Questo numero monografico vuole indagare la serialità contemporanea mettendo in evidenza come sia mutata la sua attività di 'world-building'.
In tutti i saggi si trovano alcuni soggetti ricorrenti: da un lato, il variegato universo della produzione industriale di televisione, fatto da creatori/produttori, scrittori e registi ma anche – in un contesto fortemente convergente – sceneggiatori cinematografici, sviluppatori di videogiochi, ‘mediatori’ di vario genere (adattatori, traduttori ecc.). Dall’altro lato, l’altrettanto caleidoscopico terreno del consumo, nel quale le figure del semplice spettatore distratto e del fan, avido collezionista di qualunque pezzo del franchise seriale, confondono sempre più le loro fisionomie.
Al centro, resta come imprescindibile terreno d’analisi il testo. Ciascuno dei saggi che seguiranno si confronta con specifiche case history seriali, provando a individuare, a partire dai fluttuanti e instabili confini del testo esteso (che comprende ormai non solo il drama o la comedy on air sul piccolo schermo, ma anche le testualità ‘secondarie’ realizzate dalla produzione, come mobisodes e webisodes, e quelle ‘terziarie’ prodotte dai fan), come in esso si incrocino le strategie dell’industria e le tattiche di consumo degli spettatori. Per ciascuna case history si è scelto un punto d’osservazione privilegiato: ovvero il modo in cui il telefilm costruisce un proprio mondo possibile, una diegesi.
The link between standardization and variation is that of the fundamental functioning mechanisms of serials.
Analyzing the historical development of American TV series, we can notice how it finds a codified and steady
balance in the forms of series (drama, and comedy) and of serial (soap opera and prime-time soap). This concretely
results in the building of a recurrent world, immediately recognizable, characterized by representative
and narrative constants. The advent of new text forms, such as the serialized series, linked to the second golden
age, and become a mainstream in the last decade, brings forth the use of variation as a tool for a deeper
and very close communication relation between implicit author and model spectator. The essay hypotheses
that the most frequent form of variation in contemporary American serial TV could be defined «world variation
»: a highly reflexive style exercise, made on the momentarily transformation of the diegetic universe of
the series. The essay hypotheses therefore a first attempt of «world variation» typology, starting from some
special episodes from contemporary series: Buffy, Lost, The Simpsons, Scrubs, indicating some more research
paths in the text analysis, but also in the study of production (the emerging figure of the author-creator as origin/
source of the «world variation») and consumption (the fandom audience as privileged addressee of the
style exercises linked to the variations).
The contemporary panorama of the television series is characterized by various operations of reversioning:
production companies of foreign countries purchase concepts of TV fiction to realize some local versions. The
most symbolic case is Yo soy Betty, la fea, a Colombian telenovela that has known a first international circulation
as ready-made and subsequently it has become a scripted format, successfully adapted in many
The essay is focused on Ugly Betty, the American adaptation of the telenovela, investigating the modalities
of localization of the scripted format in a perspective of textual analysis. The process of progressive differentiation
from the Colombian original has mainly worked on two directions: from one side, the renegotiation
of the format and genre of departure, that involved the passage from the telenovela to a prime time quality
drama. From the other side, the more complex and precise diegetic universe, both in the TV episodes, and
in the rich and multiform secondary textuality developed from the beginning of the series.
In times of aesthetic and cultural convergence, in the countries of origin, and especially in the USA, more and
more serials are accompanied by ancillary texts (short films, novels, summaries, videogames), enriching and
‘decorating’ the hypothetical world staged by serials.
The essay analyzes the strategies and tactics used by the Italian television networks (or by more or less
organized fan groups) to translate or adapt also in Italy this rich quantity of para-texts. Analyzing the serial
Lost in its details and declinations, the work tries to outline a double typology. First it goes back over the TV
film extensions according to their function: from the instruments helping to orientate in the serial world, to
the narration continuation in other media, and to the forms allowing playing with settings and personages.
Secondly, it assesses the translation options chosen (and hypothetical) for each paratext: from the realization
of an Italian edition, to the translation choices of the organized fandom; from the impossibility to translate
effectively to the re-creation of similar texts, customized for the Italian audience. The Italian experience of
the text – or better, of the texts composing the story and the hypothetical world – will be inevitably different
from the ‘original’ one.
The purpose of the essay is to rebuild a TV series, Mad Men, through the evocative and symbolic power of
things. Through the rules of design, fashion, objects and clothes, on which the fictional world of TV series is
staged, are rebuilt the most intimate truths of the personages and their perception of the world. The essay
states that Mad Men establishes a particular link with the audience, which is based on the continuous remand
between what happens and what is going to happen – we are at the beginning of the Sixties – between what
the personages know and what the audience knows. It is a complex system of ‘out-fields’ which creates ironical
effects, winks, that while giving the audience the sensation to dominate time, let them face an implacable
transfiguration of their age and miseries.
The cult series Battlestar Galactica has a position of emblematic example in the always-growing trend of
American TV serials world . The series, produced by Basic Cable Sci-Fi, has a series of captions, the last of
which, for this first three seasons says: «And They Have a Plan». The enemies of the survivors in Battlestar
Galactica are superior artificial intelligences following a prophecy, and they seem having an elusive and
omni-comprehensive plan. In this way, the scriptwriters of the series ensure in each episode that they have a
clear direction for the general narration and for the way in which single facts and characters fit in.
This need of a direction or of an ending (even if only partial) is almost an everyday occurrence in the
world of American comics, and in the same way it is frequent in serial genre literature (fantasy, but not only).
It has also become always more necessary in TV. We can also argue that some recent series having a complex
plot: Six Degrees, Jericho, The Nine have been cancelled just because of their lack in having a direction and
a pact with the audience; while others, having an elaborate architecture, have benefit of the authors’ reassurances
and of the announcement of an end date, from Lost to Heroes, until the ultimate FlashForward.
In Battlestar Galactica, as the episodes go on, it is always clearer that the whole plan is adjusted so that the
series can cause a reflection on important issues about war and politics. The audience doesn’t consider these manipulations
as a betrayal. On the contrary, it appreciates the possibility to influence the choices of the authors by making
their voice heard. When, at the end of the third season, the ‘plan’ turns out to be ineffective, the end of the series
has already been announced. This reassures the audience about the existence of a planned conclusion.
The interest of Battlestar Galactica for politics (and philosophy) finds a strong support in the complexity
of the series (which in its turn is built on a pact with the audience): if a fictional fact appears at a first
level to be valid also in the real world, and can be only denied after a reflection, so such a complex narration
results more persuasive when presenting its arguments. The political fervor, this needs be said, is part of a
strategy to free Battlestar Galactica from the ghetto of science fiction and give it the media interest in spite
of being broadcasted on Sci-Fi. Whatever the reasons, it has been obtained both a cultural status and a media
and critical resonance. This is because in Battlestar Galactica the coherence (illusory or not) of the fictional
universe is the key to unveil the inconsistencies and contradictions of our real world.
On October 4th 1990, Fox TV broadcasts the first episode of Beverly Hills 90210. On October 2nd 2008, CW
retries with 90210, a TV series that is partly a spin-off and partly a remake of the previous one.
In these eighteen years, the teen drama has brought to life a decorated world, which in spite of all the
variations and transformations remains essentially the same. It is a universe in which the protagonists are adolescents
from the countryside, trying to fit into the reality of big cities such as Beverly Hills, or Manhattan or
Orange County. The main setting of this world is the high school, a place of stressing situations, while the
safe shelter is represented by the home of a family with traditional values. The teen drama does not only entertain
the audience, but involves it in a universe of imagination going further than the original text.
On one side the fans meet on the web to start forums, web groups and fan fictions dedicated to their
favorite teen drama. On the other side, producers and scriptwriters play with the genre creating series, which
become more and more a corpus of historical and meta-television citations. Therefore, the audience must
learn to seize them to fully enjoy the proposed narrative world. 90210 is the acme of this process: a decorated
world, it is also a narrative universe gathering in itself the previous worlds, from Beverly Hills 90210 to
Dawson’s Creek, to The O.C. 90210 is not just the latest teen drama, but a reflection of the genre on itself.
The essay is dedicated to the analysis of the building of the US TV series X-Files, a real end-millennium cult,
in multimedia franchise, with a particular attention to its film expansion. First of all, the deeply innovative
character of the series is discussed, both on a writing style plan and on that of its relationship with its everexpanding
fandom in its on-line community form, complementary to the strong growth of the web in the same
years. An attempt is made to propose a taxonomy of the possible strategies of film adaptation of TV series, in
the light of the changes in the Hollywood ecosystem and of the new logic of multimedia conglomerates. This
is done to frame the particular case study, including two movies realized at ten years’ distance from each
other, in completely different situations for what concerns the relation between the series and its franchise,
and the social-cultural imagination of the period. Allowing the explosion of the differences between the two
film versions, hidden behind the apparent common adhesion to the narrative and formal codes of TV series,
it is possible to highlight the peculiarity of X-Files, tracing a possible diachronical path of the relations
between TV and movie narration in the last decade.
Inside the complex scenarios open to a convergence, the essay proposes the focalization on a specific sphere:
the building of transmedial possible worlds. It focuses particularly on the different connection strategies
between videogames and audiovisuals created by the production. Within its limits, the intervention investigates
the evolution of the franchising companies having as their main product the audiovisual text: that is to
say, from movies and films for TV to videogames. To this purpose, the concept of ‘standardization’ is introduced
as a key to the interpretation of the different connection strategies. With ‘standardization’ we mean
the ‘official’ inclusion modalities of text elements (events, places, characters) in a ‘decorated world’ of reference.
Therefore, three main different forms of standardization are historically recognized. The first one, prevailing
in the long run, is the one of the non-complexity of standardization, in which the relationship between
audiovisual and videogame turns out as being mono-directional (from the first to the second, without any possibility
to go back): the videogame is not called to be a part of the possible world of narration. The second one, which lets us come closer to nowadays sceneries, is the one of total standardization (experimented by
Matrix universe), in which both movies and videogames contribute to the decoration of a possible world. In
this way, the question will be that of definition of possible ‘centers’ and ‘outskirts’. In this way, some media
will host places, characters and main events (in the analyzed evolution line, the audiovisuals), while others
will host accessories, for the deepening or embellishment (in the evolution line, the videogames). Finally,
through the analysis of the relation between the videogame Lost: Via Domus and the television series Lost of
which it is licensee, there seems to be a third possibility: the dynamic standardization, in which the status of
standardization can be strategically conferrable to the standardizing authority, reversibly over time. This cannot
be done with whole texts, but with specific elements of possible worlds, staged by each one of them (or
better by the peripheral ones).