Probably the main difference between film and television (although so far this class is making me think about why television is always discussed in comparison to film in the first place) is the series format. From this arises several advantages and at least one disadvantage.
The series format allows for more complex character development over time, if the writer knows how to use time wisely. This makes the characters more real and relatable. Paired with television’s intimate proximity to the viewer, television audiences are often bound to connect more with the television characters of programs they watch religiously, than with characters they encounter once in a film viewing. Which brings me to another point: the sheer amount of time people spend watching the characters also enhances their level of identification.
But the series format is, of course, not without drawbacks. Combined with the pressure of the market, the prolonged existence of a show–and the need to produce episode after episode–can be deadly to the spirit of a program. Take for instance The (American) Office. Originally, like its British counterpart, the setting of the show was an isolated one: office workers in a third-rate town disconnected from the current larger culture; they are (and I use this term in its most literal sense) culturally retarded. There is no reference to anything outside this small town that’s come about in the last 5 years. And not only is this cultural backwardness a substantial element of the show, it’s one of the main themes.
Six seasons later, the pressure of writing episode after episode (after episode) of material has forced the show to be topical. The jokes, which used to be almost entirely character-driven, now often center around the current cultural phenomena. This topicality has even taken precedence over character, at times, as when (in a true shark-jumping moment, in my opinion) the characters (some of them completely out of character) mimic the YouTube video trend of wedding processions set to pop music.