A television format similar to a series of Mini Series
. 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 edited together into a "movie format"
which stitches the episodes together, usually removing the Cliffhanger
Differs from the Soap Opera
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 Story Arc
in that each episode is not
a complete story on its own. Though the format is not mutually exclusive of a Story Arc
, 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 Television Serial
is a deprecated format, having been largely replaced by occasional two-part stories in a mostly stand-alone series and the Myth Arc
For some reason, this format was particularly common for British science fiction series.
Sometimes used as a format for one segment within a Variety Show