Whether it is finding out “who shot J.R.” on Dallas or how Dr. Doug Ross will leave County General on E.R. it is the serialized storytelling format that has continually grasped the attention of television viewers around the world. What is it about these shows that keep viewers coming back for more? This essay will be answering that question and more by taking a look at how serialized stories came to be, and more importantly what shows made it the success that it has become in television. This will be done by looking at where the genera has gone, what struggles it has faced, and will finish with a look towards the future to see where the genera is headed.
To begin this discussion it is important to first understand what exactly a serialized story is. A serial according to the Encarta Dictionary is defined as “a story that is published or broadcast in parts, normally at regular intervals”. Because of the broadness of that definition this paper will be specifically focusing on those series that air at night in what has been deemed a ‘Primetime’ slot.
The serialized format was not a revolutionary concept that was invented for television. On-going stories have been around since the mid 1800’s as English writers released stories in what was called Penny Dreadfuls which were released in eight-page installments (Pollick). The format however has since evolved. In 1929 it made its first splash into radio with a program called The Smith Family (University of Minnesota.). This show lasted only a week, but helped lay the foundation for the late Irna Philips to build upon and ultimately revolutionize the genera.
Irna Philips has been considered by many to be the mother of the serialized format due to the success of her work on both radio and television. Having begun in 1930 with the WGN series Painted Dreams, Philips showed a great talent for weaving interact character driven stories that the audience would flock to (Giddens). More importantly however, was Philips business sense. Philips saw the marketing potential in her dramas, and thus created special opportunities for seamless product integration within her series. This gave advertisers a new way to get the most out of their advertising dollars. After Painted Dreams, Philips moved on to create and work on such iconic shows as The Guiding Light, As the world Turns, Another World, Days of Our Lives and, most importantly for this essay, played a vital role in the early days of the first American primetime serialized series Peyton Place (IMDB).
Before discussing Peyton Place however, one has to note its inspiration the British series Coronation Street. Having originally begun as a 13 episode whim of the show’s creator Tony Warren, Coronation Street has since gone on to become one of the most iconic British television series of all time. It has also gone on to claim the title of world’s longest running drama by celebrating its 50th anniversary on December 9th 2010 (Corrie.net). The original premise...