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  • Television show

    A television show (often simply TV show) is any content produced for broadcast via over-the-air, satellite, cable, or internet and typically viewed on a television set, excluding breaking news, advertisements, or trailers that are typically placed between shows. Television shows are most often scheduled well ahead of time and appear on electronic guides or other TV listings.

    The first national color broadcast (the 1954 Tournament of Roses Parade) in the US occurred on January 1, 1954. During the following ten years most network broadcasts, and nearly all local programming, continued to be in black-and-white. A color transition was announced for the fall of 1965, during which over half of all network prime-time programming would be broadcast in color. The first all-color prime-time season came just one year later. In 1972, the last holdout among daytime network shows converted to color, resulting in the first completely all-color network season.

    A drama program usually features a set of actors playing characters in a historical or contemporary setting. The program follows their lives and adventures. Except for soap opera-type serials, many shows especially before the 1980s, remained static without story arcs, and the main characters and premise changed little. If some change happened to the characters' lives during the episode, it was usually undone by the end. Because of this, the episodes could be broadcast in any order. Since the 1980s, there are many series that feature progressive change to the plot, the characters, or both. For instance, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere were two of the first American prime time drama television series to have this kind of dramatic structure. While the later series, Babylon 5 is an extreme example of such production that had a predetermined story running over its intended five-season run.

    To create the pilot, the structure and team of the whole series must be put together. If audiences respond well to the pilot, the network will pick up the show to air it the next season (usually Fall). Sometimes they save it for mid-season, or request rewrites and father review (known in the industry as development hell). Other times, they pass entirely, forcing the show's creator to "shop it around" to other networks. Many shows never make it past the pilot stage.

    There are still a significant number of programs, however, (usually sitcoms) that are built around just one or two writers, and a small, close-knit production team. These are "pitched" in the traditional way, but since the creator(s) handle all the writing requirements, there is a run of six or seven episodes per series once approval has been given. Many of the most popular British comedies have been made this way, including Monty Python's Flying Circus (albeit with an exclusive team of six writer-performers), Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and The Office.

    Live events are usually covered by Outside Broadcast crews using mobile television studios, known as scanners or OB trucks. Although varying greatly depending on the era and subject covered, these trucks were normally crewed by up to 15 skilled operators and production personnel. In the UK, for most of the 20th century, the BBC was the preeminent provider of outside broadcast coverage. BBC crews worked on almost every major event, including Royal weddings and funerals, major political and sporting events, and even drama programmes.

    Many scripted network television shows in the United States are financed through deficit financing: a studio finances the production cost of a show and a network pays a license fee to the studio for the right to air the show. This license fee does not cover the show's production costs, leading to the deficit. Although the studio does not make its money back in the original airing of the show, it retains ownership of the show. This ownership retention allows the studio to make its money back and earn a profit through syndication and DVD and Blu-ray disc sales. This system places most of the financial risk on the studios, however a show that is a hit in the syndication and home video markets can more than make up for the misses. Although the deficit financing system places minimal financial risk on the networks, they lose out on the future profits of big hits, since they are only licensing the shows.

    Since at least the 2000s, new broadcast television series are often ordered (funded) for just the first 10 to 13 episodes, to gauge audience interest. If a series is popular, the network places a "back nine order" and the season is completed to the regular 20 to 26 episodes. An established series which is already popular, however, will typically receive an immediate full-season order at the outset of the season. A midseason replacement is a less-expensive short-run show of generally 1013 episodes designed to take the place of an original series that failed to garner an audience and has not been picked up. A "series finale" is the last show of the series before the show is no longer produced. (In the UK, it means the end of a season, what is known in the United States as a "season finale").

    British shows have tended toward shorter series in recent years. For example, the first series of long-running science fiction show Doctor Who in 1963 featured forty-two 25-minute episodes, this dropped to twenty-five by 1970 to accommodate changes in production and continued to 1984. For 1985 fewer but longer episodes were shown, but even after a return to shorter episodes in 1986, lack of support within the BBC meant fewer episodes were commissioned leading to only fourteen 25-minute episodes up to those in 1989 after which it was cancelled. The revival of Doctor Who from 2005 has comprised thirteen 45-minute installments. However, there are some series in the UK that have a larger number of episodes, for example Waterloo Road started with 8 to 12 episodes, but from series three onward it increased to twenty episodes, and series seven will contain 30 episodes. Recently, American non-cable networks have also begun to experiment with shorter series for some programs, particularly reality shows, such as Survivor. However, they often air two series per year, resulting in roughly the same number of episodes per year as a drama.