How the modern series changed our vision of the small screen: episode 3

The "series" format, a social phenomenon.

From “dinner and a movie” to “Netflix and chill”

This article is part three of three parts. If you haven't read part one or two yet, you can respectively catch up here and here.

Over the last decade, a development has taken place in the film industry, which has been widely noticed, and might even have caused a measure of surprise in the more seasoned observer. While in the ‘90s and early 2000’s hit TV series obviously existed (one need only think of Friends, which was the most watched show on streaming services, 25 years after its release) it was quite obvious that the big star of the screen was cinema. Today, though cinema still has a very important place in many peoples’ lives, the small screen has taken a much more prominent role for an exceedingly large amount of the population. With the advent of on-demand streaming services, that dynamic has only continued to grow. Now we can ask ourselves, how did we go from “dinner and a movie” to “Netflix and chill” in under a decade?


Last update on : 02.04.2021

Financially investments that are steadily increasing..

Of course, though exceptions, like the aforementioned Game of Thrones, exist, it still remains rare to find a television show with the same production value as a run-off-the-mill Hollywood blockbuster. That being said, the investment made in to shows has been steadily increasing, and we can clearly see the results on the small screen. As a general rule, the monetary investment made in the American markets are higher than those in the European markets. The average cost of a “blockbuster” show produced in the US is between 3 and 10 Million dollars per episode, while the average cost of a European episode oscillates between 800 000 and 1,2 Million Euros[1]. This imbalance in budget partly explains the higher production value that American shows are able to attain, and partly explains the reason why European shows rely more heavily on the “auteur cinema” genre for many shows produced in the European Union. 


[1] LAURICHESSE Hélène (dir.), « Etude préliminaire sur le secteur des séries TV en Europe et dans la région Euro-Méditerranéenne », Toulouse, FIEST, 2018, p.17

Last update on : 02.04.2021

A heightened emotional investment

The other advantage that series have over films, is quite clearly another form of investment. The emotional investment of the audience that is. A show that spans twenty episodes of thirty minutes each, has a much greater possibility of developing the characters, of fleshing them out in all ways, of making them likeable and appreciated by the public.

The fleshed-out characters that the small screen offers, also make sure that people will inevitably return to the show, because they are invested in their lives. They want to know what happens to them. Therefore, they keep coming back. One must also note, that under the influence of streaming services a new way of consuming content arose. Of course, this is what is known today as “Binge watching”, basically, watching an entire show in one, or a small number of sittings. This new way of consuming content has in turn changed the way that screenwriters create the shows. Since the show is being watched in rapid succession, there is no need for “cliff-hangers”, as it is not necessary to force people to come back after a commercial break or for the next episode[2]. Streaming services now investigate in which way their shows are being watched (whether with intensive binge watching or in multiple sittings), and are adapting the writing accordingly[3]


[2] « l’étude de la production des séries américaines » CSA, 2016.

[3] LAURICHESSE Hélène (dir.), « Etude préliminaire sur le secteur des séries TV en Europe et dans la région Euro-Méditerranéenne », Toulouse, FIEST, 2018, p.40

Last update on : 02.04.2021

The end of our series..

All of this, leads to a perfect storm of sorts for the series industry. The current crisis has only piled up on that already existing phenomenon. More and more actors, producers and directors flock to the small screen, truly, it is going through a golden age today.

Last update on : 02.04.2021


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