TV is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome (black-and-white) or colored, with or without accompanying sound. “Television” may also refer specifically to a television set, television programming, or television transmission.
The etymology of the word has a mixed Latin and Greek origin, meaning “far sight”: Greek tele (τῆλε), far, and Latin visio, sight (from video, vis- to see, or to view in the first person).
Commercially available since the late 1920s, the television set has become commonplace in homes, businesses and institutions, particularly as a vehicle for advertising, a source of entertainment, and news. Since the 1950s, television has been the main medium for molding public opinion. Since the 1970s the availability of video cassettes, laserdiscs, DVDs and now Blu-ray Discs, have resulted in the television set frequently being used for viewing recorded as well as broadcast material. In recent years, Internet television has seen the rise of television available via the Internet.
The executive producer, often the show’s creator, is in charge of running the show. They pick the crew and help cast the actors, approve and sometimes write series plots (some even write or direct major episodes). Various other producers help to ensure that the show runs smoothly.
Pre-production begins when a script is approved. A director is chosen to plan the episode’s final look.
Pre-production tasks include storyboarding, construction of sets, props, and costumes, casting guest stars, budgeting, acquiring resources like lighting, special effects, stunts, etc. Once the show is planned, it must then be scheduled; scenes are often filmed out of sequence, guest actors or even regulars may only be available at certain times. Sometimes the principal photography of different episodes must be done at the same time, complicating the schedule (a guest star might shoot scenes from two episodes on the same afternoon). Complex scenes are translated from storyboard to animatics to further clarify the action. Scripts are adjusted to meet altering requirements.
Some shows have a small stable of directors, but also usually rely on outside directors. Given the time constraints of broadcasting, a single show might have two or three episodes in pre-production, one or two episodes in principal photography, and a few more in various stages of post-production. The task of directing is complex enough that a single director can usually not work on more than one episode or show at a time, hence the need for multiple directors.
Principal photography is the actual filming of the episode. Director, actors and crew gather at a television studio or on location for filming or videoing a scene. A scene is further divided into shots, which should be planned during pre-production. Depending on scheduling, a scene may be shot in non-sequential order of the story. Conversations may be filmed twice from different camera angles, often using stand-ins, so one actor might perform all their lines in one set of shots, and then the other side of the conversation is filmed from the opposite perspective. To complete a production on time, a second unit may be filming a different scene on another set or location at the same time, using a different set of actors, an assistant director, and a second unit crew. A director of photography supervises the lighting of each shot to ensure consistency.
Once principal photography is complete, producers coordinate tasks to begin the video editing. Visual and digital video effects are added to the film; this is often outsourced to companies specializing in these areas. Often music is performed with the conductor using the film as a time reference (other musical elements may be previously recorded). An editor cuts the various pieces of film together, adds the musical score and effects, determines scene transitions, and assembles the completed show.
Television genres include:
- Action: where one or more heroes are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended combat scenes, violence, and frenetic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful character struggling against incredible odds, including life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit, which generally conclude in victory for the hero.
- Adult content: the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual gratification.
- Adventure: uses action scenes preferably to display and explore exotic locations in an energetic way. The subgenres of adventure films include, swashbuckler film, disaster films, and historical dramas – which is similar to the epic film genre. Main plot elements include quests for lost continents, a jungle and/or desert settings, characters going on a treasure hunts and heroic journeys for the unknown. Adventure films are mostly set in a period background and may include adapted stories of historical or fictional adventure heroes within the historical context. Kings, battles, rebellion or piracy are commonly seen in adventure films. Adventure films may also be combined with other movie genres such as, science fiction, fantasy and sometimes war films.
- Animated: traditionally, stop-motion or 2D or 3D computer animation.
- Cartoon series: created or adapted with a common series title, usually related to one another and can appear as much as up to once a week or daily during a prescribed time slot. Animated cartoon series also apply outside broadcast television, as was the case for the Tom and Jerry short films that appeared in movie theaters from 1961–1962. Series can have either a finite number of episodes like a miniseries, a definite end, or be open-ended, without a predetermined number of episodes.
- Anthology series: presents a different story and a different set of characters in each episode. These usually have a different cast each week, but several series in the past, such as Four Star Playhouse, employed a permanent troupe of character actors who would appear in a different drama each week. Some anthology series, such as Studio One, began on radio and then expanded to television.
- Art television (also called “quality television”): shares some of the same traits of art films. Television shows such as David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks series and BBC‘s The Singing Detective also have “…a loosening of causality, a greater emphasis on psychological or anecdotal realism, violations of classical clarity of space and time, explicit authorial comment, and ambiguity.”
- Children’s series: Aimed at kids and/or children and/or families.
- Puppet series
- Daytime television: features television programming traditionally produced and scheduled to air between the hours of 9 a.m. (at the end of morning show-type programming) and 5 p.m. (when local news and the early fringe of primetime begins). It can also be defined as television before the watershed, and therefore is subject to censorship.
- Dramatic programming
- Documentary: a feature-length or near-feature length film depicting a real-world event or person, told in a journalistic style (if told in a literary narrative style the result is often a docudrama). Example: Hoop Dreams, The Thin Blue Line (documentary)
- Docudrama: A program depicting some sort of historical or current news event, with specific changes or fabrications for legal, continuity or entertainment reasons. Depending on the quality of the feature and intended audience, these changes can minimally or completely change the story in relation to the actual events. These programs often depict crime or criminals but can also be used to depict heroics or tell a less-explored side of a well-known story. Example: United 93 (film) by Paul Greengrass depicts the events aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 via reconstruction from the available evidence. Since the specific words the passengers exchanged while planning their assault on the cockpit will never be known, the filmmakers created the dialogue based on research and evidence. The Onion Field is another example. This genre is often criticized for creating sensationalized programs intended to capitalize on public interest in lurid news stories; in the case of the Scott Peterson murder trial, a docudrama starring Dean Cain was filmed and aired during jury deliberations.
- Dramality: a combination of television drama and reality television genres (e.g., the soap opera The Only Way Is Essex).
- Courtroom drama: presents fictional drama about law. Law enforcement, crime, detective-based mystery solving, lawyer work, civil litigation, etc., are all possible focuses of legal dramas. Common subgenres of legal dramas include detective dramas, police dramas, courtroom dramas, legal thrillers, etc.
- Legal drama: Legal drama sometimes overlap with crime drama, most notably in the case of the show Law & Order.
- Medical Drama: based around a team of medics helping patients who have been involved in accidents serious or otherwise. Most commonly, an accident occurs which results in the medics being called to help the injured. Most are usually based around a hospital, however, some are based around a mobile medical team etc. Examples of this genre are Casualty, Holby City and ER.
- Educational: helps kids learn their basics to go through school.
- Factual television: non-fiction television programming that documents actual events and people. These type of programs are also described as documentary, observational documentary, fly on the wall, docudrama, and reality television. Although the genre has existed in some form or another since the early years of television, the term factual television has most commonly been used to describe programs produced since the 1990s.
- Instructional: the use of television programs in the field of distance education. Educational television programs on instructional television may be less than one half hour long (generally 15 minutes in length) to help their integration into the classroom setting. These shows are often accompanied by teachers’ guides that include material to help use this program in lessons. Instructional television programs are often shown during the daytime on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in the United States. However, fewer public television stations devote their airtime to ITV today than they do in the past; these days, ITV programs are either seen on a digital subchannel of Non-commercial educational public television station, or passed on to a local Educational-access television channel run by a Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV organization.
- Reality: A purportedly unscripted show (although evidence suggests that some scripting or manipulation occurs) featuring non-actors interacting with each other or dealing with invented or contrived challenges, such as competing against others for a prize. Produced in a similar fashion as the documentary film genre, but with more emphasis on the showing of interpersonal conflict, emotional reactions, or unusual occurrences. The genre has numerous widely-varying sub-genres (see main article).
- Fantasy: featuring elements of the fantastic, often including magic, supernatural forces, or exotic fantasy worlds. Fantasy television programs are often based on tales from mythology and folklore, or are adapted from fantasy stories in other media. The boundaries of fantasy television overlap with Science Fiction and Horror.
- Game Show: depicting a real contest, typically a trivia competition or physical challenge, with rewards in prizes or money. The players may include celebrities, although there are a number of game shows where the participants are “everyday” people, such as “The Price is Right”.
- Music television: where viewers listen to music on the television similar to a radio station apart from commonly having a visual or complete music video
- News show: depicting real, up-to-date events
- Current Affairs: Broadcast journalism where the emphasis is on detailed analysis and discussion of a news story.
- Tabloid television: (also known as Teletabloid) a form of tabloid journalism. Tabloid television newscasts usually incorporate flashy graphics and sensationalized stories. Often, there is a heavy emphasis on crime, stories with good video, and celebrity news. It is a form of “infotainment.”
- Police procedural: pioneered by the popular show Dragnet. The stories revolve around a crime that has been committed and must be solved by the end of the episode following a very generic and usually unchanging structure of events. The crime is committed, witnesses are questioned, an arrest occurs, and then a judicial conclusion wraps it up. As the name implies, the show communicates everything “by the book,” as it would happen in real life. In such modern Police Procedurals such as Law & Order, you see and hear even the officers reading freshly arrested criminals their Miranda rights. Not quite as dramatic or action-oriented as the Dick Tracy-style of detective shows.
- Detective fiction: a sub-genre of crime fiction and mystery fiction in which an investigator or a detective – either professional or amateur – investigates a crime, often murder.
- Public affairs (broadcasting): This refers to radio or television programs which focuses on matters of politics and public policy. Among commercial broadcasters, such programs are often only to satisfy Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulatory expectations and are not scheduled in prime time. Public affairs television programs are usually broadcast at times when few listeners or viewers are tuned in (or even awake) in the U.S., in time slots known as graveyard slots; such programs can be frequently encountered at times such as 5-6 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
- Religious: produced by religious organizations, usually with a religious message. It can include church services, talk/variety shows, and dramatic movies. Within the last two decades, most religious programming is found on religious television networks.
- Science fiction
- Serial: One continuous story. Each episode picks up from where the last one left off. The story may shift with a new season.
- Telenovela: A serial melodrama popular in Latin America. They are similar to a soap opera in miniseries format. They often feature Love and Drama, as well as other situations depending on the genre of telenovela. Examples include: Desire (TV series), Fashion House and Wicked Wicked Games.
- Sitcom: Short for Situational Comedy, a generally lighthearted genre which features characters having to deal with odd or uncomfortable situations or misunderstandings.
- Stand-up comedy: A style in which a comedian performs in front of a live audience, speaking directly to them. The performer is commonly known as a comic, stand-up comic, stand-up comedian or simply a stand-up. In stand-up comedy the comedian usually recites a fast-paced succession of humorous stories, short jokes called “bits”, and one-liners, which constitute what is typically called a monologue, routine or act. Some stand-up comedians use props, music or magic tricks to enhance their acts. Stand-up comedy is often performed in comedy clubs, bars, neo-burlesques, colleges, and theaters. Outside of live performance, stand-up is often distributed commercially via television, DVD, and the internet.
- Sports: The coverage of sports as a television program, on radio and other broadcasting media. It usually involves one or more sports commentators describing the events as they happen, which is called “colour commentary.”
- Infomercials: Also known as Direct Response TV (DRTV), these are television commercials which generally include a phone number or website. There are long-form infomercials, which are typically between 15 and 30 minutes in length, and short-form infomercials, which are typically 30 seconds to 120 seconds in length. Infomercials are also known as paid programming (or teleshopping in Europe). This phenomenon started in the United States where infomercials were typically shown overnight (usually 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.), outside of prime time commercial broadcasting peak hours. Some television stations chose to air infomercials as an alternative to the former practice of signing off. By 2009, most US infomercial spending is during early morning, daytime, and evening hours.
- Variety show: Also known as variety arts or variety entertainment, this is an entertainment made up of a variety of acts (hence the name), especially musical performances and sketch comedy, and normally introduced by a compère (master of ceremonies) or host. Other types of acts include magic, animal and circus acts, acrobatics, juggling and ventriloquism. Variety shows were a staple of anglophone television from its early days into the 1970s, and lasted into the 1980s. In several parts of the world, variety TV remains popular and widespread.
- Western series: set in the American West and embody the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier. Western series use stock characters such as cowboys, gunslingers, and bounty hunters, often depicted as semi-nomadic wanderers who wear Stetson hats, bandannas, spurs, and buckskins, use revolvers or rifles as everyday tools of survival, and ride between dusty towns and cattle ranches on their trusty steeds.
- Space Western: A subgenre of science fiction, primarily grounded in film and television programming, that transposes themes of American Western books and film to a backdrop of futuristic space frontiers; it is the complement of the science fiction Western, which transposes science fiction themes onto an American Western setting.