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Season Fluidity
By the way, I've noticed something interesting: the five seasons of this show so far seem to correspond closely to the first five seasons of the new series of Doctor Who. The first three series had almost no continuous story arc and consisted almost entirely of oneshot stories. Season 4 was the first you could notice a story arc without squinting at every poster in the background (i.e. Retro appearing at the end of a story). Now we're in Season 5, and things are starting to come to a head quickly. Doctor Who had the Pandorica, and you seem to have Socrates's tail. The aliens in "Prelude to a Season", the fortune teller, the glowing sphere thing, and the smoke all said someone is returning. At this rate the whole "converging lines" thing will become a huge serialized story in Season 6, and then Season 7 will be unconnected oneshots and people will come Back from the Dead for no reason. *trollface*

Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Even a show about nothing has something zany and inane happen to our characters every episode, while getting some amount of resolution by the end. However, the same isn't necessarily true for a series as a whole. Some series are so homogeneous in plot you could air a season 1 and 5 episode side by side without telling the difference. Others have such intricate plots, you can tell which quarter of which season you're watching just by looking at the subtle nuances of the main couple's relationship.

To quantify this, the Sliding Scale of Season Transition Fluidity (Season Fluidity for short) puts episodic series on one end, and series with self contained seasons on the other. For example, Gilligan's Island is unchanging from season to season. Toward the opposite extreme, seasons in Sailor Moon and Blackadder are basically separate shows with an identical cast (and some shows don't even have that commonality between seasons - see Skins, below). In the middle, a show like Stargate SG-1 has no distinct seasons, but is threaded together by multiple subplots while staying episodic.

Put another way, you can watch any episode of Gilligan's Island and be equally entertained, without worrying that you've missed important plot points (it's not like they'll ever get off the island or something). While that's also mostly true with Stargate SG-1, seeing more episodes in order lets you see character development over time and several subplots rise and get resolved, letting you get more enjoyment over time. A slightly-less fluid series, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Mad Men, needs to be seen with all the seasons in order if one wants to fully "get" it. Further toward the abrupt end, you can start with the beginning of any particular season of Sailor Moon, but you will be left scratching your head if you start in the middle of a season.

The far Abrupt end would feature shows that do a complete series reboot with each season, in both plot and cast, to the point where they really are completely different shows joined under the same name. An example of that would be Skins, which starts with a completely new group of characters (save an occasional Ascended Extra or two) and storylines every two seasons, as the old characters graduate from Roundview College and leave Bristol. Other than the setting and the general focus on sex, drugs and parties, each new "generation" (as these two-season sets are known) is completely distinct from the others, and many Skins fans see them as entirely separate works.

Note: For simplicity's sake, this scale is excluding Genre Anthology shows, sketch shows, and other works where there is no status quo to either follow or violate, or semi-consistent set of characters/themes. If these works fit on the scale at all, they would mostly fall on the extreme Fluid end.

Sliding Scale of Season Transition Fluidity
Fluid Status Quo Is God on the series level, even possibly including Negative Continuity Most Golden Age and Dark Age Western Animation plus more recent works that follow those formats (e.g. Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures), most traditional SitComs, South Park in its early seasons
 All stand-alone episodes, no arcs, but with some degree of continuity (e.g. dead characters stay dead) Star Trek: The Original Series, early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and most other shows that follow the Adventure Towns or Monster of the Week format. Most adult animated comedies, including Family Guy, The Simpsons, and South Park in its later seasons. Most modern Sit Coms.
 Usually stand-alone, but occasionally has arcs Law & Order and its various spin-offs, The Vicar of Dibley and other standard Brit Coms, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Futurama, Cowboy Bebop, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, The Transformers, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, most of Script Fic Calvin & Hobbes: The Series. Typical abruptness limit for Western Animation and SitComs.
 Series-long Myth Arc Babylon 5, most anime and Noughties Drama Series
Dammed Multiple smaller arcs not directly tied to seasons Star Trek: The Next Generation (later seasons), Glee, Xena: Warrior Princess, Suzumiya Haruhi, Stargate SG-1 (except for seasons 8 & 9), most Soap Operas
 Self-contained season-arcs, with some overarching plots 24, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Damages, Buffy and Angel, Mad Men, Skins (seasons with the same cast), season 4 of Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, most Teen Dramas and Prime Time Soaps
 Highly-distinct seasons with Arc Welding Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Power Rangers, Digimon (first two seasons), Boy Meets World
 Highly-distinct seasons, purely self-contained Lexx, Blackadder
Abrupt Complete series reboot each season Skins (every two seasons), Digimon (third season onward), Super Sentai, American Horror Story


Rotating ArcsSeasonsSeasonal Rot
Schematized PropMeta-ConceptsSelf Plagiarism
Scale of Scientific SinsSorting Algorithm of TropesSliding Scale of Adaptation Modification

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