seasons vs series

As I understand it in UK what Americans would call a tv season, which is a group of episodes all produced at the same time usually aired between September and the spring with a break in the summer, is known as a series. I can understand and appreciate why it is called a series but my question is this: What do you call the entire run of the show? Like if I’m watching Downton abbey and I want to reference the final episode I would call it a series finale as opposed to a season finale where I would expect more episodes next tv season.

I don’t actually know the answer to your question, not being British. However:

It’s changing now with Netflix and all, but in the US, shows pretty much always were renewed each and every year until they were finally and permanently cancelled. In the UK, the individual series might go on hiatus for a few years, or even switch over to another broadcaster. So, it’s less accurate to call them “seasons” if they don’t come back regularly each year.

Now with shows like Arrested Development, having its fourth season produced by Netflix eight years after it was canceled by Fox, it’s not really accurate to call some American show groupings “seasons”, either.

Seasons will remain seasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean annual or regular. It’s coming to mean an arc presented (and more importantly funded) as unified.

As for the last episode? “Grand Finale”?

To me series is the entire collection, while season is what ‘aired’ during a TV viewing season (Fall to Spring as noted in the OP), such as:
Star Trek (TOS) (The Original Series), Season 1, Episode 4

Certainly they will. But it will no longer be accurate. Kind of like “hanging up” the phone.

The word never had any “accuracy” to begin with. it actually referred to a whole year. It’s usage has always been what units someone was willing to pay for before they decide whether to pay for more. It still is.

I always think of it in the sense of a season meaning an indeterminate amount of time. As in: She went to live with her father for a season.

Or calling a program distributed by a streaming service like Netflix a “TV show”.

In the UK, the entire run of a show is also called a series. There’s approximately zero confusion caused by the two meanings of the word.

Those things happen in US TV too. They don’t really happen so frequently in UK TV to be the reason for the difference in usage.

The main difference between television production in the UK and US (that’s relevant here) is that in UK TV there are four seasons each year, not just one. For that reason, in British television planning, the word “season” typically refers to the whole range of programmes showing on a particular channel during one 13-week period, eg “The autumn season on ITV features the return of Downton Abbey”.

So how does one refer to the last show of the year-ish as opposed to the last show ever, then?

We just call it the “last programme in this series”, or “the final episode of Series 3”, or whatever. The last show ever would be “the last-ever episode” or something similar.

There’s generally less need in British television to have a special set phrase for these things, I think, because they have less importance. We don’t tend to have 20+ episodes of mostly blah filler, punctuated by “MID SEASON FINALE!”, “SEASON FINALE!” etc to clue the audience in to when they should watch because something important will happen. When it’s six or eight episodes, you watch the lot (or not), and you know where you are without having to put a label on it.

The US notion of “season” also has some oddities. Some “reality” show, for example, have more than one season per year. OTOH, some basic cable dramas have two or more semi-seasons per year, but all are considered one season.

But the idea that the two episodes of part 4 of Luther is considered a “series”, let alone a season, is baffling.

There’s been an attempt or two to call the reality show “seasons” “cycles” when they have more than one a year. I don’t know how prevalent or successful those attempts have been since I don’t watch much of that dreck.

With cable shows, they’re still single seasons just broken into two parts. If you add up the number of episodes for the “semi-seasons” as you called them, they’re still around the same 20-24 episodes of a typical modern full year season. And even broadcast shows are doing that split thing more and more, as evidenced by how many shows now proclaim they have a “fall finale”:rolleyes: when they’re taken off the air between November sweeps and the new year.

I don’t know about Britain, but almost all the notable cable shows have settled in at 10-13 shows for a season. Which is the most accurate use of the word, a season being around 12 weeks long. I couldn’t get myself to watch a network show anymore.

A “season” refers to contract lengths. For example, the Game of Thrones actors have signed on through season 7. (Season 6 premieres next month.)

But I’m sure “series” has the same contractual implications in the U.K.

I’m not so sure. I get the feeling (no cite) that the erratic “series” schedule for UK shows translates into contract negotiations every (or maybe every other) “series.”

Speaking from the UK, yeah that was odd :slight_smile:

That’s just a variation in the terms of the contracts. It doesn’t seem like a fundamental difference of any kind to me. The parties in a U.K. production contract could just as easily agree to a multi-series term. Maybe they just don’t want to.

In the US, actors are usually contracted for a certain number of seasons at the beginning of the series- 4 to 6 is typical. If the series lasts that long, then the renegotiations for extending the contract is very dependent on the power of the actor, the show’s ratings, etc.

But it doesn’t seem that a lot of actors make such commitments to series in the UK. Hence the surprising death-rate on Downton Abbey and having the lead character in Call the Midwife disappear after a few seasons. (The lack of Jeff in the 4th series of Coupling still haunts us all.)

And another US “season” oddity: AMC splitting the last seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad over two years.