A new genre hybrid? The BBC Television Show "Ashes to Ashes" between serial and series

Essay, 2008

9 Pages, Grade: 1,5



‘Ashes to Ashes’ is a BBC produced drama series and a spin-off series of ‘Life on Mars’. The last episode of season one has been aired a few weeks ago. Some people may claim ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is a science fiction series others may say it is a police drama series.

This essay will examine if it is maybe a hybrid of several television genres. Therefore it will explain first how a genre is defined and will take Steve Neil’s and Graeme Turner’s point of view into account. Steve Neil is a professor for Film Studies at Exeter University and author of several books about genre. Graeme Turner is Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Following this discussion this essay will concentrate on ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and whether it confirms the genre of police series and science-fiction series. In order to confirm this, the essay will compare both genres and show the similarities and differences. In addition, it will argue that ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is not only a genre hybrid, further, it is a hybrid between series and serial.

Genres and their hybridization

The word genre derives from French and means ‘type’ and ‘character’. Generally speaking genres are rank schemata’s. Discussions about film genre are applicable to television genres likewise. The genre term derived from literature and theatre in approximately 1910, however, it did not establish itself until the end of the sixties. The development of genres has primarily economical reasons. If a film or television series has a huge commercial success with a new concept then other producers will adopt some of its elements to tie in with the success. This imitation of proven and successful archetypes entailed development of new genres. Steve Neale argues that genres are best understood as processes[1]. According to him the processlike nature of genres[2] is a relation between the level of expectation, the level of generic corpus, and the level of the ‘rules’ or ‘norms’[3].

There are some essential features of genres. Firstly, genres assemble a certain rule type or rather standards to which a director has to abide in order to deliver the viewers expectations. It also helps the viewers to pre-select programs from which they expect certain framework and features. So these frameworks, for example, dramaturgy, visual and acoustical style, actors, costumes, become a firm element of genres. Major-genres’ in film are Western, Melodrama, Comedy and Horror and ‘sub-genre’ are romantic comedy and slapstick, for example.

If I transfer these categories into television genre it would mean that television ‘major-genres’ would be drama, comedy, documentary, entertainment and news programs and ‘sub-genres’ would be police series, action series, western series for drama programs and reality-tv, music videos and late-night-shows for entertainment programs, to name only a few. Steve Neale criticizes this genre research. He is against the classifications of major- and sub-genre. He argues that “conventions of a genre are always in play rather than being simply replayed” and “each new genre film constitutes an addition to an existing generic corpus and involves a selection from the repertoire of generic elements available at any one point in time”[4].

I agree with Neale’s idea. Movies can not be categorized in straight genres. A movie always has several elements from different genres in it. The same obliges to television series. I intentionally concentrate here on television series because to discuss all television programs here would overload this essay. “Television genres and programming formats are notoriously hybridized”[5]. There are two kinds of hybrids a series can be. The first kind is a genre-hybrid. ‘ER’, for example, is a hospital series which has aspects of reality in it like documentaries and is action filled. Although the focus of the show lays on the medical treatment itself, with the character developments and its diversity it is more like “channel surfing without pressing a button, as scenarios and stories” develop “through the ER room”[6]. The other hybrid is a hybridization of narrative structures between the series and the serial. Series has an episodic[7] format. Although the characters and settings are the same in each episode, the story always finishes in each episode.


[1] Neale, Steve (1995) Questions of Genre, p. 170.

[2] Neale, Steve (1995) Questions of Genre, p. 170.

[3] Neale, Steve (1995) Questions of Genre, p. 170

[4] Neale, Steve (1995) Questions of Genre, p. 170.

[5] Turner, Graeme (2001) Genre, Hybridity and Mutations, p. 6

[6] Lewis, Jon E. And Stempel, Penny (1999) The Ultimate TV Guide, p. 120.

[7] Epstein, Alex on http://complicationsensue.blogspot.com/2005/09/episodic-vs-serial.html, accessed 30.05.08

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A new genre hybrid? The BBC Television Show "Ashes to Ashes" between serial and series
( Middlesex University in London )
Introduction to Television Studies
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Introduction, Television, Studies, Ashes to Ashes
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Andrea Struzyna (Author), 2008, A new genre hybrid? The BBC Television Show "Ashes to Ashes" between serial and series, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/119264


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