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Television Drama Codes & Conventions

Rob Miller | Thursday June 25, 2015

Categories: A Level, OCR A Level, OCR AS, Key Concepts, Genre, Hot Entries, Legacy, Television, Television Drama

Sub Genres

Television Drama is a broad area of study covering a range of sub genres and even genres that would be considered to be a category of their own with their own codes and conventions. Some texts cross over different sub genres e.g. 24 is Crime Drama and Action Adventure. A generic, comprehensive list includes:

  • Period Drama | Emma, Downton Abbey, The Tudors, Mildred Pierce
  • Crime Drama | The Wire, Luther, Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes, Inspector George Gently, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Chase, CSI, NCIS, 24, New Tricks, Hustle, Bones, Dexter, Cold Case
  • Science Fiction | Torchwood, Doctor Who, Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes (arguably), Primeval
  • Medical Drama | Holby City, Casualty, Scrubs, House, ER, Doc Martin
  • Teen Drama | Skins, OC, 90210, Waterloo Road
  • Melodrama / Soap Opera | Hollyoaks, Eastenders, Coronation Street, Footballer’s Wives and Hotel Babylon borrow from the conventions of Melodrama
  • Political Drama | West Wing, Spooks (Spy Drama), The Kennedys
  • Comedy DramaShameless, Trollied (although arguably a SitCom)
  • Action/Adventure Drama | Lost, 24
  • Fantasy Drama | Merlin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Highlander, Lost, True Blood

Many TV Dramas like Downton Abbey (Period Drama) are critically acclaimed and in October 2011 received 5 Emmy Awards. Critical success and commercial success is common to the genre, as is high production values and many texts are scheduled for 60 minutes, sometimes for 90 minutes in ‘feature length’ format.

Below are the conventions that are common to most of the above TV Dramas – remember that this is generic categorisation:

Generic Conventions

  • Dramatic narrative (storyline)
  • Ensemble cast (each character – own storyline)
  • Expressive lighting techniques dependent on sub genre e.g. high key lighting in Period Drama
  • High production value sound/emotive
  • Exaggerated, hyper real representations of character – cultural stereotyping for entertainment values
  • Scheduled Prime Time (but can...

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