Television program

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A television program, television programme or simply television show is a segment of programming in television broadcasting. It may be a one-off broadcast or, more usually, part of a periodically returning television series. A television series that is intended to air a finite number of episodes is usually called a miniseries or serial (although the latter term also has other meanings). Americans call a short run lasting less than a year a season; People of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland generally call this a series. This season or series usually consists of 6–26 installments. U.S. industry practice tends to favor longer seasons than those of some other countries.

A single instance of a program is called an episode, although this is sometimes also called a "show" or "program." A one-off broadcast may be called a "special". A television movie ("made-for-TV" movie) is a movie that is initially aired on television rather than being released in theatres or direct-to-video, although many successful television movies are later released on video.

Today, advertisements play a role in most television programming, such that each hour of programming contains approximately 15 minutes of commercials. However, this is not the case for pay channels such as HBO and Showtime. Similarly, being publicly funded, the BBC in the United Kingdom does not run advertisements, except to trail (promote) its own output, much like the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Australia.


[edit] Television production

What follows is the standard procedure for shows on network television in the United States.

Someone (called the show "creator") fabricates an idea for a new television series. This consists of the concept, the characters, usually some crew, and sometimes some big-name actors. They "pitch" it to the various television networks, hoping to find one that's interested. If a network is interested, they will "order" a pilot (a prototype first episode of the series).

To create the pilot, the structure and team of the whole series needs to be put together. If the network likes the pilot, they will "pick up" the show for their next season (UK: series). Sometimes they'll save it for "midseason" or request re-writes and further review (known in the industry as "Development hell"). And other times they'll pass entirely, leaving the show's creator forced to "shop it around"' to other networks. Many shows never make it past the pilot stage.

If the show is picked up, a "run" of episodes is ordered. Usually only 13 episodes are ordered at first, although a series will typically last for at least 22 episodes (the last nine episodes sometimes being known as the "back nine", borrowing a term from golf).

The show hires a "stable" of writers, who usually work in parallel: the first writer works on the first episode, the second on the second episode, and so forth. When all of the writers have been used, the assignment of episodes continues starting with the first writer again. On other shows, however, the writers work as a team. Sometimes they will develop story ideas individually, and pitch them to the show's creator, who then folds them together into a script and rewrites them.

The executive producer, often the show's creator, is in charge of running the show. They pick crew and cast (subject to approval by the network), approve and often write series plots, and sometimes write and direct major episodes. A whole host of other producers of various names work under him or her, to make sure the show is always running smoothly.

Once the script for a show is written, a director is found for the episodes. The director's job is to turn the words of the script into film. They decide how scenes should be "staged" and where the cameras should be placed; they also often coach the actors, including any guest stars who may be in the particular episode. On television shows, directors are often interchangeable, mainly serving the dictates of the writer.

A director of photography takes care of making the show look good, doing things with lighting and so on.

Finally, an editor cuts the various pieces of film together, adds the musical score, and assembles the completed show.

The show is then turned over to the network, which sends it out to its affiliates, which air it in the specified timeslot. If the Nielsen Ratings are good, the show is kept alive as long as possible. If not, the show is usually cancelled. 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 The Cosby Show and end it with a concluding episode which sometimes is a big production called a series finale.

If the show is popular or lucrative, and a number of episodes (usually 100 episodes or more) are made, it goes into syndication where broadcast rights are then resold.

[edit] Seasons/Series

The terminology used to define a set of episodes produced by a television series varies from country to country. In North America and most of Australia, the term used to describe a regular interval of episodes is a television season or simply, season. (For example, a season of a television series might consist of 22 episodes broadcast regularly between September and April; another example might be a series that airs only six episodes broadcast during the summer). In the United Kingdom and other countries, these sets of episodes are now referred to as series (the term is used separately from "television series" which refers to a complete production), although in the UK historically "season" was used on certain series, and remains in use in reference to them (e.g. Doctor Who, Blake's 7, etc.).

In the United States, most regular television series have 22 episodes per year. In general, dramas usually last 44 minutes (an hour with commercials), while comedies last 22 (30 with commercials). However, with the rise of cable networks, especially pay ones, series and episode lengths have been changing. Cable networks usually feature series lasting around thirteen episodes (i.e. The Sopranos from HBO, with 12- to 13-episode seasons). Many British series have significantly shorter yearly runs. Recently, American non-cable networks have also begun to experiment with shorter seasons for some programs, particularly reality shows such as Survivor.

This is a reduction from the 1950s, in which many American shows (e.g., The Twilight Zone) had 31 episodes per season. Actually storytelling time within a commercial television hour has also gradually reduced over the years, from 50 minutes out of every 60 in the early days down to the current 44 (and, on some networks, less) in the 2000s.

The Japanese have subdivided the season into "cours", from the French term for "course", which is a mere 13 episodes long. Each cours generally has its own opening and ending image sequence and song. The reason for this is that recordings of the songs are sold, and the producers can make money selling them.

[edit] A UK/US comparison

In contrast to the US model illustrated above, the UK procedure is operated on a sometimes similar, but much smaller scale.

The method of "team writing" is employed on some longer dramatic series (usually running up to a maximum of around thirteen episodes). The idea for such a show will have been generated "in-house" by one of the networks, which will then commission either an outside production company or an internal producer and a group of established writers to turn it into a viable proposition.

However, there are still a significant number of programs (usually sitcoms) that are built around just one or two writers and a small, close-knit production team. These are "pitched" in the traditional way, but since the creator(s) will handle all the writing requirements, there will only be a relatively short run of six or seven installments 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.

[edit] Genres

Scripted entertainment
Unscripted entertainment

[edit] See also

da:Tv-serie de:Fernsehprogramm el:Τηλεοπτικό Πρόγραμμα es:programa (televisión) fr:Série télévisée is:Sjónvarpsþáttur nl:Televisieprogramma ja:テレビ番組 no:Fjernsynsserie pt:Programa de televisão sr:Телевизијска серија sv:TV-program vi:Phim truyền hình zh:电视节目

Television program

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