Television Anthologies for the Future

I’m curious to know what people think of the current upswing trend of the anthology format on television. Shows like True Detective and Fargo are trying this method of the anthology where each season is focused on one story, by one creative team, starring a particular cast of characters. At the end of the season, location, characters, actors and story change.

Then you have other anthology shows like American Horror Story, in which each season focuses on a different plot, similar in genre, but the same actors come back in the next season as completely different characters.

These two types of anthology formats have one thing in common, and that is essentially a season-long story/arc/plot. Now, this trend has sort of formed over the last decade, with shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Sons of Anarchy building season-long arcs to drive the episode-to-episode stories. But unlike those shows, an anthology show is a complete novel, a solid story that has a beginning, middle and end.

The Wire is the only recent show, that I can think of, that comes close to this anthology format — closer than The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. The reason is because each season is a micro look at the larger world of the characters — season 1 being the police procedures to catch known criminals, season 2 focusing on the docks and importing of drugs, and so on.

With Netflix and Amazon Prime opening up the door to different ways of viewing televisions hows, it’s easy to look back at The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as forerunners of the anthology format. But those shows, and more recent types like Tales From the Crypt, Masters of Horror, and The Outer Limits, are seasons full of mini-movies, singular episodes with no connection — other than, in some cases (the “successful” cases of TZ and AHP) a narrator to bookend each tale. Add to that the fact that Richard Matheson contributed quite heavily to Twilight Zone, and maybe there’s something there, an outlet to which authors and storytellers will have access to in order to spread their creative wings.

Which leads me to my question, or set of questions, being: What would make a successful anthology series today? If there were to be a series in which each episode was a completely new story, a new set of characters and actors, in new locations, but related by genre or some other thru-line, would people watch it? Would people be interested? Or have True Detective, Fargo, and American Horror Story found the niche, the season-long attention-span of audiences who are looking for a small commitment to a show with a fresh take?

I have my own tales I’m wanting to tell, to be honest, and just want to know what you all think of the format, the thought of fresh tales week-to-week.

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One comment on “Television Anthologies for the Future

  1. MUSTAN says:

    I think if the story is great, and the characters are interesting… doesn’t matter if it’s an anthology or not, people will watch it.

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