Definition Of A Serialized Television Show

Serialized television shows/series (see also ‘serial’) adopt ongoing, long-form narratives, which weave stories across seasons or entire series. These stories often resemble chapters out of novels due to the way themes, plots, episodes and seasons continually unfold, building on the story threads and characters arcs over time.

Unlike procedural TV shows, things that happen to characters in serialized TV shows impact the subsequent episodes and can even recontextualize previous episodes – hence the importance on viewers having convenient access to episodes in sequential order (that is, the order in which they were conceived).

While each serial has its own particular shape, structure, and style, there are typically two broad types of serial:

  • Heavily Serialized – Each or most episodes are geared towards the central storyline/plot.
  • Serial-Procedural – A blend of central plot progression and standalone episodes/story elements.

Serials like AMC’s Breaking Bad or HBO’s Game Of Thrones can be considered heavily serialized as they never (or very rarely) break away from the main, ongoing storyline or character issue; whereas a serial such as CBS’s Person Of Interest is decidedly serial-procedural, as it combines central mythology episodes/arcs with contained storylines that are non-essential to the core issue.

During the life of a series, a serial may alternate between formats or change completely — Fox’s The X-Files is a prime example (read our mythology guide). Indeed, The X-Files is often credited for giving rise to the myth-arc, also known as the mythology episodes within a series that also features prominent procedural elements.

This page is currently in development and will be updated with more information and resources on serialized television. In the meantime, check out our home page for all the latest news in serialized TV and our serialized TV database for a look at the many different types of serials — past, present and future.