What is TV Drama?
Television Dramas are programs that are often serialised dealing with serious issues or topics with an ensemble cast. It is a genre that encompasses many subgenres, making it difficult to categorise under one definition. For instance, soap operas such as Home and Away are considered TV Dramas alongside series such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. As you probably know there are significant differences between these three programs.
Typically a TV Drama consists of 40-60 minute long episodes within a defined 'season'. The number of episodes in a season can greatly vary from as few as three episodes to as many as thirteen. Traditionally a new season , ie. a new set of episodes from a serial, is shown once a year and released one episode at a time over a set space of time. However, the practice of file sharing and the arrival of streaming services has changed this. Some series, such as The Walking Dead, now divide seasons into two parts both released within the same calendar year and others, such as Transparent, are released all at once.
Conventions and expectations
Traditionally TV Dramas follow a conventional narrative structure and have a set cast of main characters, with supporting characters, who appear in each episode. The settings are familiar environments to most viewers, such as family homes, offices, schools and other settings specific to subgenres (for example, courtrooms or ERs).
As the term implies, TV Dramas focus on various human conflicts placing their characters in emotionally or physically challenging situations. The viewer expects to understand, empathise and/or connect with the various characters, even if they are flawed, and follow their growth and development over a season or series. This is an expectation that Game of Thrones has blown apart and could be a reason for its success.
Additional conventions include the use of theme music and an opening title sequence. TV Dramas also tend to be dialogue heavy but this is determined by the generic conventions of the subgenre, for instance Family and Political Dramas are largely driven by dialogue whereas Horror or Post-Apocalyptic would rely less on this technique. House of Cards has also broken with convention by employing asides, a technique normally found in stage drama where a character speaks directly to the viewer commenting on the action of the narrative.
An example of the use of asides from House of Cards.