In the United States and Canada, a television series is usually released in episodes that follow a narrative and are usually divided into seasons. In the UK, a television series is a yearly or semiannual set of new episodes. (In effect, a "series" in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia is the same as a "season" in the United States and Canada.)
Television shows are more varied than most other forms of media due to the wide variety of formats and genres that can be presented. A show may be fictional (as in comedies and dramas), or non-fictional (as in documentary, news, and reality television). It may be topical (as in the case of a local newscast and some made-for-television films), or historical (as in the case of many documentaries and fictional series). They could be primarily instructional or educational, or entertaining as is the case in situation comedy and game shows.
A drama program usually features a set of actors playing characters in a historical or contemporary setting. The program follows their lives and adventures. Before the 1980s, shows (except for soap opera-type serials) typically remained static without story arcs, and the main characters and premise changed little. If some change happened to the characters' lives during the episode, it was usually undone by the end. Due to this, the episodes could be broadcast in any order. Since the 1980s, many series feature progressive change in the plot, the characters, or both. For instance, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere were two of the first US prime time drama television series to have this kind of dramatic structure,[better source needed] while the later series Babylon 5 further exemplifies such structure in that it had a predetermined story running over its intended five-season run.
When a person or company decides to create new content for television broadcast, they develop the show's elements, consisting of the concept, the characters, the crew, and cast. Then they often "pitch" it to the various networks in an attempt to find one interested enough to order a prototype first episode of the series, known as a pilot. Eric Coleman, an animation executive at Disney, told an interviewer, "One misconception is that it's very difficult to get in and pitch your show, when the truth is that development executives at networks want very much to hear ideas. They want very much to get the word out on what types of shows they're looking for."
To create the pilot, the structure and team of the whole series must be put together. If audiences respond well to the pilot, the network will pick up the show to air it the next season (usually Fall). Sometimes they save it for mid-season, or request rewrites and additional review (known in the industry as development hell). Other times, they pass entirely, forcing the show's creator to "shop it around" to other networks. Many shows never make it past the pilot stage.
The method of "team writing" is employed on some longer dramatic series (usually running up to a maximum of around 13 episodes). The idea for such a program may be generated "in-house" by one of the networks; it could originate from an independent production company (sometimes a product of both). For instance, the BBC's long-running soap opera EastEnders is wholly a BBC production, whereas its popular drama Life on Mars was developed by Kudos in association with the broadcaster.
There are still a significant number of programs (usually sitcoms) that are built by just one or two writers and a small, close-knit production team. These are "pitched" in the traditional way, but since the creators handle all the writing requirements, there is a run of six or seven episodes per series once approval has been given. Many of the most popular British comedies have been made this way, including Monty Python's Flying Circus (albeit with an exclusive team of six writer-performers), Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and The Office.
After production, the show is handed over to the television network, which sends it out to its affiliate stations, which broadcast it in the specified broadcast programming time slot. If the Nielsen ratings are good, the show is kept alive as long as possible. If not, the show is usually canceled. The show's creators are then left to shop around remaining episodes, and the possibility of future episodes, to other networks. On especially successful series, the producers sometimes call a halt to a series on their own like Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, Corner Gas, and M*A*S*H and end it with a concluding episode, which sometimes is a big series finale.
On rare occasions, a series that has not attracted particularly high ratings and has been canceled can be given a reprieve if home video viewership has been particularly strong. This has happened in the cases of Family Guy in the US and Peep Show in the UK.
In North American television, a series is a connected set of television program episodes that run under the same title, possibly spanning many seasons. Since the late 1960s, this broadcast programming schedule typically includes between 20 and 26 episodes. Before then, a regular television season could average at least 30 episodes, and some TV series may have had as many as 39 episodes in a season.
Since at least the 2000s, new broadcast television series are often ordered (funded) for just the first 10 to 13 episodes, to gauge audience interest. If a series is popular, the network places a "back nine order" and the season is completed to the regular 20 to 26 episodes. An established series that is already popular, however, will typically receive an immediate full-season order at the outset of the season. A midseason replacement is a less-expensive short-run show of generally 10 to 13 episodes designed to take the place of an original series that failed to garner an audience and has not been picked up. A "series finale" is the last show of the series before the show is no longer produced. (In the UK, it means the end of a season, what is known in the United States as a "season finale"). Streaming services time finales to the next quarter to induce consumers to renew at least one more quarter.
A standard television season in the United States runs predominantly across the fall and winter, from late September to May. During the summer months of June through roughly mid-September, network schedules typically feature reruns of their flagship programs, first-run series with lower rating expectations, and other specials. First-run scripted series are typically shorter and of a lower profile than those aired during the main season and can also include limited series events. Reality and game shows have also been a fixture of the schedule.
In Canada, the commercial networks air most US programming in tandem with the US television season, but their original Canadian shows follow a model closer to British than US television production. Due to the smaller production budgets available in Canada, a Canadian show's season normally runs to a maximum of 13 episodes rather than 20 or more, although an exceptionally popular series such as Corner Gas or Murdoch Mysteries might receive 20-episode orders in later seasons. Canadian shows do not normally receive "back nine" extensions within the same season, however; even a popular series simply ends for the year when the original production order has finished airing, and an expanded order of more than 13 episodes is applied to the next season's renewal order rather than an extension of the current season. Only the public CBC Television normally schedules Canadian-produced programming throughout the year; the commercial networks typically now avoid scheduling Canadian productions to air in the fall, as such shows commonly get lost amid the publicity onslaught of the US fall season. Instead, Canadian-produced shows on the commercial networks typically air either in the winter as mid-season replacements for canceled US shows or in the summer (which may also improve their chances of being picked up by a US network for a summer run).
In the United Kingdom and other countries, these sets of episodes are referred to as a "series". In Australia, the broadcasting may be different from North American usage. The terms series and season are both used and are the same. For example, Battlestar Galactica has an original series as well as a remake, both are considered a different series each with their own number of individual seasons.
Australian television does not follow "seasons" in the way that US television does; for example, there is no "fall season" or "fall schedule". For many years, popular night-time dramas in Australia would run for much of the year, and would only go into recess during the summer period (December to February, as Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere), when ratings are not taken. Therefore, popular dramas would usually run from February through November each year. This schedule was used in the 1970s for popular dramas including Number 96. Many drama series, such as McLeod's Daughters, have received between 22 and 32 episodes per season. Typically, soap operas, which have always run in season format in Australia, such as Home and Away, would usually begin a new season in late January, while the season finale would air in late November, as the show is off air for two months, or sometimes longer, depending on the schedule. In recent years, a new season would begin in early February, and the season finale would broadcast in early December. Since Home and Away's inception, it normally receives 230 episodes per season. Some seasons have seen between 205 and 235 episodes commissioned. During the Olympics, Home and Away would often go on hiatus, which was referred to as an "Olympic cliffhanger". Therefore, the number of episodes would decrease. Australian situation comedy series' seasons are approximately 13 episodes long and premiere any time between February and November. 041b061a72