Complex TV

Serial Melodrama

This chapter explores the role of melodrama within contemporary serial narratives, starting with the soap opera’s debatable connection to this mode of storytelling. By separating out the narrative norms of soap operas from the emotional appeals of melodrama, I argue that soaps’ textual form is less vital to prime time serials than is the discursive history linking seriality to the soap genre for decades. Instead, I consider how the emotional responses triggered by serial melodrama help forge the mixed-gender appeal of narratively complex series, with programs such as Veronica Mars, Friday Night Lights, Lost, The Good Wife, and The Wire playing with such conventions to complicate well-established assumptions about genre categories and their gendered appeals.

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