Television and Radio Criticism

Butler. "Narrative stories: Television Structure" - Shannese

Shannese Charles
TVRA 4430W,
Prof. Hashmi October 1st, 2018

This week article was  titled Narrative Structure,Television Stories,” by Butler. The passage is basically highlighting how to create a simple  narrative structure for television from different concepts of media. 
For example, in part one Butler explains to us that there are for different forms of media.
1.Theatrical Films: which are movies shown in theater, that are now old enough to be shown on TV. 
2.The MOW: which are films and mini-series made for television and  weren’t created to be  in theater.
3.The series program: Where an episode would contain the same set of characters, however, the story line never continues. There is a new story within each episode. (Friends, t-comedy series)
4. The serial program:Which is the complete opposite of the series episode. Instead, it contains the same characters, however, the story line continues each week. (Soap Operas)

The two narrative structures I will be focusing on is the series and the serial programming, from part 2 of the article.

For a series programming the narrative structure starts off with Multiple protagonists. Thus meaning there is more than central/ main character within the story also known as a cast or ensemble. This creates equal opportunity for all characters to unravel their personalities with different episodes and able various plot summaries within the same environment of people. However for serial programming multiple protagonists are  apart of the structure as well, though the cast  is bigger than the series programming. Within a serial programming the bigger the cast, the less equality and significance each one gets, the purpose is to create a variety of stories, but if needed be a character can be taken off and replaced without much recognition.

 Next we move on to Exposition. For a series programming, there would only be a minor exposition, due to the fact that the characters past is very vague and is not needed to be explained more than once. It’s already covered through the theme song and also through previous episodes. For a serial programming, the past is of importance to understand the story-line. There would also be a minor recap of the previous episode in the present episode, just to refresh the audiences memory of what occurred before.

After that we move on to Motivation. For a series program in order for the story to move along there has to be a form of balance between motivation and lack of motivation. This gives the characters a story in each episode, they desire something, and go through obstacles in order to get it. However in a serial program, the motivation of a story would linger throughout the season or at least a few episodes, because there is a main motivation which is the overall outcome of the story and then “mini moti’s,” I would call it, which are small desires within each episode that  can be resolved within the episode to reach the main motivation at the end of the season.

Fourth is the Narrative Enigma. Antagonists are needed within a narrative Enigma, this creates obstacles for the protagonist and substance within the development of the story. For series it makes the episode lengthy and gives a sense of trial and error before reaching the conclusion.It would ask the same questions for consistency, however different content would be provided. Though for serial programming there are multiple narrative enigma, because some stories overlap and questions rise base on action within the season. Some are answered with the season some are answered at the end of  the season, and some are carried on to the next season.

Fifth is the Cause and Effect. Within a series programming the cause and effect is when scenes lead into one another. These scenes, also considered acts, all have it’s very own small climax that is separated by commercial breaks.There is one commercial break during a 30 minute show and at least 2 within an hour.The serial programming is very similar to the series programming when it comes to the topic of cause and effect. It consists of climaxes, etc. but the difference is that it contains more commercial breaks, specifically during daytime debuts.

Sixth is the Climax. Series programming to me contain a tricky climatic structure. Within the climax of a series the problem reaches its highest point and is resolved, however the resolution is “undercut,” according to Butler. I am not certain what it  means, but from my understanding I would assume that it’s stating that it is a minor solution, since we have to continually repeat the program and return to the same problem , but my question is does the show ever end with answers or will it all come out on the finale of the show? Serial climaxes are easier to understand because there are resolutions to the various climaxes in order to keep the the clarity of the story. It may not answer the entire story, but it does fulfill minor questions that eases the audiences frustration.

Lastly is the Resolution. Both series and serial programming do not have any resolutions. The purpose is because programming wants to keep the audience on their toes and wanting to tune in next season. If there was a  resolution then the show would end quicker and there would be no more explaining to do. 

The structures of the Narrative does make sense and I understand Butlers’ ideology. I also agree with his structure because as  I am watching my own shows, I am able to decipher each element. For example, “The Good Place,” is a series programming, due to the fact that it has multiple protagonists(Eleanor, Chidi, Tahanni, Jason), an antagonists (Michael), a motivation with excessive climaxes, but no resolution and each episode is based off of the next one. I am able to observe this based on the structure Butler has provided. However it did bring up two questions for me. What would we rather… a shorter show with answers or a the regular narrative story, television structure? 
I wanted to know this because, Butler continuously uses the story-line of “Friends” and soap operas, such as, Grey’s Anatomy, etc. to further clarify why the structure is the way that it is. However, if society did want a structure with answers, shortening the show, how would that structure be formed?

Also how does this play out with streaming platforms, such as, Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV ?

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