Nowadays it has become increasingly common to overhear people discussing the latest season or episode of specific TV series they follow. Not film. TV series. Television series fandom is not a new phenomenon; it has been a constant presence in the overall fame of television series such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peeks, etc. However, it never seemed to be able to measure up to the amount of fans films attracted. Here are some of the reasons for this development.


la_ca_1223_black_sailsThroughout the 2000s the media industry has increasingly focused on television creating some of the most memorable shows on television yet. As a result, TV series have become more sophisticated, plots have become more complicated and characters more interesting.

There are a number of guesses one may make in order to explain the sudden eruption of TV series’ popularity. Television series allow for longer running time than a film. This means that plot and characters have longer to develop their individual storylines. It is easier to tell a story in at least twelve or thirteen hours rather than two and a half. Television series in any genre and format also offer the opportunity for series creators to populate their diagetic worlds with numerous characters, substitute new ones for those who are no longer interesting or turn them into icons in pop culture. Due to longer running time and larger casts, TV series hold viewers’ attention for a longer period than a film. Just as films, they allow for a second round of profits when they are released on DVD and Blu-Ray and on online platforms such as Netflix, LoveFilm and iTunes. Some are released exclusively for these platforms like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Hemlock Grove (Netflix) or Black Sails (Amazon Prime). Apart from this there are specific television channels that have built their reputation on the series they produce. Since the 1990s HBO has been building its reputation on provocative and memorable television series such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and True Detective, etc.

…Such series have diversified canonic television formats such as the TV drama or sitcom series…

WEEDS (Season 4)Whatever the reasons for the sudden spur of television series may be, this popularity has contributed some very original stories to television entertainment. Some very popular shows are actual literary adaptations such as Under the Dome, Hemlock Grove or Hannibal. Alternatively, other series have contributed completely original stories such as Jenji Kohan’s sitcom Weeds. Such series have diversified canonic television formats such as the TV drama or sitcom series. Apart from that series creators have borrowed a number of genres, generally characteristic of film art such as the gangster film, the fantasy epic or the horror.

This has given viewers the opportunity to see some of their favourite performers and filmmakers come to television as well. It has become a common phenomenon to see big-screen names on television or award-winning filmmakers working on television series. Names like David Fincher, Bryan Singer, Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Zant, Michael Mann and Bill Condon have turned to television and left their mark on a number of episodes and series just as many filmmakers have done in the past (most notably Hitchcock and David Lynch). Actors who have established themselves on the silver screen have also featured in prominent television series, and performers who have initially started on TV have found their way to the big screen.

…Nowadays, it has become more and more common to see scenes of explicit sex and violence on the small screen…

In addition, the popularity of television series has developed the visual style and the abilities for visual mediations exhibited by shows. Due to this diversification, however, we have witnessed how certain boundaries have changed. In past decades it seemed that there was a limit to what one can show in a feature film and what should be shown on television, as part of family entertainment. Nowadays, it has become more and more common to see scenes of explicit sex and violence on the small screen. Of course, this is not to advocate a more conservative approach toward the production of television series. However, one cannot help but notice that it seems viewers have become less sensitive to some of the visuals shown in TV series.

Nowadays television series feature in every genre that film does, bringing constant entertainment in your home. Although developments in distribution and technology allow viewing a lot sooner after the film is no longer available in theatres now, film narrative is different from television series. It is two-and-a-half-hour unified narrative, which demands viewers’ attention for the duration of the story. It is not only because one needs to watch throughout the entire film in order to understand the messages the film mediates. Sitting throughout the entire film is part of the cinema-going experience. It has now become part of the film-viewing experience due to the many platforms on which films are available. However, it is these platforms that make television constantly available. TV series’ narratives develop slowly and over time. You don’t need to watch an entire series season at once or you could indulge in TV binging as much as you would like. In addition, the way series are structured in episodes gives fans the opportunity to watch previous episodes and remind themselves of what happened previously (Seriously, no judgement).

…This development has only provided more and more entertainment for audiences around the world…

Bearing in mind all these details of the production and diversity of television series, it is not difficult to imagine why they have suddenly become so popular in mass media and culture. This development has only provided more and more entertainment for audiences around the world and has added a number of characters and performers to the ever-expanding world of pop culture. It has also created new modes of viewing – including binge-watching. All you have to do is switch on the television/laptop/PC/Netflix account and watch.

About The Author

My main interests include film/contemporary art/visual culture, which is on what I mainly concentrate when writing and in my spare time.

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