Background Information


Do you watch American TV series in your daily life? Let’s get some basic information about the American TV series at the very beginning.

I. What is the American TV series

1. American TV Stations
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1) NBC
The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American television network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. It was the first major broadcast network in the United States which has 10 owned-and-operated stations and nearly 200 affiliates in the United States and its territories. Its famous TV series include Friends, The West Wing and ER (Emergency Room).

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2) ABC
The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is owned by The Walt Disney Company and its corporate headquarters are in Manhattan in New York City, while programming offices are in Burbank.
Determined not to lose its prominence on TV, ABC was able to find success in ratings beginning in 2004. In the fall of that year, ABC premiered two highly anticipated series Desperate Housewives, and Lost. The hottest medical drama Grey’s Anatomy also belongs to it. Immediately, the network’s ratings skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.

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3) CBS
Columbia Broadcasting System Broadcasting Inc. (CBS) is an American television network. Its building in New York City, also known as “Black Rock”, is the 38-story headquarters of the CBS Corporation.
The turning point for CBS came in the summer of 2000 when it debuted the summer reality show Survivor, which became a surprise summer hit for the network. It has had additional successes with sitcoms The Big Bang Theory,Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men.

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4) FOX
The Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC), commonly referred to as FOX, is owned by Fox Entertainment Group, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Launched on October 9, 1986, from 2004 to 2009 FOX was the highest-rated broadcast network in the 18–49 demographic.
In the 2007–2008 seasons, FOX became the most popular network in America in household ratings for the first time in its history, replacing CBS. Its high audience rating relies on the strength of many popular TV series such as House M. D, 24 Hours and Prison Break.

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2. Explanation of Key Terms

1) Episode
An episode is a part of a dramatic work such as a serial television or radio program. Episodes which end in the middle of a climatic moment are often called cliffhangers, after the name used for early movie serials. Such episodes are frequently used in season finales of many prime time shows.

2) Season
In North America and Australia, the term used to describe a regular run of episodes is a television season. In the United States, most regular television series have 20 to 26 episodes per season. In general, dramas usually last 44 minutes (an hour with advertisements), while comedies last 22 (30 with advertisements). The TV is broadcasted in the form of “season”. For example, season 2 episode 5 is often shortened as “S2E05”.

3) Audience Measurement
Audience Measurement measure how many people are in an audience, usually in relation to radio listenership and television viewership, but also newspaper and magazine readership, and increasingly, usage of websites. It is, to help broadcasters and advertisers determine who is listening, rather than just how many. Audience rating is very important. When a series have a low audience rating, the series will be cut. On the contrary, it will get renewal for the next season.

4) Emmy Award
Emmy Awards is the highest award in the U.S. television industry. The statuette is depicted a winged, idealized woman holding an atom. In 1949, the Television Academy held the first Emmy Awards ceremony, an annual event created to recognize excellence in television programming.

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5) Pilot
Pilot is a test episode of an intended television series; also, it’s an early step in the development of a television series. Networks use pilots to discover whether an entertaining concept can be successfully realized. After seeing this sample of the proposed product, networks will then determine whether the expense of additional episodes is justified.
Variety estimates that only a little over a quarter of all pilots made for American television succeed to the series stage.

6) Rerun
A rerun (or repeat), is a re-airing of an episode of a radio or television broadcast. There are two types of reruns—those that occur during a hiatus, and those that occur when a program is syndicated. Reruns can also be, as the case with more popular shows, when a show is aired outside of its timeslot (e.g. in the afternoon).

7) Prime time
The prime time of TV series is 20:00~23:00 from Monday to Saturday and 19:00~23:00 on Sunday.

3. Television Content Rating Systems

Television Content Rating Systems give television viewers an idea of the suitability of a television program for children and / or adults. Many countries have their own television rating system and each country's rating process may differ due to local priorities. A rating is usually set for each individual episode of a television series. The rating can change per episode, network, rerun and per country.

No. Ratings Suitable Audiences
1 TV-Y All Children
2 TV-Y7 Directed to Older Children
3 TV-G General Audiences
4 TV-PG Parental Guidance Suggested
5 TV-14 Parents Strongly Cautioned
6 TV-MA Mature Audience Only

II. Types of the American TV series

1. Situation Comedy

A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a type of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, with often humorous dialogue.
Humor is a key feature of the sitcom. It is largely character-driven. Occasionally, there will be running jokes concerning a character's personality or flaws. Sitcoms also make use of social commentary. Jokes and storylines will fall in line with current events.
The laugh track is viewed as the signal of the sitcom. In the 1950s, sitcoms began using laugh tracks, a pre-recorded effect that is inserted into the show during post-production. The laugh track is meant to cue the audience, letting them know when to laugh.

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2. Soap Opera

A soap opera, or simply soap, is a serial drama, on television or radio that features related story lines dealing with the lives of multiple characters. The stories in these series typically focus heavily on emotional relationships. The name soap opera comes from the fact that many of the sponsors and producers of the original dramatic serials' broadcast on radio were soap manufacturers.
A crucial element that defines soap opera is the open-ended nature of the narrative, with stories spanning several episodes. Most soap operas follow the lives of a group of characters who live or work in a particular place, or focus on a large extended family. The storylines follow the day-to-day activities and personal relationships of these characters.

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3. Drama

Drama is one of the most common American TV series types. There are several different styles such as Medical Drama, Sci-fi Drama, Crime Drama, Legal Drama, Teen Drama, and Historical Drama.
If subdued by procedures, there is Procedural Drama, which means every episode is stand-alone, and Continuous-storyline Drama.

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4. Others

Another American TV series types include Reality Show and Reality Competition, Talk Show, Miniseries and TV Movies.