Television series

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A television series is a film production about a completed or incomplete, fictional or fact-oriented action on television , which comprises several episodes.


The word series comes from the Latin word "series", which can be translated as series , sequence or chain . The definition of the term television series is not easy for media studies . This is due to the different manifestations of the television series. The more general the term is defined, the more series of programs are then considered to be series. The most general definition of television series "is a series of programs aired regularly on television". In the sense of this definition, the daily news or the current sports studio is also a series. The television series is then a program format of individual fictional programs that are broadcast more or less regularly within an overall concept. Tanja Weber and Christian Junklewitz provided a minimum definition. "A series consists of two or more parts that are held together by a common idea, topic or concept and can appear in all media". Unlike industrial series production, which always delivers identical products, media series are characterized by a certain variance in their consequences. Series is the narrative “continuation context from episodes of fictional television productions.” They form a structure of thematically linked episodes. The only thing all series have in common is that they are multi-part.

In terms of production, series are divided into episodes and superordinate seasons . (Currently penetrate the terms Episode (Engl. Episode ) and season (Engl. Season = season , season ) from the US film market coming increasingly used as synonyms in the German-speaking countries and were in the Duden added.) Production Technically, therefore the series as The entirety of all episodes of a television production with a common dramatic content in the form of plot, people, places or other uniform topics can be understood. The consequences differ by more or less slight variation of the content. The variation increases tension and curiosity about further consequences. Repeating or constant elements contribute to the recognition of the series and increase the loyalty of the viewer.


Classification of television series
designation Number of episodes Intensity of the link between the episodes Seclusion of the series plot example
line indefinite low no coherent series plot crime scene
Miniseries few strong Series plot completed overall torches in the storm
Episode series indefinite but limited, often staggered medium indefinite whether open or closed The Sopranos
Serial many, but limited strong Series plot completed overall Isaura the slave
Endless series in principle unlimited strong Series plot generally open Lindenstrasse

Knut Hickethier also refers to productions as series that have completed plot sequences. He also calls productions a series if the cohesion between the individual episodes is loose and is only characterized by a common title sign or a matching opening sequence, such as in Das Kriminalmuseum .

In terms of content, a distinction can be made between the genre-mixing series ( Die Fussbroichs ), the genre- mixing so-called Reality Soap ( Big Brother ) or the docu-soap with serial reports on everyday and professional life ( Adventure 1900 - Life in the Manor House ).


The oldest mass media series forms were the serial novel in the daily newspaper and the cinema series. The television series evolved from the radio series.

Radio series

The WGY station in Schenectady began the first radio series in September 1922, after it had started on February 20, 1922. "The Masque" was a 43-episode drama with unchanged cast written by Edward Smith and Kolin D. Hager. On March 19, 1928, NBC went on the air with a comedy series entitled "Amos 'n' Andy" via a taxi company in the ghetto. It was also the longest-running radio series when it ended on November 25, 1960. CBS started its own radio series "The March of Time" on March 6, 1931 and ended this series on July 26, 1945. The most successful US radio series were soap operas . The BBC's first British daily radio series was the crime series "Dick Barton - Special Agent", which aired between October 7, 1946 and March 30, 1951. On May 29, 1950, the record holder The Archers followed , which is still broadcast on the radio today. The radio series were almost completely taken out of the program in the USA from 1960.

The first German radio series to become known nationwide was the program “Der frohe Saturday Afternoon” on the Reichsender Köln , which was broadcast almost continuously from November 24, 1934 to December 31, 1939 with almost 150 episodes in the style of Nazi entertainment culture . With its musical performances by German dance orchestras and sketches, it developed into one of the most popular German radio series of the time and has therefore been broadcast across the Reich since May 1935. The soap opera "Die Hesselbachs" achieved great popularity after the war, first broadcast on September 17, 1949 by the Hessischer Rundfunk . The most successful German radio series is Die Drei ??? which ran between October 12, 1979 and initially until 2005.

Since then, the “music clock” broadcasting scheme has established itself internationally on radio, a time-based structure of news, weather reports, traffic reports, short reports, music and radio advertising. These are also serial structures.

TV Shows

After the radio series had proven to be a broadcast format with a high level of loyalty and a good environment for radio advertising , this format was adopted on television. Ironically, a non-fictional series, Meet the Press , has been the oldest television series ever since its debut on November 6, 1947. TV series with a specific entertainment theme gradually emerged. Famous family series such as the middle class family in Father Knows Best (first episode on October 3, 1954, German title: "Vater ist der Beste") were filmed in 203 episodes, series such as Lassie (September 12, 1954) or Fury ( September 15 , 1954) October 1955) placed a domestic animal (dog or horse) in the foreground. The Waltons (September 14, 1972, The Waltons ) dealt with the difficult life of an extended family during the Great Depression . Western series like Gunsmoke (April 26, 1952, Smoking Colts ), Cheyenne (September 20, 1955, Cheyenne ), Maverick (September 22, 1957, Maverick ) or Bonanza (September 12, 1959) showed the "wild west" how he never was. Detective series such as 77 Sunset Strip (October 10, 1958), The Fugitive (September 17, 1963, On the Run ), Hawaii Five-O (September 20, 1968), The Streets of San Francisco (September 16, 1972, The Streets of San Francisco ) and The Rockford Files (September 13, 1974, Detective Rockford - just give us a call ) brought tension to households. In prime time , the soap operas Dallas (April 2, 1978) and Dynasty (January 12, 1981, The Denver Clan ) - which were also extremely successful internationally - had a permanent slot . Recently, cartoon series such as The Simpsons (December 17, 1989) or South Park (August 13, 1997) have hit the screens.

Between September 1950 and August 1995 over 630 family series ran on the national US networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), of which 85 in the 1950s, 98 in the 1960s, 139 in the 1970s and 133 between 1990 and 1995.

After the advent of private television in Germany from January 1984 onwards, the range of services has become more differentiated: while some stations focus on US series (for example, Kabel eins and VOX in Germany ), others broadcast a mixture of domestic and foreign productions (for example ProSieben or RTL ), others mainly own or commissioned productions (such as the public broadcasters ). In addition, the decision for foreign or domestic productions follows the market prices for exploitation rights or production costs.


On the private broadcasters, series are usually recorded for an hour-long broadcast with a length of about 44 minutes, for half-hour broadcasts with a length of about 22 minutes and brought to the full length with television advertising . In the pay-TV comedy series usually have a length of 28 minutes. For drama series it is 58 minutes.

A so-called pilot film often decides whether a series is produced in full . This is a consequence of a series in which the most important roles and the basic structure of the series come into play. The pilot is often twice as long as a normal episode of the series.

If a series is discontinued, which is usually decided in May for US series, overarching storylines can remain unfinished and without resolution.

Dramaturgical aspects

Based on the Anglo-Saxon state of research in media studies, there are series (episode series) and serials (continuation series) with regard to the narrative structure . Series of episodes have a self-contained sequential plot, do not have a fixed character stem, new characters can be added and previous ones disappear. In each episode the original state is disturbed, but restored in the course of the episode until the happy ending in each episode. This form can be found in crime and hospital series ( A case for two , In all friendship ).

On the other hand, the plot of an episode remains open in sequel series, several parallel storylines overlap in different stages and are only continued in later episodes, sometimes referred to as pigtail dramaturgy. It is typical that there is no complete plot, but rather, like soap operas, it is about "endless series" ( Lindenstrasse , Gute Zeiten, Bad Zeiten ). Accordingly, there is a specific dramaturgy of soap operas .

A distinction can also be made according to their placement in the television program. During the day (daytime) current series have lower audience than series for prime time (prime time) on. Soap operas are usually broadcast during the day, crime and hospital series, and soaps like Dallas or The Denver Clan in the evening. A continuation (English "sequel") is understood to mean the continuation of a self-contained series or a single broadcast, which creates a real series. The small form of a television series is the mini-series , which is usually produced with less than 10 episodes. This also applies to the multi-part that cannot be clearly delimited from this .

In series, vertical dramaturgy (also known as vertical narration ) describes the dramaturgical patterns that are repeated in each episode. In the case of crime series, for example, this can consist of a criminal inspector having to solve a new murder case in each episode ( derrick ). Horizontal dramaturgies (also horizontal or epic storytelling ), on the other hand, refer in series to arcs of story that go beyond the length of an episode, run over several episodes or over the entire length of an entire season or series; this applies, for example, to the narrative of the life of the hunted protagonist in the series Auf der Flucht, which is spread over many episodes . If a television series has passed its peak of success and its audience ratings drop, experts speak of jumping the shark . This can be reacted to by changing the cast (the script provides for the death of a protagonist as in Dallas ), increasing thematic tension or discontinuing the series.


TV series are the subject of investigation in social and media studies. It is argued that the mass television series fits into the age of industrial assembly line production , which is also true of its television production. However, while the industrial series produces absolutely identical items, in the case of television series certain given patterns and rules are constantly varied. The series as an overarching feature of all individual episodes constitutes cultural perception and creates order and continuity. It is only at the level of the series that it becomes clear how the problem areas discussed are intertwined. In times of competitive television, it is important to achieve a high level of audience loyalty with the help of series. “The audience loyalty is based on the identification potential of the series, the reception strategy is based on the emotional realism of the series text.” A mostly constant broadcast rhythm ensures that viewers can adjust to the respective episodes of the series without any program information.

Program strategies

As part of the possible wandering movements before the beginning and after the end of a broadcast ( audience flow ), the broadcasters try to win over viewers for a subsequent broadcast. The episodes of different, thematically similar series broadcast one after the other by a station are suitable for this. So if different crime series are broadcast one after the other during prime time, one speaks of blocking . The court shows that are broadcast in succession by one station in the afternoon also meet this requirement. On the other hand, we speak of stripping when a certain series is always broadcast at the same time slot, i.e. at the same time. Viewers use this as a "social timer". As early as 1979, Gerbner suspected that viewers were largely unselectively choosing according to the clock and not according to the program.


The main genres include:

Adventure series
In the adventure series , the adventures of the main character (s) are portrayed.
Action series
The action series (from English action : Tat, story) is a type of series of commercial television entertainment, in which the action is driven by mostly spectacularly staged fighting and violence scenes. The main components of action series are therefore usually lavishly filmed stunts , wild shootings, huge explosions and high-speed car chases.
Documentary soap
As a docu-soap (German documentary-soap opera) refers to a form of reality TV (German Reality TV), in the shown ( "documented") people are represented in dramatically staged, entertaining way. Strictly speaking, it is a kind of documentary film that accompanies families in unusual situations such as moving abroad, or each episode shows different people with a constant basic topic such as upbringing, financial difficulties or renovation. However, the television stations also refer to so-called "scripted reality" (freely: "reality according to script") as "docu-soap", which is very similar to classic docu-soaps, but follows a script and is staged by amateur actors.
Drama series
A drama series deals with the emotional and inner-soul conflicts of the characters and the irrevocability of life's contradictions. (see melodrama (film) )
The Dramedy series is a format whose content is characterized by a balanced proportion of humor and seriousness. Dramedy is an English suitcase word from the terms drama and comedy.
Fantasy series
The term fantasy series, similar to fantasy film (fantastic film) in the broadest sense, includes all series whose plot is more or less strongly influenced by fantasy elements such as magic or mythical creatures. The place of action can be either the real or a fictional world.
Family series
A family series is a special form of television series. The plot is always coordinated in such a way that a whole family, i.e. all age groups, can find themselves in it and be interested in the topic.
Court series
The court broadcast stages fictional or real court proceedings and is characterized by real professionals on the side of the lawyers and laymen on the side of the accused and witnesses.
Horror series
A horror series is supposed to scare the viewer. This is often achieved through a supernatural, inexplicable threat that the protagonist is supposed to eliminate. Sudden loud noises and rapid movements in the direction of the camera can also be used (see jump-scare ) to scare the viewer.
Youth series
Youth series refers to a series developed primarily for a young audience.
TV series especially aimed at young people are mostly about a group of young people and their slow growth. Concentrating on this youth group means that the consequences are mostly age-related problems such as love, friendship, school, training, self-discovery, pressure to adapt or puberty. The target group is mostly the same age as the characters and gets older with them.
Children's series
The children's series refers to a series developed primarily for a child audience.
Programs for children sometimes deal specifically with children's experiences. These series are then about their peers and their age-typical problems. This ranges from trying to explore the environment around them, to making friends, to developing an independent personality.
Crime series
A crime series is a television series that focuses on crimes and their investigation.
Hospital series
Hospital series are television series that depict the everyday lives of doctors and nurses working in the hospital as well as that of the patients. Typical for hospital series is a clearly regulated hierarchy among the doctors shown, the use of medical terminology and a special focus on interpersonal conflicts between hospital staff and patients as well as private problems of the protagonists.
Mystery series
Mystery series concern mysterious, gruesome depictions of mysterious crimes and incidents, mostly not explainable by natural phenomena.
Science fiction series
The science fiction series designs constellations of the possible - often in the future, sometimes also off earth -, describes their effects on society and people and enriches real scientific and technical possibilities with fictional speculations.
The sitcom (short for situation comedy "situation comedy", see also: Comedy ) is an entertainment program that goes back to the American comedy shows on radio in the 1930s and 1940s (Amos 'n' Andy, The Goldbergs). Interpersonal relationships are the focus here. Often sitcoms are recorded in front of an audience and accompanied by laughter .
The telenovela is a special form of the television series that comes from Latin America. Since the 1980s, telenovelas have also been known in other regions of the world - especially in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, China and the USA.
Thriller series
Thriller is characterized by tension, which is not only present in short passages, but throughout almost the entire course of the plot. Extensive arcs of tension , cliffhangers and red herrings are common . Thriller series overlap with the mystery genre as well as that of the crime series, but differ from this in terms of their actions and tension curves. In thrillers, the hero usually has to assert himself against moral, emotional or physical violence by one or more opponents.
Western series
The Western series is a genre that focuses on the central American myth of the conquest of the (wild) west of the United States in the nineteenth century. In addition to everyday and social events, criminals are also often depicted, acting either as antagonists or as protagonists .

See also


History of the television series

  • Niklas Hofmann, Klaus Raab: A cult for all cases. The ultimate series of the eighties. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-518-46423-6 .
  • Thomas Klein, Christian Hißnauer (Ed.): Classics of the television series. Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-15-019025-8 .
  • Jürgen Müller (Hrsg.): The best TV series. Taschen's selection from the past 25 years. Taschen, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-8365-4272-2 . (Large-format illustrated book of 68 series from The Simpsons to True Detective )
  • Markus Schleich, Jonas Nesselhauf: TV series. History, theory, narration A. Francke Verlag, Tübingen 2016, ISBN 978-3-8252-4682-2 .
  • Matthias Kalle: Series of luck. In: Zeit Magazin. March 8, 2018, accessed April 9, 2018 (About the "Third Golden Age" of television).

Web links

Wiktionary: TV series  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ingrid Brück: TV series. In: Helmut Schanze (Ed.): Metzler Lexikon Medientheorie, Medienwissenschaft. Approaches, people, basic concepts. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, ISBN 3-476-01761-3 , p. 88.
  2. Tanja Weber and Christian Junklewitz, The Law of the Series - Approaches to Definition and Analysis. In: Medienwissenschaft 1/2008, p. 18
  3. Hans Krah, article “Series”, in: Jan-Dirk Müller, Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft, 2003, p. 433
  4. Christine Mielke, Zyklisch-serial Narration , 2006, p. 42
  5. Duden: Episode , Season
  6. Source: Jens Wolling: Quality expectations , quality perceptions and the use of television series. In: Journalistik, Issue 2, June 2004, 49th year, pp. 171–193
  7. Knut Hickethier, Film and Television Analysis . 2., revised. Edition, Metzler, Stuttgart - Weimar 1996 (Metzler Collection 277), p. 184
  8. Knut Hickethier, Film and Television Analysis . 2., revised. Edition, Metzler, Stuttgart - Weimar 1996 (Metzler Collection 277), p. 185
  9. Knut Hickethier, The television series and the serial of television , 1991, p. 17
  10. Radio Broadcast Magazine, November 1923, p. 5 (PDF; 9.1 MB)
  11. Donald G. Godfrey / Frederic A. Leigh, Historical Dictionary of American Radio , 1998, p. Xv
  12. ^ Konrad Dussel, Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte , 2004, p. 98
  13. Christiane Beyer, The Development of Serial Structures , 1999, p. 19
  14. ^ J. Alison Bryant, Television and the American Family , 2001, pp. 145 f.
  15. ^ Frank Patalong: TV series murder in the USA. "Dr. House “dies a slow death. In: Spiegel Online . May 16, 2011, accessed May 16, 2011 .
  16. Knut Hickethier, The Television Series and the Serial of Television , 1991, p. 8
  17. a b Christopher Schmidt : The law of the series. From "Sopranos" to "The Wire" to "True Detective": The new narrative television is one of the big winners among the audience. It's often referred to as the heir to the novel - but is that really true? Süddeutsche Zeitung , January 27, 2015, accessed on January 6, 2016 : “Another characteristic of advancing literarization is epic or horizontal storytelling. It means that storylines that are dealt with within a single episode - vertically - take a back seat to those that - horizontally - extend over longer periods of time. "
  18. Kerstin Stutlerheim / Silke Kaiser, Handbuch der Filmdramaturgie , March 2009, p. 154
  19. a b Jens Schröter: The television series, its form and its knowledge. In: tv diskurs 62, 4/2012, year 16, p. 29 ( PDF ; 120 kB)
  20. ^ Werner Faulstich: Basic course in television analysis. 2008, p. 33. ( online )
  21. cf. Faulstich 2008, p. 113.
  22. ^ Anne Klien: Cult Switching. Dissertation 2001, p. 127.
  23. Irene Neverla , TV Time: Viewer Between Time Calculus and Pastime , 1992, p. 59
  24. George Gerbner / Larry Groß, The Demonstration of Power: Violence Profile No. 10. In: Journal of Communication, Edition 3 vol. 29, 1979, p. 180