Most shows have titles for each episode, but there's also internal episode code numbers. These are codes given to each episode to help identify them, and usually match the broadcast order unless the episodes are for whatever reason (usually Executive Meddling
) shuffled around.
There are three main ways to code episode:
- Sequential Numbering: The first episode is given the code "#1" and the numbers increment from there. This is the standard way to number long-running programs that don't have episode titles, such as Game Shows.
- Seasonal Numbering: The code is a number that is a bit like room numbers. The last two digits are the episode number and the first one or two digits are the season number. So "#421" would be the 21st episode of Season 4. This can also be written as "4x21", "4.21", "4-21", or "S04E21".
- Weird Numbering: The episode codes here are a jumble of alphanumerics. Internally, this probably is useful for something, but only the die-hard fans will bother to learn the code. Casual fans will probably apply one of the above codes to the episodes.
episodes usually aren't given a code, although some are retroactively labeled "Episode 0".
- Both The Simpsons and Futurama have funky episode codes, like 7F19 note or 2ACV06 note .
- Family Guy and many other FOX shows also have strange episode codes, like 2ACX08 note . This seems to be a standard format for FOX shows, especially in the earlier years of 20th-Century Fox Television.
- In the days of single letters, the letter referred to the production — F was The Simpsons from Seasons 2 through 9, X was The X-Files, and Space: Above and Beyond had S. King of the Hill was assigned E for its first two seasons.
- In the modern numbering system, the three-letter code refers to the show, and the starting number (or letter in The Simpsons' case) indicates the production season.
- Shows like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report have sequential episode numbers, because episodes don't have titles, and seasons aren't as important to this kind of show. Due to the news-esque nature of the shows, it's more convenient to just refer to episodes by their airdates.
- Doctor Who used an increasing number of letters from Seasons 1-26 (A-Z, then AA/BB/etc. and later 4C, 7D, etc.), then Seasonal Numbering with the revival. A list is here. Note the three codes for The Trial of a Time Lord — that 14-part story is effectively made up of four separate chunks (The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids, and The Ultimate Foe), with the last two produced together as a single block and sharing a code (7C). Also notice that the codes for some Season 30 (Series 4) episodes don't match the broadcast order — this isn't a case of Executive Meddling, but of the show's creators altering the plot as the season was being filmed; they kept the original codes to avoid confusion.
- According to the BBC, the current run of Doctor Who is not the same as the old run, thus the Tenth Doctor ended his tenure in "Doctor Who (2005) Series 4".
- Big Finish gives the production code "8A" to the 1996 film, and their Who audio dramas with Paul McGann continue the numbering as you'd expect (8B, 8C...).
- Lexx had episode numbers that are one season off. The pilot films are numbered 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. The first "full season" (Mantrid) was numbered onscreen as 2.xx, the second one (Fire and Water) is numbered 3.xx, and the third one (Little Blue Planet) has 4.xx numbers.
- LOST numbered its episodes hour by hour, such that a two-hour season finale is considered internally to be two episodes. As a result, "The Variable" was promoted as the 100th episode when in fact it was actually the 96th episode and the 100th hour.
- On the DVD commentaries, the pilot is not counted toward the total; "Tabula Rasa" is referred to as the first episode, so by this logic "The Variable" should've been #95.
- Not a unique phenomenon, as many programs have a two-hour opener or finale. In the case of Heroes, the opening credits even named the two episodes separately and billed the credits as such. "Directed by: Richard Richard ("Cock"), Edward Hitler ("Bull")".
- Telltale Games' Sam & Max: Freelance Police series uses the "Seasonal Numbering" method.
- Mythbusters, due to the number of special episodes that may or may not be part of a series, has seen fans using several different and contradictory schemes. Of course, Mythbusters is unusually well-suited for The One With... designations, so many fans simply name the episode by its primary myth.
- While not the official codes, Pokémon episodes are among the fandom generally assigned a two-letter prefix (EP, AG, DP, BW, XY, or SS) followed by a three-digit episode number. "EP038", for example, is the 38th episode of the original series ("Electric Soldier Porygon"). "AG049" refers to the 49th episode of the Advanced Generation series, and so on. "DP" refers to the Diamond & Pearl series, "BW" to the Black & White series, "XY" to the XY series, and "SS" to the "side-story" episodes occasionally shown on Weekly Pokémon Broadcasting Station or Pokémon Sunday, dubbed under the Pokémon Chronicles banner or as individual specials. The movies are designated with an M followed by a two-digit number ("M01" being...well, The First Movie), and a small handful of episodes do not have codes as a result of being aired Out of Order.
- The Season 4 premiere of Teen Titans is actually titled "Episode 257-494", its production number. As a gag, Control Freak's prisoner number is shown in a mugshot as 257-325, the production number of his first appearance.
- The KTMA season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is assigned "KXX" codes, such as K07 note . These episodes are identified as "Season Zero" to differentiate them from the national run of the series on Comedy Central and Syfy.
- USA Network's former late-night interstitial program, USA Up All Night (1989-98), labeled each episode by the first two digits of the year it aired and the last two digits of which episode of the day it was (Fridays or Saturdays). For example, episode #9101 meant that it was the first show of the year 1991 note for both Fridays and Saturdays. A number would be skipped over if USA Network preempted the program with something else, which very rarely happened.
- Game Shows have this sometimes.
- Barry-Enright game shows, or at least the syndicated ones from 1978 onward, identified each episode in a season by a letter-number code. For example, "A-001" is the premiere (first episode of Season 1) and "F-025" is the 25th show of Season 6 (and in the case of Tic-Tac-Dough, its 1,000th episode, during which host Wink Martindale was given the slate).
- Barry-Enright's Break the Bank, at least for the ABC run, used sequential numbering followed by "-BKB-76".
- The Better Sex used sequential numbering in the style of Break the Bank, with the number being followed by "-BSX-77". For example, the Grand Finale was #156-BSX-77 (taped December 10, 1977).
- Every Second Counts (1984-85) used what appears to be seasonal numbering. For example, #1183 (taped March 1, 1985) is most likely the 183rd episode of the first (and only) season.
- Blockbusters (at least the original series), Bruce Forsyth's Hot Streak, Series/Gambit, Go, The Hollywood Squares (at least the original syndicated run), and It's Anybody's Guess used sequential numbering.
- Concentration (at least the syndicated run), Double Dare (CBS), Give N Take, Pass the Buck, and Tattle Tales (at least the original CBS run) all used four-digit sequential counters with leading zeroes.
- The current run of Family Feud uses seasonal numbering, with three digits prefaced by the last two digits of the first calendar year of that season (for example, "#99-001" is the premiere).
- The nighttime version of The Gong Show used seasonal numbering, with the first episode labeled "101".
- It's Your Bet used a sequential counter, but by the time Lyle Waggoner became host in 1972 this had changed slightly to put the host's initials in front (for example, "#LW-152").
- Match Game had a couple of different styles:
- The CBS daytime era used sequential numbering with four digits — for example, #0086 (taped October 13, 1973), #0158 (taped February 15, 1974), and #1416 (taped January 28, 1979).
- The 1979-82 daily syndicated run used "YY-WW-D" — the first year of the current season, the week that was being taped, and the day of the week. For example, "79-01-1" was the Monday show of the first week of the 1979-80 season (the premiere) and "81-35-5" was the Friday show of the 35th week of the 1981-82 season (the finale).
- At least Password CBS and Password Plus used sequential numbering, while Million-Dollar Password used seasonal numbering (for example, "106" was the sixth and final episode of Season 1).
- Press Your Luck used a four-digit sequential counter with leading zeroes (for example, #0188 was the Michael Larson game, taped May 19, 1984). Whammy used seasonal numbering, with "1001" being the first episode of Season 1 and "2065" being the finale.
- For the current run of The Price Is Right, the daytime show originally used a "D" designation corresponding to the week number and day of that week — for example, #1412D was the Tuesday show of the 141st week (aired May 13, 1975). Once the show reached Week #1000 in May 1996, they switched the "D" to "K" and went from #9995D to #0011K, skipping a week.
- This was done mainly to distinguish the daytime show from the nighttime run, which debuted at the same time and used sequential codes ending in "N" — #195N, for example, was the Season 5 finale and Dennis James' last show.
- The second nighttime run, hosted by Tom Kennedy, used a four-digit counter like the daytime show with "N" at the front — for example, #N0335 note was the Friday show of the 33rd week (or, more simply, show #165 of 170).
- The first five daytime episodes used a second production number that prefaced the normal "D" — "#0101-X", with "X" referring to the taping order from 1-5 (the first week's tapings went #0011D, #0013D, #0014D, #0012D, #0015D). There's no way to tell how this system would've continued, as the next taping (#0022D) didn't have an alternate code, but a logical conclusion may be that "#0101-X" could've also been written as "S01W01E0X".
- There were also several times an entire episode had to be scrapped and replaced (including #0101-2, above). One of these resulted in the episode number (1513K, which would've aired September 27, 2000) being changed to 1513X.
- Nighttime specials also used different codes. The first six specials (1986) used "P", the 25th-Anniversary Special used "S", the 30th-Anniversary Special used "LV", and all specials afterward use "SP". The "P" and "SP" shows used a three-digit counter, while the anniversary specials used a four-digit one.
- Pyramid had several counters:
- During its time at ABC, the show had two counters: one sequential, and one that appears to be the number of the episode in that calendar year (for example, "ABC SHOW #176 TWP'76"; sometime between mid-August 1979 and the final week of taping in May 1980, this changed slightly to "ABC SHOW #TWP-[number]-'[calendar year]"). "TTP" was used for $10,000 and the first episode of $25,000, "TFP" for the rest of $25,000, and "TWP" for $20,000.
- New $25,000 skipped over episode numbers any time the program was preempted. For example, the November 29, 1982 show is labeled #0051, but was really the 49th overall episode.
- The syndicated Sale Of The Century with Jim Perry (January 7, 1985-September 12, 1986) used the same episode counter as syndicated Wheel (#S-001, etc.). The concurrent daytime version on NBC (January 3, 1983-March 24, 1989) used a conventional labeling system. Both were sequential.
- The 2007-08 American Temptation used sequential numbering, with three digits prefaced by "1GT".
- The PAX version of Shop 'Til You Drop appears to have started over from prior numbering systems with sequential numbering from "001". For at least Season 9, the codes used seasonal numbering (for example, "#9084" is the 84th episode of the 2003-04 season).
- The New Treasure Hunt with Geoff Edwards (1973-77) originally labeled each episode with a numeral, followed by the initials "N.T.H." and the first year of that season — for example, the first episode was "Show #1~N.T.H.~73". For at least Season 2, the number was replaced with a letter, one example being "Show #J~N.T.H.~74".
- Wheel of Fortune has had a few. While the original NBC daytime run used a sequential counter, GSN's Merv Griffin tribute marathon schedule listed a code of "NTD1-3686" for Pat Sajak's last show.
- The syndicated version uses a four-digit counter prefaced by "S-". At least one recollection claims that it was a two-digit counter very early on, which would indicate it expanded to three digits just after midseason and four digits early in Season 6. Assuming they continue with 195 shows per season, they won't need a five-digit counter until late 2034.
- When the daytime show moved to CBS in 1989, it got a new episode counter that had three digits prefaced by "C". The 1991 return to NBC reset the counter and replaced "C" with "DT". Both were sequential, though.
- The 1975 ABC version of You Dont Say used a similar system to Break the Bank and The Better Sex, with the episode number followed by "-YDS-75" (for example, "#93-YDS-75"). The subsequent syndicated run appears to have used seasonal numbering (for example, "1075").