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Old 07-14-2019, 12:26 PM
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Question about TV series plot development types


Particularly sit-coms; Seinfeld and the like.

It's where events or occurrences on an episode have no bearing, no effect, on episodes that follow. Nothing is really "resolved". Once in a while, a character may refer to an event that happened on a previous episode, but it's very isolated.

I was discussing this and that with others, and this came up. I think I remember hearing about a term for this type of plot development ( or lack thereof ) but for the life of me I can't remember.

Anyone know?
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Old 07-14-2019, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by BrickBat View Post
Particularly sit-coms; Seinfeld and the like.

It's where events or occurrences on an episode have no bearing, no effect, on episodes that follow. Nothing is really "resolved". Once in a while, a character may refer to an event that happened on a previous episode, but it's very isolated.

I was discussing this and that with others, and this came up. I think I remember hearing about a term for this type of plot development ( or lack thereof ) but for the life of me I can't remember.

Anyone know?
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:11 PM
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That certainly seems to be it. The 'Aesop Amnesia' is also especially apparent.

Very interesting site. Thanks for answering/posting!
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:21 PM
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That certainly seems to be it. The 'Aesop Amnesia' is also especially apparent.

Very interesting site. Thanks for answering/posting!
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Old 07-14-2019, 01:38 PM
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I see! Tons of entries, and it seems every one leads down another rabbit hole with yet more entries. So comprehensive.
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Old 07-14-2019, 02:09 PM
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That certainly seems to be it. The 'Aesop Amnesia' is also especially apparent.
Seinfeld might not be the best example, since later seasons do have story arcs (Jerry's TV show, George's engagement) and jokes may depend on situations set up in previous episodes. But it's true that the basic relationships between the characters don't change, and there is often a "reset" at the end of each season (the TV show's cancellation, Susan's death).

But "Aesop Amnesia" wasn't just a convention in Seinfeld. It was deliberately emphasized to distinguish it from more conventional sitcoms. Larry David's mantra was famously "No hugging, no learning."
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Old 07-14-2019, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BrickBat View Post
Particularly sit-coms; Seinfeld and the like.

It's where events or occurrences on an episode have no bearing, no effect, on episodes that follow. Nothing is really "resolved". Once in a while, a character may refer to an event that happened on a previous episode, but it's very isolated.

I was discussing this and that with others, and this came up. I think I remember hearing about a term for this type of plot development ( or lack thereof ) but for the life of me I can't remember.

Anyone know?
IIRC, those types of shows are "episodic" in that you can generally watch any episode out of order and things are okay.

Others are "anthology" series like Lost or most modern shows in which you need to start from the beginning in order to understand things.
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Old 07-14-2019, 08:42 PM
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I seem to remember "The Orville" actually referencing things that happened in previous episodes, as a direct hit against the various "Star Trek" series never referencing things in later episodes.

Last edited by manson1972; 07-14-2019 at 08:42 PM.
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:17 AM
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Others are "anthology" series like Lost or most modern shows in which you need to start from the beginning in order to understand things.
No, an anthology series is one in which there is no connection at all between episodes, which have completely different characters, casts, and usually setting. Example of anthology series include The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and recently Black Mirror. (Some episodes of Black Mirror, however, suggest they take place in the same universe as others.)

The term for a series in which each episode follows the previous one sequentially, and you have to watch them in order, is a serial. Examples include Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Lost.

A show in which the cast and characters are the same, but each episode has little or no bearing on any others, is episodic.

Many shows are somewhere in between. Procedurals like CSI have the same cast, but they deal with a different case every week. Seinfeld is mostly episodic but does have seasonal story arcs.

Last edited by Colibri; 07-15-2019 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 07-15-2019, 03:00 AM
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I seem to remember "The Orville" actually referencing things that happened in previous episodes, as a direct hit against the various "Star Trek" series never referencing things in later episodes.
Not quite true. Star Trek would on occasion refer to things that had happened earlier in the series, as in "By Any Other Name" and "Turnabout Intruder," f'rinstance.

Any show that has recurring characters must also do so on occasion, like with Maj Botticelli and Col Crittendon on Hogan's Heroes.
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Old 07-15-2019, 03:05 AM
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Many shows are somewhere in between. Procedurals like CSI have the same cast, but they deal with a different case every week. Seinfeld is mostly episodic but does have seasonal story arcs.
The characters on Seinfeld were constantly referring to things that had happened weeks or even years before, so much so that you missed a lot of the jokes if you weren't familiar with the series' backlog.
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Last edited by terentii; 07-15-2019 at 03:09 AM.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:29 PM
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The characters on Seinfeld were constantly referring to things that had happened weeks or even years before, so much so that you missed a lot of the jokes if you weren't familiar with the series' backlog.
I don't know if it was constant. I recall it being a big deal when out of nowhere, a callback to "master of my domain" was used.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by BrickBat View Post
Particularly sit-coms; Seinfeld and the like.

It's where events or occurrences on an episode have no bearing, no effect, on episodes that follow. Nothing is really "resolved". Once in a while, a character may refer to an event that happened on a previous episode, but it's very isolated.

I was discussing this and that with others, and this came up. I think I remember hearing about a term for this type of plot development ( or lack thereof ) but for the life of me I can't remember.

Anyone know?
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Personally, I'd describe it as an episodic program versus a serialized program. Generally, you can skip episodes of an episodic series without missing anything but with a serialized program, you need to catch up on the events that previously occurred.
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Old 07-15-2019, 07:34 PM
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The hour-long Bochco dramas of the 1980s were a bit of a hybrid. Each show typically had four or five subplots, with some being ongoing arcs and others being introduced and resolved within that episode.
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Old 07-15-2019, 08:09 PM
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I don't know if it was constant. I recall it being a big deal when out of nowhere, a callback to "master of my domain" was used.
That was one. There were lots of others: Susan's lesbianism, her father's homosexuality, Rusty the horse, the Braless Wonder, Kramer's jacket, and the Chinese restaurant, to name a few.
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