TV shows or either serialized or episodic. In a serialized show, the main storytelling device is a season or the show itself. It’s when every episode depends upon you knowing the story from the beginning. A few serialized shows are Lost or The Wire.
An episodic is the opposite. That’s when the main storytelling device is an episode. It’s a show where you can pop in and out of a season and still follow the plot.,.like you can with Friends or Seinfeld. An easy way to remember the distinction is that a serialized show has “spoilers,” whereas an episodic show’s episodes are self-contained.
Traditionally, these formats follow by genre. Most dramas were serialized while comedies were more episodic. There were notable exceptions, like procedural dramas CSI or Law & Order which followed the more episodic template.. But in general: for dramas order mattered and for comedies, you were just hanging out having a good time. It’s part of the reason marathons of comedies are so common. You can just turn it on when you aren’t busy and have a laugh, whereas doing that with a Breaking Bad marathon might be confusing.
Comedy writer Michael Schur broke the model last year with his serialized comedy, The Good Place. Schur has been around for a while, writing on Saturday Night Live and The Office before creating Parks & Recreation. So maybe it was his comfortability with the format that emboldened him to take comedy into serialized territory.
The Good Place is centers on Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop, a bad woman mistakenly sent to the good place instead of the bad place when she died. We follow her in the afterlife as she tries to pull the wool over Ted Danson’s character, Michael, the heavenly architect who accidentally welcomed the wrong Eleanor into his good place. We meet Eleanor’s supposed soul mate and their do-gooder neighbors and go along for the ride as Eleanor learns to fit in, despite her selfish past.
The Good Place is a show full of twists and turns that simply won’t make sense when watched out of order.
It’s an interesting balancing act and makes The Good Place, essentially a 30-minute sitcom, feel completely unlike other sitcoms we know and love.
In addition to being a genre-bender, the good place is laugh out loud funny. The Good Place’s second season premiers this Wednesday on NBC…but if you missed season one, don’t fret. The entire first season is streaming on Netflix and with just 13 episode, catching up won’t take long. But once you finish, remember: no spoiling the surprises for your friends.
I’m Evan Rook.