An episode is a part of a drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic work such as a serial
Serial (radio and television)
Serials are series of television programs and radio programs that rely on a continuing plot that unfolds in a sequential episode by episode fashion. Serials typically follow main story arcs that span entire television seasons or even the full run of the series, which distinguishes them from...

Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

 or radio
Radio programming
Radio programming is the Broadcast programming of a Radio format or content that is organized for Commercial broadcasting and Public broadcasting radio stations....

 program. An episode is a part of a sequence of a body of work, akin to a chapter of a book. The term sometimes applies to works based on other forms of mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 as well, as in Star Wars. Episodes of news
News is the communication of selected information on current events which is presented by print, broadcast, Internet, or word of mouth to a third party or mass audience.- Etymology :...

 programs are also known as edition
In printmaking, an edition is a number of prints struck from one plate, usually at the same time. This is the meaning covered by this article...


Episodes which end in the middle of a climactic moment
Climax (narrative)
The Climax is the point in the story where the main character's point of view changes, or the most exciting/action filled part of the story. It also known has the main turning point in the story...

 are often called cliffhanger
A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction...

s, after the name used for early movie serials
Serial (film)
Serials, more specifically known as Movie serials, Film serials or Chapter plays, were short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction...

. Such episodes can be nearly daily occurrences in soap opera
Soap opera
A soap opera, sometimes called "soap" for short, is an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction presented in serial format on radio or as television programming. The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble,...

s and are frequently used in season finales of many prime time
Prime time
Prime time or primetime is the block of broadcast programming during the middle of the evening for television programing.The term prime time is often defined in terms of a fixed time period—for example, from 19:00 to 22:00 or 20:00 to 23:00 Prime time or primetime is the block of broadcast...


Episodes can be part of a larger story arc
Story arc
A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, boardgames, video games, and in some cases, films. On a television program, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes. In television, the use of the story...

 stretched out over a time period covering one or more seasons, or even an entire series run. This is especially prevalent in dramatic television series, including soap operas or science fiction series
Science fiction on television
Science fiction first appeared on a television program during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Special effects and other production techniques allow creators to present a living visual image of an imaginary world not limited by the constraints of reality; this makes television an excellent medium...

. Other genres to feature story arcs include comedies and animated programming.


The idea of stories being told in episodes has origins in serialized literature
Serial (literature)
In literature, a serial is a publishing format by which a single large work, most often a work of narrative fiction, is presented in contiguous installments—also known as numbers, parts, or fascicles—either issued as separate publications or appearing in sequential issues of a single periodical...

, and in Aristotle's 'Poetics' as 'pataka'. The earliest known example of this is the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), which consisted of a series of serialized stories, or "serialized novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s" or novella
A novella is a written, fictional, prose narrative usually longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000...

s. Its frame story
Frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...

 is about Sheherazade
Shéhérazade is the title of two works by the French composer Maurice Ravel.Shéhérazade, ouverture de féerie, written in 1898 but unpublished, is a work for orchestra intended as the overture for an opera of the same name...

 telling stories to King Shahriyar
Shahriyar , also spelled as Shariyar, Shahryar, Shahryār , Shahriār , Sheharyar or Shehiryar means "King" or "King of the kings" and may refer to:-Geography:*Shahriar, a city in Tehran Province, Iran...

, and she needs to keep him interested in each of the stories, in order to prevent him from executing her the next morning. She often tells the stories episodically, beginning each story with a narrative hook
Narrative hook
A narrative hook is a literary technique in the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he or she will keep on reading...

, leaving off with a cliffhanger
A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction...

, and continuing the story the next night. This leaves the King in suspense
Suspense is a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work. Suspense is not exclusive to fiction, though. Suspense may operate in any situation where there is a lead-up to a big event or dramatic...

, waiting until the next night to hear what will happen next. Many of her tales often stretch over many nights or 'episodes'. For example, "The Three Apples" is narrated in 5 nights, "Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman" is narrated in 6 nights, "The Hunchback's Tale" is narrated in 10 nights, "The Adventures of Mercury Ali" is narrated in 11 nights, "The City of Brass" is narrated in 12 nights, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Ali Baba
Ali Baba is a fictional character from medieval Arabic literature. He is described in the adventure tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves...

" is narrated in 13 nights, "The Ebony Horse" is narrated in 14 nights, "Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad the Sailor is a fictional sailor from Basrah, living during the Abbasid Caliphate – the hero of a story-cycle of Middle Eastern origin...

" is narrated in 30 nights, "The Adventures of Bulukiya" is narrated in 47 nights, and "Aladdin
Aladdin is a Middle Eastern folk tale. It is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights , and one of the most famous, although it was actually added to the collection by Antoine Galland ....

" is narrated in 78 nights. Television adaptations such as Arabian Nights
Arabian Nights (TV miniseries)
Arabian Nights is a two-part 2000 American/British miniseries, adapted by Peter Barnes from Sir Richard Francis Burton's translation of the medieval epic One Thousand and One Nights. Mili Avital and Dougray Scott stars as Scheherazade and Shahryar respectively...

(2000) have also been episodic.

Shows usually have numbers or codes (aka, Production codes/numbers) for each episode. The X-Files
The X-Files
The X-Files is an American science fiction television series and a part of The X-Files franchise, created by screenwriter Chris Carter. The program originally aired from to . The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s...

, for example, assigned a code in the format "sXnn", with 's' identifying the season
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution...

 number and 'nn' being a two-digit number for each show, starting with '01'.

Many talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

s do not give episodes titles. However, some talk shows have given episodes titles, such as Conan, The Jerry Springer Show
The Jerry Springer Show
The Jerry Springer Show is a syndicated television tabloid talk show hosted by Jerry Springer, a former politician, broadcast in the United States and other countries...

and The Steve Wilkos Show
The Steve Wilkos Show
The Steve Wilkos Show is a syndicated American tabloid talk show hosted by Steve Wilkos. The show debuted on September 10, 2007, two months after Wilkos' departure as director of security on The Jerry Springer Show.-History:...


In addition, the word episode can also refer to a portion of a tragic play; this usually being associated with those of the ancient Greeks.

See also

  • List of most-watched television episodes
  • Television network
    Television network
    A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small...

  • Television pilot
    Television pilot
    A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...

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