Narrative structures in American dramas (2001-2008)
When referring to the second gold age of American TV Shows (from the middle of 1980s to the middle of 1990s) Concepción Cascajosa pointed out: ‘the achievements reached in this period of drama’s rebirth turns pale faced with the situation of excellence reached today’ (2005: 7). And adds: ‘In front of previous rigidity, the open structure that defines nowadays television market has permitted that greater quantity has supposed greater quality’ (2005: 8). In the last fifteen years, the American television market has gone through a number of changes, related to the appearance of cable and the transformation of networks. That translated to greater quantity and variety in TV schedules. Nevertheless, what is the source of quality that Cascajosa refers to? In his book Serial Television: Big drama on small screen, Glen Creeber talks about serialized television and its tendency to generate complex narratives, creating a flexible structure full of great variety. Additionally, he also studies the hybridization of television genres. Confronted with these processes of hybridization and complexity, the audience has responded in a brilliant way. Millions of people wait for the new chapter of Lost or theorize on the internet about how the plot will go on. In this sense, John Fiske stresses the active position of the audience in television narrative: ‘Television viewing is more interactive than either watching cinema or novel reading and consequently its narratives are more open to negotiation’ (1987: 147). To Fiske, television invites the spectator to live an experience of resolving a narrative enigma, without necessarily knowing the previously constructed structure. In other words, television narrative plays with the sensation of actuality. TV dramas like 24, Lost, Alias, Prison Break or The Sopranos do not have a clear and unique plot. Instead they have a network of little details, implausible plots, weird relationships or secondary aspects. Vincent Canby, a critic of New York Times, has baptized this kind of series mega movies. They are TV Shows with a coherent narrative that develops during the episodes and that ends up being more open or closed. My work investigates what kind of narrative structures American fiction series use (from 2001 to 2008) and observing the relationship to its success.