A television format similar to a series of MiniSeries. Rather than airing a self-contained episode each week, long stories are broadcast broken into a number of individual parts.

This format derives from the serial format used by the short films once shown before a feature, and, before that, the publication of novels in magazines. (Many of the works of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle were originally published as serials.)

The modern CliffHanger evolved from the custom of ending most episodes of a serial with a suspenseful scene which left our heroes in peril (often, literally hanging off a cliff).

All the episodes of a story are usually considered as a single unit. In syndication or video release, they may be [[CompilationMovie edited together into a "movie format"]] which stitches the episodes together, usually removing the CliffHanger.

Differs from the SoapOpera in that the narrative is not continuous throughout the entire series. Typically, each story would last between three and eight episodes then end.

Differs from a StoryArc in that each episode is ''not'' a complete story on its own. Though the format is not mutually exclusive of a StoryArc, continuity between episodes which are not part of the same story is generally minimal (though this is probably entirely a result of arcs having been rare when the serial format was common).

Today, the TelevisionSerial is a deprecated format, having been largely replaced by occasional two-part stories in a mostly stand-alone series and the MythArc.

For some reason, this format was particularly common for British science fiction series.
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Examples:

British series:

* ''Series/DoctorWho'' prior to 1996
* ''Series/TheTomorrowPeople''
* ''Series/SapphireAndSteel''
* ''Series/TheBill'' since 2002
* ''{{Series/Cracker}}''
* ''{{Timeslip}}''
* Many British sci-fi shows that did this are also examples of BritishBrevity, where the whole season is one serial but very short:
** ''Series/AForAndromeda''
** ''Franchise/{{Quatermass}}''
** ''Series/DarkSeason'' (which managed to have ''two'' mostly but not entirely separate serials within a single 6 episode season).

Non-British series:


* ''[[Series/RockyJonesSpaceRanger Rocky Jones, Space Ranger]]''
* On radio, ''YoursTrulyJohnnyDollar'' during the late 1950s, as well as ''Superman'' and lots of other shows.
* ''Manga/GhostHunt'' is an example that's rare both for being {{anime}} and for happening in 2006-2007.
* ''Series/MoonlightMask''
* ''The Space Giants'' (a.k.a. ''Series/AmbassadorMagma'')
* ''Series/{{Ghostwriter}}''

Sometimes used as a format for one segment within a VarietyShow:

* The namesake segments of ''WesternAnimation/RockyAndBullwinkle''.
* ''Mathnet'' on ''Series/SquareOneTV''
* ''The Bloodhound Gang'' on ''Series/ThreeTwoOneContact''
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