Writing Theme & Genre in Television Series

Theme in Episodic Series

Often in episodic series, “themes” are replaced with “topics.” Although Dramatica refers to the central thematic subject as a Topic, common usage sees topics as hot subjects of the moment. This makes topics an element of storytelling, not storyform. Frequently, the actual thematic topic is missing or only hinted at in the exploration of a news topic.

For example, the “topic of the week” in a typical series might be “Babies for Sale.” But is that a Theme? Not hardly. What is interesting about Babies for Sale? Are we exploring someone’s Strategy or Worry or Responsibility or Morality? Any of these or any of the 60 other Variations could be the thematic topic of “Babies for Sale.”

To involve the audience emotionally, the theme of each episode must be distinct, clearly defined and fully explored in essential human ways — not just revolving around a news item.

Genre in Episodic Series

Series can be comedies, action stories, love stories — whatever. The key point to consider is that Dramatica Domains work in any Genre. To keep a “high” concept from bottoming out, rotate through the Domains, using a different one each week. There are only four Domains: a Situation, an Activity, a Manner of Thinking and a State of Mind. A Situation Comedy (Situation) is quite different from a Comedy of Errors (a Manner of Thinking). Whatever Genre the series is cast in, bouncing the episodes through the Domains keeps the Genre fresh. In addition, jumping among genres from time to time can spice up the flavor of a series that has begun to seem like leftovers from the same meal, week to week.

From the Dramatica Theory Book