Television Drama Characters

Focus on Character Development

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

It was not until the 1970’s, however, that television drama other than soap operas began to use the format of the episodic series to explore in depth the lives of the shows’ permanent characters. The family drama The Waltons, with its Depression-era stories drawn from the childhood of writer Earl Hamner, Jr., managed after near cancellation in 1972 to find its viewers and engage them for eight years with its heartwarming tales of the series’ large, close-knit country family. The Waltons soon opened the door to several similar family dramas, including Little House on the Prairie, Eight Is Enough, and the aptly named Family.

In 1978, television took a dramatic leap forward with the debut of Hill Street Blues Produced by Steven Bochco, the series drew on the best elements from television drama in the past and combined them with not only innovative visual techniques and an original plotting structure. Set in an urban police precinct, the show interwove the personal and professional lives of its large ensemble cast of characters with stories and issues often drawn from recent headlines. Each week’s episode involved both limited subplots that were concluded by the hour’s end and segments of ongoing plot lines that were often strung out over several weeks. Within this format, the lives of the characters underwent gradual yet substantial development, aided by exceptionally fine performances from a...

(The entire section is 566 words.)