes and greater arcs. Something needs to connect the begining of a season to its end. It's like writing an essay. The begining and the end are related and the insides tie the two together. Throwing in an occasional wtf episode often hurts the continuity.
Old 10-31-05, 09:30 AM
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Hmm, let's see. Currently my favorite shows are 24, Lost, Veronica Mars, and Arrested Development. Yeah, I think I prefer serialized storytelling. Although Veronica Mars is very reminiscent of Buffy in that it's able to successfully balance standalone episodes with arc-driven ones.

Ironically, my 2nd all-time favorite series after Buffy is Quantum Leap which is about as episodic as a TV show can get.
Old 10-31-05, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
No preference. I prefer quality television. Just because a drama is stand-alone or serial doesn't automatically make it better.

Can the OP mod add the No Preference option?
Old 10-31-05, 11:17 AM
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Unfortunately polls can't be edited by mods anymore It takes an admin to do that. Also I'm not sure how to handle those people who may want to change their vote.
Old 10-31-05, 11:59 AM
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I'm also in the "doesn't matter as long as it's good" camp. My all-time favorite shows do tend to be the ones that develop their characters and have well thought out arcs to them, but there's also times where I just want to be able to sit down and put on a good Law & Order or Simpsons episode and not have to really know anything about the characters or some overall storyline to really enjoy the episode.

Also as you pointed out with Alias, if the overall arc of a story is not very well defined by the creative team the show can get frustrating very quickly. I guess I'd say that serial television can offer higher highs but also lower lows on the quality scale.
Old 10-31-05, 02:01 PM
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I much prefer serial in general, though until I got a DVR it was difficult to manage.

I think one of the reasons reality shows do so well is the serial nature of it. You actually perceive this is "going somewhere" for the time you invest in it. People also like conclusions. Thus the huge outcry when even an episodic series gets cancelled without a closing, or "final" show. I'm still pissed off there was no closure to Married with Children.
Old 10-31-05, 02:30 PM
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I like shows with definite story arcs, although I think it's best if the show doesn't enslave itself to the arc in every episode.
Old 10-31-05, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by das Monkey
There's nothing more annoying than being strung along by Invasion and Threshold.
I shortened it for you

I prefer seriel but it's something very few shows can do well, especially by the networks since the have to fill 22-24 episodes. Shows like Veronica Mars and Lost can pull it off but you still have the occasional stinker in there.
Old 10-31-05, 04:53 PM
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Episodic is ideal if it's a show I can't see every week. If it's more serialized, I am less likely to watch it on TV, and just wait for the DVD, because I hate that feeling of being lost if I miss some episodes.

I don't really care what kind they do, as long as it's good writing. But I would lean more towards the serial type programming. It doesn't really work so well with comedy, unless it's Arrested Development, but often I would say those type of series are best viewed in a short period of time on DVD instead of on TV.
Old 10-31-05, 05:03 PM
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My favorite shows all seem to serial in nature (ex. Deadwood, Lost, Entourage). So I suppose I'll have to go with serial as my answer.
Old 10-31-05, 05:04 PM
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most of the shows I watch and become attached to are serialized. Episodic television usually bores me to tears. I can only think of two episodic shows that I currently watch.
Old 10-31-05, 05:20 PM
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Serial definately, but I can't jump into a serial show (which is why TVonDVD is so good). You become much more attached to the characters. As well as you don't constantly feel like you know how the episode is going to end every week (happy and all so it can go back to normal)

Last edited by lordwow; 10-31-05 at 05:22 PM.
Old 10-31-05, 08:59 PM
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I'm mixed too, I love serialized stuff like Buffy, Angel, the new Battlestar Galactica. And I think it's no accident that one of the characteristics of the fourth season of Enterprise was when they started to make it a little more serialized. I don't think I need to bring up Voyager's wanton reset button abuse. If they had just tried a little bit to inject some continuity, it might have been a bit better.

There are exceptions of course, stuff like The Simpsons and Family Guy that regularly thumb their noses at continuity are still enjoyable due to the writing. (and occasional meta references to said lack of continuity)
Old 10-31-05, 09:37 PM
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I love a nice mix like Buffy & Angel.
Old 10-31-05, 10:21 PM
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With Tivo, serial as it holds my interest much more.

Without, episodic, as it's nice to watch something like Law and Order where you don't have to worry much about getting lost if you miss an episode or two.

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