Follow TV Tropes



Go To

A miniseries (also frequently referred to as a limited series) is a multi-part drama that airs a pre-determined number of episodes on television. It differs from a traditional television show by the fact that it tells a self-contained story, with no intention of stretching out the concept over multiple seasons. For this reason, production values are frequently more lavish than for a regular series, and the cast usually includes big-name non-TV stars.

In the past, miniseries were often "event television" and aired on multiple nights in the same week, sometimes even on consecutive nights. Many miniseries are adaptations of large books, and as such differ from other shows in that they place a high value identifying the author, to the point that the author's name is frequently embedded in the program's title. Miniseries in this vein were often epic melodramas, and consequently the concept of a "miniseries" gained something of a stigma. By the 1990s, however, thanks to a glut of bad mini-series produced largely as a method for the networks to juice their ratings during "Sweeps" weeks, and with the networks tightening budgets and therefore decreasing the length of mini-series, they gradually fell out of favor.

In more recent times, miniseries episodes often air at the same weekly time slot or all at once on a streaming service. This, combined with television's trend toward serialization, has blurred the lines between a miniseries and a normal television show. Some television series that originated as miniseries have even got expanded into multiple seasons.

The concept of a miniseries varies outside of the United States. British series often air only short, heavily serialized seasons, so the entire run of a British show might be akin to an American miniseries and be aired on American television as such. In Asian countries, the concept of TV seasons is much weaker, and miniseries tend to be the de facto style of TV programming for dramas, with anything from 10 to 100 episodes per series.