The Creators Of Which TV Show Apologized For Making Serialization Commonplace?
Television shows can come in two primary flavors, episodic and serialized. Episodic shows focus on story arcs developed within a given episode–thus the name–and tend to be particularly viewer friendly because even if you miss a few episodes (or perhaps have never even seen the show before), it’s not hard to jump right in. Before the advent of easy television recording via VCR players (and later digital recorders like the TiVo), networks loved episodic television because it was low risk. Viewers didn’t have to commit to a long story, they could drop in any time, and they never felt left out.
On the opposite side of things, you have serialized television where the story arc stretches over many (or all) episodes in the series. While this allows for richer story development and deeper engagement with the viewer, it’s also riskier. If people are confused by the story arc because they missed early episodes or missing a few episodes has left them floundering about, they’re more likely to stop watching the show.
In a 2012 interview with GQ magazine, co-creator of the wildly popular 1980s-era sitcom Cheers, Les Charles, discussed the role of Cheers in the shift towards television serialization and the general regret he felt over the shift in television production:
Back in the old days, there was a rule that every TV episode had to be complete in itself, so you could tune into a television show for the first time and be able to enjoy that show and know where you were. And we started doing continuing stories and cliffhangers and evolving relationships and so on, and we may have been partly responsible for what’s going on now, where if you miss the first episode or two, you are lost. You have to wait until you can get the whole thing on DVD and catch up with it. If that blood is on our hands, I feel kind of badly about it. It can be very frustrating.
While we certainly understand his sentiment, he shouldn’t be too hard on himself. If the serialization of early shows like Cheers hadn’t demonstrated story arcs were sustainable outside of soap operas, we’d never have ended up with rich and completely serialized television shows like Twin Peaks or Battlestar Galactica.