Introduction:

TV shows/programs are popular all over the world. As a result, they are a very common topic of conversation. So it's important to know how to describe who the actors in a TV show/program are, what the story of the TV show/program is, and the names for the different parts of the TV show/program. In English, there is specific vocabulary which is used to do this.

In this online exercise on 'TV Shows/Programs' we will look at the English vocabulary used for describing fictional TV series (A TV show which has many episodes). The focus here is on the vocabulary for talking about the different parts and roles in a TV series.

Please note, 'program' is spelt 'programme' in British English.

Click here to go to an exercise on general TV vocabulary


Exercise: Describing a television show

Read the following conversation between Nicola and Jason about the TV series 'House'.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Nicola:'One of my favourite TV series is House. I love medical dramas, and this for me is the best.'

Jason:'It's very good. It mixes comedy and drama together very well. It's got a good cast There are some good actors in it like Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps and Olivia Wilde.'

Nicola:'What's the name of Lisa Edelstein's character in the show?'

Jason:'In House she plays the character/role of Dr. Lisa Cuddy.'

Nicola:'She's very good in that role. But for me, the best character in the series is the main character, Dr. House. He's so funny. He is played by the British actor Hugh Laurie.'

Jason:'He's excellent in the role. But normally they call Dr. House just House in the series. For me, the series is very well written. The dialogue is excellent, what they say is funny at times and then serious at other times. But when the dialogue is about medical vocabulary I get confused.'

Nicola:'But it's not just what they say or the characters that makes it an excellent TV show. It's also the storylines that they have in the series. The relationships between the characters, House's problems with drugs etc... Each episode has a different storyline of how House and his team have to save a new patient who has an unknown illness.'

Jason:'Can you remember the episode in season 5 when House goes to the funeral of his father?'

Nicola:'Yes.'

Jason:'I love the scene when House and his friend Wilson are at a rest stop and House makes Wilson loses his car keys. It's my favourite part of the episode.'

Nicola:'Do you like the theme music for the show? The music at the start of each episode?'

Jason:'It's ok. I have a question. Where is the TV series set? It is set in a hospital at Princeton University or a hospital at Harvard University?'

Nicola:'In theory the TV series is set in a hospital at Princeton University. But I suppose they'll make/film it in a studio in California. Did you know that although the series is a medical drama, it is actually based on Sherlock Holmes.'

Jason:'Really?'

Nicola:'Think about it. The series is about House investigating and solving illnesses. In the series the two main characters are House and Wilson. Don't you think the names are very similar to Holmes and Watson?'

Jason:'That makes sense.'

Nicola:'Another TV series I love is The Office.'

Jason:'Which one? The original from Britain or the remake which they did in America? Which is basically a copy of British original but set in America with an American cast.'

Nicola:'I like The Office which stars Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman. So I suppose that's the British original version.'

Jason:'But wasn't Ricky Gervais a guest star on the American remake of The office? I'm sure he was in one episode of the American version.'

Nicola:'Maybe. But I prefer the British version where he was the main character.'


 Link to Dictionary


Quiz: How to describe a TV program/show vocabulary

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. When a famous actor/actress is in a few episodes of a TV show/program, they are called a
         

Guest star:
(noun) This is when a well-known or famous actor or actress appears/acts in one or more episodes of a TV show/program. A 'guest star' will play a character who is only in the TV series for a short time or appears in episodes now and again. For example, John Cleese and Kyle Minogue have been 'guest stars' on the TV series 'Dr Who'. Sometimes a 'guest star' keeps their real name in the TV show and other times they play a character with a different name. Another name for 'guest star' is 'guest appearance' or 'guest role'. In Spanish: "papel de estrella invitada".

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Guest star:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. When you describe the basic story of a fictional TV show/program, you are telling somebody the
         

Storyline:
(noun) The 'storyline' is the basic story or summary of a TV programme, film or play. The 'storyline' can be used to describe a whole TV series or an individual episode. For example, the 'storyline' for an episode of the TV series house is 'a man becomes ill after eating a chicken salad. At first, House can't understand why the patient is not getting better, but he discovers that the patient's wife is trying to poison her husband. In Spanish: "argumento".

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Storyline:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3. A verb that begins with 'S' and is used to say which actors/actresses are in a TV show/program, is
         

Stars:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to star'. This verb is used to say who is acting in a film, TV programme or play. In general, the names of the main actors normally follow this verb, e.g. 'The TV show stars Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy'.

'star' is also used as a noun to mean the best actor/actress in a TV show/program, e.g. 'for me, the star of the TV series was Sean Bean. In Spanish: "protagonizar".

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Stars:

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4. The person who an actor/actress plays in a fictional TV show, film or play, is called a
         

Character:
(noun) 'characters' are what the people who have been written in a fictional TV show, film or play are called. For example, in the Wizard of Oz, three of the 'characters' in the film are the Tin Man, the Lion and the Dorothy. The 'main character' is the most important 'character' in a TV show, film or play, e.g. in the TV series House the 'main character' is Doctor Gregory House. Although less commonly used, 'role' has the same meaning and can be used instead of 'character'. In Spanish: "papel".

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Character:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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5. When you want to say from what (e.g. a book or situation) the story of a Fictional TV show was inspired/influenced by, you use
         

Based on:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to be based on'. This is used to say that a book, film or real life situation or other TV show has inspired/influenced the story of a fictional TV show, film or book. Normally, when a TV show is 'based on' something, it means that both the story and the dialogue in the TV show has been changed in some way from the original material or situation. Sometimes, it is easy to see what a TV show is 'based on' (e.g. the BBC television series Sherlock is based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes), other times it is more difficult to see (e.g. 'the television series House is based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes').

When the basic story of a TV show changes very little from the original material (normally a book), we say that the TV show is an 'adaptation' and is not 'based on'. For example, the TV series Games of Thrones is an adaption of books by R.R Martin. In Spanish: "basado/a en".

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Based on:

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6. A verb that says where the story of a fictional TV show is located/based, is
         

Set:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to set'. This not only means where a film, TV programme or play is located in the story, but also when it takes place, e.g. 'the TV show/program is set in the 1920's in Atlantic City'. This verb is generally used in the present passive simple, i.e. 'is set'. In Spanish: "está ambientada".

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Set:

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7. A verb that you use to say the name of the character in a TV show that an actor/actress is performing, is
         

Plays:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to play'. This is used when you want to say which character/role an actor/actress is in a TV show, film or play. The name of the actor/actress comes before 'play' and the verb is followed by the name of their character/role, e.g. 'hugh laurie plays doctor gregory house'. 'to star as' has the same meaning and can be used instead of 'to play'. In Spanish: "hacer el papel de".

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Plays:

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8. An individual part of a TV show/program, is often called a
         

Scene:
(noun) This means a part of a film, TV programme or play which is set in one location for a number of minutes. For example, in the film 'Casablanca', the most famous 'scene' is where Humphrey Bogart is at the airport with Ingrid Bergman. In Spanish: "escena".

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Scene:

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9. When a TV show is a copy or version of another TV show and has the same name, it is called a
         

Remake:
(noun) A 'remake' is when a fictional TV show (it is never used for factual/non-fictional TV shows) is a copy of a TV show that was made before it and it has the same name. 'remake' is often followed by the preposition 'of' and information about the original version. Normally the story and plot of a 'remake' is the same or very similar to the original. 'remakes' are often made when the original is in a different language or made in a different country, e.g. the American TV series Homeland and The Killing are both 'remakes' of original TV series not made in English.

Sometimes 'remakes' are made when the original was made in the same language and country. But this normally happens when the original was made a long time before, e.g. Star Trek and V. This type of 'remakes' is more common with films/movies than TV series. In Spanish: "remake / nueva versión".

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Remake:

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10. The words/lines that actors say in a TV show/program, are called
         

Dialogue:
(noun) 'dialogue', is the name for the words or lines that actors use in films, TV programmes or plays. Normally, this noun is used when people are giving their opinion if what the actors say in a TV show/program is good or bad, e.g. 'the dialogue in star wars is terrible, no one would ever speak like that'. In Spanish: "diálogo".

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Dialogue:

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11. The music at the beginning of a TV show/program, is called the
         

Theme music:
(noun) 'theme music' is the name for the music which introduces (is at the beginning) any type of TV show/program. Normally, the 'theme music' for a TV show/program never changes. For films/movies, the 'theme music' is called the 'title song'. In Spanish: "tema musical".

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Theme music:

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12. A word that means all the actors in a TV show/program, is
         

Cast:
(noun) The 'cast' is the noun used to refer to all the actors that are involved in a film, TV programme or play. The people who make a film, TV program or play (who do the filming, editing, production etc...) but don't act, are called the 'crew'. In Spanish: "reparto".

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Cast:

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13. The most important role/character in a TV show/program, is called the
         

Main character:
(noun) The 'main character' is the person who the TV show/program is both about and who has the most dialogue/lines. This is used for films, TV programmes or plays. For example, in the TV series '24', Keifer Sutherland plays the main character Jack Bauer. It can also be used in the plural 'main characters', which means the most important roles in a TV show/program. In Spanish: "papel principal".

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Main character:

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