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The following is a list of commonly used terms in the TV industry that may help you navigate this site a bit better. If you know of any terms that we may have missed, please Email TV Hell with your terms.


1. The Big Three – Term that refers to the three biggest broadcast networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC. It is now often referred to as 'The Big Four' with Fox being the other network.

2. Cablers – Slang term that simply means cable network. It came from the fact the cable network are smaller than broadcast networks.

3. Lead in – The show that comes before another show. A good lead in shares the same demographic as the next show and they are essential to the survival of a show.

4. Friday Night Death Slot – Usually refers to when a formerly successful show gets moved to Fridays because it can’t draw the ratings it used to. Also came from the number of failed Fox shows that were on that night, but it has happened on every network.

5. The 18-49 Demographic – Ideal demographic that advertisers want. Helps a show keep afloat even if its overall ratings aren’t as good as another.

6. Netlets – Term that referred to UPN and The WB because they were the two smallest broadcast networks.

7. Sweeps – Time where networks air brand new episodes in order to get the best approval ratings out of the Nielsen viewers. Re-runs are very rarely aired during this time because viewers send in their diaries of what shows they watch. Sweeps are conducted in November, February, May, and July.

8. Indefinite Hiatus – Generally means that a show has done so poorly that the network hasn’t decided when it will comeback. Shows in indefinite hiatus are almost always cancelled.

9. Full Season – A full season usually contains between twenty one and twenty five episodes. If some episodes are left over from another season then additional ones may be added.

10. Half Season – Format HBO, and other cable networks use. Episode numbers are between twelve and fifteen episodes.

11. Filler – Shows or specials that are generally used to fill in a gap when a show gets cancelled or doesn’t pull enough ratings to be re-run.

12. Mid-season reliever – Name given to the new shows that come midseason that replace the shows that did poorly in the Fall. The difference between filler and relievers are that relievers are generally a permanent solution while filler is only used for a couple weeks.

13. The Cable Big Three – Rarely used but it refers to USA, TNT, and FX because of their dominance in the original programming area.

14. Premium Cable – Cable channels such as HBO or Showtime where viewers must pay an extra fee to receive them. There is no censorship or limitations on these networks.

15. Nielsen – The company that tracks how many people watch a show. You must have a Nielsen box in order to be counted so a large number of people go unaccounted for.

16. Syndication – There are definitions for this term. One of them is a show that is being re-run on various stations. The other is a first run show that is made by a station and is sold first run to a couple of channels instead of just one. Four seasons in considered the bare minimum for a show to enter syndication.

17. Mini-series – Shows that are usually between two and eight parts where the same conflict is the problem for the whole series. Often used as filler when shows are on hiatus.

18. Jumping the Shark – Term that originated on "Happy Days" when 'The Fonz' jumped over a shark. Used when a show starts to go down in quality and something drastically changes to try and bring ratings back up.

19. Episode Numbers – Fairly confusing the first time you see but episode number are numbered by the season number followed by the episode number in that season. If it was episode 7 of the 9th season of "Friends" it would be numbered 907.

20. Canned Laughter – Term used to mean laugh track but is usually used when it is used too frequently or the laughter sounds too fake.

21. Anime – Means Japanese animation. Anime uses more vivid details than shows like "The Simpsons".

22. Pilot – Name given for the first episode of a series. The pilot determines whether or not the show gets picked up for any additional episodes.

23. Cult Television – Shows that people are obsessed with and cannot live without. Sci-fi, action, and animated shows are a few of the types of shows that can be considered cult television though major franchises such as "CSI" or "Law & Order" can be cult TV. If these shows go off the air, the fans will definitely launch a campaign to save it.

24. Spin-off – A spin-off is a show featuring character from a previous show or a show that the characters are introduced on another show. Often occurs when a major show goes off the air.

25. Cross-over – A cross over is when two different shows share a plotline where characters from both shows appear on the opposite one. Usually done to boost ratings and almost always done on the same network (though characters have appeared on different shows on different networks.)

26. Trekkies – Slang term referring to fans of the show "Star Trek" and its spin-off and movies. Also called "Trekkers". Considered the ultimate die-hard fans.

27. Browncoats – Slang term referring to fans of the show "Firefly".

28. M.I.A. – Used when a show unexpectantly goes off the air with no explanation or return date. "Joey" is a perfect example of this.

29. Primetime – Primetime is the timeslot from 8-11 pm through the week on the big networks. Fox, UPN, and The WB do not air after 10 and The WB and UPN do not air on Saturdays. No scripted show currently airs on Saturday. On Sundays primetime starts at seven.

30. Celebreality – Name given to VH1’s Sunday block of shows that is mostly reality. The name is meant to mean celebrity reality but most of the celebrities are D-list actors and has-beens.

31. Average Life-span of a Show – Most shows that are not cancelled typically go on for seven to ten seasons. There are exceptions to this rule however.

32. Length of an Episode – Half hour shows are usually between twenty and twenty two minutes in length. Hour shows on commercial TV are usually forty two to forty four minutes long. HBO and Showtime shows air for fifty to fifty five minutes long.

33. The Disney Policy – The rule Disney uses that cancels all shows after 65 episodes to ensure that the network doesn’t become dependent on one show. There have been several exceptions to this rule.

34. Peacock Network – Nickname magazines give NBC because of its logo.

35. Eye Network – Nickname given to CBS because of its logo.

36. Alphabet Network – Nickname given to ABC because of its name.

37. Frog Network - Name formerly given to the WB because of its old mascot Michigan J. Frog. It’s not used much since he was abandoned but it isn’t uncommon to see the term used.

38. One Season Wonders – Term given to shows that show very powerful and then take a huge dive in ratings and are cancelled that season or the season after. It generally has to bomb the second season in order to be a one season wonder.

39. Laughers – Term that is usually used in articles to replace comedies generally to switch things up. The term is extended to all comedies even the ones that aren’t funny.

40. Dramedies – Term usually given to dramas that take a comical approach on certain issues. Rescue Me and Six Feet Under are perfect examples of dramedies. A dramedy can also be a half hour comedy that deals with drama but that is not used as much as it is with dramas.

41. Mockumentaries - Comedies that are filmed like real documentaries but they are fictional. They can be scripted or non-scripted.

42. Fonzie Syndrome – Term that is similar to jumping the shark. Fonzie syndrome is when a show that revolved around an ensemble begins to focus on one character that is more popular. It gets to the point where the show is essentially about that character.

43. The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Screw Up – There’s so no true name for this definition but it refers to how Who Wants to Be a Millionaire used to be popular but it was killed because it was airing four or five times a week. This is often brought up when talking about Deal or No Deal.

44. Must See TV Thursday – Name given to NBC’s Thursday night line-up of four comedies and a drama. Even though CBS typically wins the night now, NBC still uses the name.

45. Story Arc – Plotline in a show that can last from a few episodes to a full season, or series for that matter. Episodic shows never follow this format.

46. Thursday Nights – Most sought after night for advertisers for the main reason that people go out the following night.

47. Britcom – Sit-Coms made in England.

48. Traditional Sitcom – A traditional sitcom has a sound stage, four cameras, and a laugh track or it is filmed before a live studio audience.

49. Companion Series – Two different shows that cross over with each other more than once can be considered companion series. Different from spin-off. Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order are good examples of companion series.

50. Backdoor Pilot – An episode of one show that features some new characters who may be given their own show based on the reaction of the episode.


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