Producing TV-Series

Producing Television-Series

Making a television-series is complex and more difficult than one might imagine. Concerning the narrative aspects, these are surely the most important involved parties:

  • Television networks and studios: The actual dominating 'protagonists' in producing TV-series are the cable and satellite networks. In the United States, companies like HBO (for instance The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, Girls, The Sopranos or Sex and the City), ABC (for example Grey's Anatomy, Castle, MacGyver or Desperate Housewives), CBS (like CSI, Elementary, The Good Wife, Cold Case or The King of Queens), FOX (for example The Simpsons, Family Guy, Ally McBeal, Prison Break or 24) or Showtime (like Californication, The L-World or Homeland) both order and boradcast the series.
  • Ensemble crew: There are so many people involved in producing a television-series, that it seems impossible to say who the actual author is. Even the cinematic approach of claiming the director to be the author proofs to be rather problematic compared with TV-series. This might easily be illustrated with an example: Twin Peaksis undoubtedly a work of art that is strongly associated with David Lynch. Rightfully so, he wrote the story in collaboration with the novelist Mark Frost. Already at this point one might wonder whether Mark Frost might be just as well suited to be the author of Twin Peaksbut there's more: The pilot was shot by David Lynch, written and produced by him and Mark Frost. But from the second episode on, however, many others were not directed by Lynch and also the producers vary from one episode to another. In the face of this "collective authorship", we suggest the concept of an overall production instance.
  • Advertising revenue: It is no coincidence that (public television) TV-series usually have a running-time of about 22 or 42 minutes: They are adjusted to the network's broadcasting system and restocked with another 8 or 18 minutes of commericals.
  • Audience ratings and reviews: Especially public television networks need high viewing rates in order to sell commerical airtime — otherwise, the production of the TV-series is ceased. Nevertheless, also even premium cable networks like HBO are looking for good ratings and reviews. So, for example, David Simon's biggest fear was actually the preterm dismissal of The Wire.


Further Reading

  • Bignell, Jonathan (2008). An Introduction to Television Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Bignell, Jonathan and Jeremy Orlebar (2005): The Television Handbook. London: Routledge.
  • Mullen, Megan (2008). Television in the Multichannel Age. A brief History of Cable Television. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Parsons, Patrick (2008). Blue Skies. A History of Cable Television. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP.