TV shows and mini-series that have a defined story

Aaron

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Let's face it, most TV shows are open ended, meaning that the creators write (or get others to) the show on the fly. This means that often you can miss out on whole episodes without having missed out on the main plot. After all, it's tough to fill 20+ episodes a season with meaningful dialoge.

The result is twofold. Firstly, probably half or more of each season are "monster-of-the-week" (in the case of Sci-fi) episodes and there is often little, or ad hoc story progression. To be honest, I'm kind of tired of it. Shows that have a lot of this include X-files, Fringe, Star Trek, (I'm a sci-fi buff!) and practically every single soap opera ever conceived of.

Occasionally there are shows that try and buck this trend by having a clear goal, or story to tell. The most famous example I can think of is Babylon 5 where the aim was to create a series in 5 parts telling a well defined story, and they managed to do it. Other examples are shows made from books, such as Game of Thrones and the Dune mini-series from about 10 years back. Also series such as Rome spring to mind.

I would like to create a list of shows that try to either completely remove, or at least keep to a minimum "monster-of-the-week" episodes and storytelling that goes nowhere, and I would like help from people here to create that list. It can be any type of show, not just Sci-Fi. Let's see where this goes. I'll start with the one's I've already listed:

Babylon 5, Sci-Fi, 1994-1997
Game of Thrones, Fantasy, 2011-
Frank Herbert's Dune, Sci-Fi, 2000
Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, Sci-Fi, 2003
Rome, History, 2005-2007
 

Grimmlokk

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Well if you're including mini-series it's basically all of them.

And I'm not sure Rome really counts, they had planned to keep going.

First thought seeing the title wasBand of Brothers, because I am a man. But then I had the thought about almost every mini-series qualifying.
 

OneofOne

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While not "Band of Brothers" type television, Supernatural is this to a large extent, imo. While it's currently on it's 8th season, they did tell the story they wanted (expanded it actually because of it's popularity, original intent was 3 seasons iirc) in 5 seasons. The last episode of the 5th season actually wraps up the series (really good episode too) like the creator wanted, and at the very last 5 seconds of the episode stuck in a scene that basically says "yeah while we were going to end this, and this was a great ending, we decided not to - see ya season!".

While it does have monster-of-the-week episodes ala X-Files, and some are in every sense throw away episodes, many do tie in to the larger story.

(Plus I'm just a big fan of the series /shrug Can't think of anything else off the top of my head other than Scrubs in which I've both laughed my ass off and shed real tears)
 

Lithose

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I think you're talking about heavily serialized shows vs episodic ones. Serialized means the whole season is built to tell a single story. There can be elements of each in the same show, for example, Star Trek DS9 had long "arcs" but was also episodic.

If you're asking about shows that are serialized, and tend to favor the story the season is conveying over the needs of producing more episodes, or making "filler"? That's becoming a decent sized list thanks to the Sopranos and subscription based TV models (Which aren't concerned about commercial time) taking over networks which don't make the kind of dough on commercials more populars ones do. Here's my list of great shows in that vein.

Sopranos. (Season 6 is still some of the best stuff on TV, but it's not anything like Season 1-5)
Deadwood
Boardwalk Empire
Rome
The Wire
Game of Thrones
Mad Men
Breaking Bad
Justified (Seriously, this feels like it's going to be episodic, but it's not--it's fucking amazing, definitely belongs in the golden age of TV)
Homeland
Spartacus.
Carnivale (Can be slow, but it's good).
Magic City (Same as above, can be slow, Starz)
Boss (Starz)
The Borgias (Not for everyone, but fits your description).


Ray Donovan (Still first season, but it's shaping up great.)

Some mini-series.

Shogun (Very old, very 80's, you might not like it, but I did.)
Generation Kill (One of my favorites)
The Pacific
Band of Brothers

Some other shows technically fit the format, but kind of devolved into shlock--24 and Lost come to mind.
 

McCheese

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If you're into sci-fi/fantasy and want a really great, really original, and really tightly-written mini series, check outThe Lost Room. It would have made a fantastic episodic TV show by nature of its story, in my opinion, but they limited it to a 3-episode mini series. Definitely worth a watch.
 

Jait

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Babylon 5, Sci-Fi, 1994-1997
Game of Thrones, Fantasy, 2011-
Frank Herbert's Dune, Sci-Fi, 2000
Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, Sci-Fi, 2003
Rome, History, 2005-2007
Dune has no business being on there. They didn't do God Emperor to finish Leto's story. And truly, that doesn't end until Chapterhouse.

Still better than 90% of other shit.

Life on Mars (BBC)
LEXX
Hustle (BBC)
Torchwood: Children of Earth

Just off the top of my head.
 

Chukzombi

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there is 24 which is serialized as a motherfucker. you miss one episode you may be fucked, there are lots of bad 24 clones out there.
Arrow is another great one.the story moves really quickly though its more open ended than 24.
American Horror Story which is more serialized but has more filler.
 

Aaron

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Oh man, thanks for all this. Especially Lithose. Yeah, serialized is what I was looking for. Knew there had to be a technical term for it that I didn't know. I didn't realise so many of the shows that are popular now (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Spartacus, Mad Men...) were serialized. I just took it for granted that they must be drama-of-the-week shit.

Just these few replies have probably filled up my TV watching time for the next year or so lol. Thank, but keep them coming if you have any, especially multi series shows. I bet lots of people will find this useful.
 

iannis

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Add House of Cards to that "list of shit worth watching". Only 2 seasons but its top notch everything. Writing, Acting, Production.
 

Khane

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Add House of Cards to that "list of shit worth watching". Only 2 seasons but its top notch everything. Writing, Acting, Production.
Second season is still filming. So only 1 season so far.
 

iannis

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True. By the time he's done watching all that other shit though, it'll probably be 4 seasons!

Not that I'm complaining, because he does it well, but why does Spacey seem to always play a Southern Gentleman when he plays American? He's not even southern!

Maybe he just likes the accent.
 

Lithose

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Yeah, can't believe I forgot House of Cards, but it definitely fits. And yep, Aaron, all the above are contiguous stories, they function just like Game of Thrones where the overall arc is the basis for each episode. Obviously all shows have some episodic elements (Some new drama springs up and is dealt with inside of the span of an episode), but the above list contains all shows whichheavilyfavor their arcs, and any momentary/episodic drama? Is often character building or leads to another story later on.
 

Chukzombi

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True. By the time he's done watching all that other shit though, it'll probably be 4 seasons!

Not that I'm complaining, because he does it well, but why does Spacey seem to always play a Southern Gentleman when he plays American? He's not even southern!

Maybe he just likes the accent.
you might as well ask yourself why Al Pacino still does that HOO HAA! shit 20+ years after he starred in Scent of a Woman. or why Travolta has been Vincent Vega in every movie since Pulp Fiction. because these guys careers were on the downswing and those iconic roles brought them back. so the best idea is to keep playing the character people want to see and thus continue to get work.