Introduction:

When was the last time you talked about a TV show/program that you saw? If you are like most people, it would have been very recently. Talking about TV is one of the most common topic of conversation that people have in the English-speaking world. So it is important that you know the vocabulary used for talking about it in English because you will have a conversation in English with people about it in the future. And this is what you'll learn here.

In this online exercise on TV vocabulary, you'll learn and remember the English vocabulary used for talking about fictional TV shows/programs (stories written/created using imagination) and the names of the different types on shows on television.

In addition, you learn some general vocabulary which is commonly used when talking about television (you'll see what this is when you do the exercise).

This exercise is an introduction to English television vocabulary. After you have done it, I recommend that you do an exercise where you'll learn the English vocabulary used for talking about and describing the different parts of a TV show/program.

Please note, 'program' is an American English word. It is spelt 'programme' in British English.


Exercise: Describing television

In the following conversion between two friends (Nicola and Jason), Nicola talks to Jason about Television and TV shows/programmes.

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:'Do you watch a lot of television?'

Jason:'I used to watch a lot of television, but now I don't watch a lot. I work a lot now, so I don't have a lot of time to watch it. Also, for me there are too many commercials on TV than there used to be. The advertisements on television when companies try to sell your their products.'

Nicola:'I don't like commercials either, but what type of shows/programs do you like to watch? Do you prefer factual shows/programmes like the news, chat shows, documentaries, or fictional shows/programmes like films, dramas, comedies etc...'

Jason:'I like both. I watch the news and I watch fictional shows as well.'

Nicola:'What type of fictional shows/programs do you prefer to watch, dramas or comedies?'

Jason:'I know that comedies are a type of TV shows that make people laugh, but what does dramas mean?'

Nicola:'Dramas are fictional television shows whose stories are about serious subjects/issues like love, conflict, emotions etc... Dramas are basically any type of fictional shows/programs that aren't written/created to make people laugh (like comedies).'

Jason:'So programmes like House or Downton Abbey are dramas and programmes like the Simpsons or Friends are comedies?'

Nicola:'Yes.'

Jason:'But I've heard people call House a medical drama and Downton Abbey a period drama. What's the difference?'

Nicola:'Medical dramas and period dramas are two different types or genres of dramas. Television shows are normally described by what type of story they are. For example, TV shows which are fictional and their main/principal story is about hospitals or medicine are called 'medical dramas' and a 'period dramas' is where the story of the TV show is in the distant past. This is what genres are. Genres are used to help people find and watch TV shows/programmes which they are interested in.'

Jason:'I like medical dramas, like Grey's Anatomy and House. I remember one episode of House where they travel to England and have to save a woman with the plague.'

Nicola:'So, what is your favourite TV series? Is it House?'

Jason:'What's the difference between a TV series and a TV show?'

Nicola:'A TV series is a type of TV show/programme which has different episodes/parts where each of the episodes continues with the same or similar story as the episode before it.'

Jason:'So, is the news a TV series?'

Nicola:'No, it's a type of TV show/program, but it's not a TV series. Normally, a TV series only has between 6 to 25 episodes/parts in a year and one episode is shown/broadcast once a week. A television series can be either fictional or factual. Some TV series only last for one year, while others can continue and make new episodes for many years. If a TV series lasts for many years, all the episodes it shows in a year is called a season. For example, House is a TV series that has 7 seasons. And each season has about 20 episodes.

The last episode in a fictional TV season is normally called the season finale. Some TV series also have extra episodes which are shown at special times of the year or the episode is very different to other normal episodes. These extra episodes are called specials. These specials are sometimes made to be shown at Christmas or Halloween (e.g. the Simpsons' Halloween specials) and sometimes when they do something special in the episode (like doing a tour, going on holiday, e.g. Top Gear specials).'

Jason:'So, what is a mini-series then?'

Nicola:'A mini-series is a type of series which only lasts for one season, no more. Normally, a mini-series only has between 3 to 10 episodes and in the final episode, the story ends. Band of Brothers and Planet Earth are both examples of mini-series.'

Jason:'I watched Band of Brothers this year, it was broadcast on channel 5. I like channel 5, but for me, my favourite channel or station is BBC1. It broadcasts/shows some of my favourite television shows.'

Nicola:'This year channel 5 showed a rerun of Band of Brothers, it was the second time they had broadcast the mini-series. They broadcast the mini-series last year as well.'


What next

Well done for reading the text and learning the meaning of each of the words/phrase in bold. If you don't want to forgot what they mean and want to be able to say them correctly, I'd like you to do one more thing which won't take you long.

Answer the questions in the below quiz with the TV show vocabulary you've just learnt. Doing this will make sure that you both remember what they mean and that you'll use them in the future.



Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases 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. A word that is used to say when or where a TV program is 'shown' or 'transmitted' on TV, is
         

Broadcast:
(verb) This a professional way to say 'show', 'transmit' or 'air' on television or radio. It is used when you want to say when and where any type of TV program or film is going to be or was 'shown' on TV. You can use 'broadcast' to say when a TV program was shown, e.g. 'the second episode was broadcast on Tuesday at 8pm'. It can also be used to say where (which TV channel/station) a TV program is shown, e.g. 'the tv series is broadcast on bbc america in the united states'. In Spanish: "transmitir/emitir".

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Broadcast:

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2. A type of TV show/program where the story has been invented by somebody and is not real, is called
         

Fictional:
(adjective) This word is used to describe TV shows/programs and books. There are two types of TV programs you can watch; 'fictional' and 'factual'.

'fictional' TV programs are where the story was invented or created by someone using their imagination (it is not real). For example, star wars is a fictional movie. Sometimes an event or situation that actually happened in real life can be turned into a 'fictional' TV show/program when a writer imagines what happens or what the people involved in the event did or said. For example, although the TV mini-series Titanic is based on something that really happened, it is a 'fictional' TV mini-series because a group of writers invented what the people in the mini-series do and say.

'factual' TV programs are the opposite. 'factual' is where both the story or what was said or done aren't invented. 'factual' TV programs are any type of program which shows or talks about real situations or stories. Examples of 'factual' TV shows/programs are 'the news', 'game shows', 'sports', 'documentaries' etc... In Spanish: "de ficción".

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Fictional:

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3. When a television show/program has different parts and one part is shown once a week for between 6 to 24 weeks, it is called a
         

Series:
(noun) A TV 'series' is the name for a television show/program that has different episodes/parts. For example, '24' or 'Game of Thrones' are both TV series ('series' is both a singular and a plural noun). Normally, each episode has the same characters in it as the episode before or continues with the same or similar story/subject. With most TV 'series', one episode is shown on TV once a week for between 6 and 24 weeks (although there are some TV 'series' that have episodes shown on TV continuously (52 weeks in a year)). TV 'series' can be both fictional (e.g. 'house') or factual (e.g. 'top gear'). In Spanish: "serie de televisión".

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Series:

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4. The advertisements that are shown on television where businesses try to sell their products/services, are called
         

Commercials:
(noun) A 'commercial' is what a business 'advertisement' is commonly called on television (although you can still call it an 'advertisement' instead). On most television channels 'commercials' are shown for 5 minutes before a TV show starts and for 5 minutes after it has finished. When 'commercials' are shown in the middle of a TV show, it is called a 'commercial break'. In Spanish: "anuncios de televisión".

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Commercials:

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5. Each single/separate part of a television series, is called an
         

Episode:
(noun) For TV shows/programs, each separate part/installment is called an 'episode'. 'episode' is only used for TV series (where each part continues with the same or similar story/subject or characters). With most TV series, one 'episode' is shown on TV once a week for between 6 and 24 weeks (although there are some TV series that have 'episodes' shown on TV continuously (52 weeks in a year)).

'episode' is used for both fictional and factual TV shows/programs (e.g. 'house', 'top gear' etc...), but it is not used for the news or sport programs. In Spanish: "capítulo/episodio".

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Episode:

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6. Fictional TV shows/programs which are funny and try to make people laugh, are called
         

Comedies:
(noun) There are two main types or genres used to describe fictional TV shows/programs, 'comedies' and 'dramas'. A 'comedy' is a type TV program which is written/made with the purpose of making people laugh (e.g. 'friends', 'the simpsons' etc...). A 'drama' doesn't have the purpose of making people laugh. It is a type of TV program where the story looks at more serious situations and subjects/issues that affect people (e.g. 'downton abbey', '24', 'the sopranos' etc...).

A lot of fictional TV shows/programs contain parts which are both 'comedy' and 'drama'. For example, in 'the office', there are parts in the series that look at real life situations and subjects which are not funny. But 'the office' is still called a 'comedy' because most of the show/program tries to entertain you and make you laugh. In Spanish: "comedias".

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Comedies:

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7. A type of TV show/program which shows real stories and situations and doesn't invent what is said or done, is called
         

Factual:
(adjective) It is also called 'non-fictional'. 'factual' is used to describe TV shows/programs and books. There are two types of TV programs you can watch 'fictional' and 'factual'.

'factual' TV programs are where both the story or what was said or done aren't invented. 'factual' TV programs are any type of program which shows or talks about real situations or stories. Examples of 'factual' TV shows/programs are the news, game shows, sports, documentaries etc...

'fictional' TV programs are the opposite. 'fictional' is where the story was invented or created by someone using their imagination (it is not real). For example, star wars is a fictional movie. In Spanish: "de no-ficción".

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Factual:

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8. When a TV series or show continues/lasts for many years, all its episodes/parts in each year are called a
         

Season:
(noun) If a TV series is successful, it can continue to be made for years. Normally, between 6 and 24 episodes/parts of the TV series will be made each year until the TV series finishes. The episodes/parts of a TV series that are made and broadcast/shown on TV each year are called a 'season'. So, all the episodes made in the first year of a TV series are called 'season 1' (or 'the first season'), in the second year they are called 'season 2' (or 'the second season') etc... Some successful TV series can have many 'seasons', e.g. 24 has 8 'seasons'.

In the UK, 'season' used to be called 'series' (e.g. 'the first series', 'the second series' etc...), but now they are normally called 'season' instead. In Spanish: "temporada".

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Season:

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9. When a TV show/program is shown for a second or third time on television, it is called a
         

Rerun:
(noun) A 'rerun' is when a TV show/program or episode is shown/broadcast again on TV. For example, 'there's a rerun of the first episode of the new season of game of thrones on friday'. 'rerun' is used for the second or third or fourth time etc... that a TV show or episode is shown or broadcast again on television.

It can also be used as a verb, e.g. 'bbc is rerunning pride and prejudice next month'. In Spanish: "reposición".

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Rerun:

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10. The name for the 'last episode' in a season/year of a TV series, is
         

Season finale:
(noun) 'season finale' is the commonly used name for the 'final' or 'last' episode of a TV series in a season/year. 'season finale' is only used if the TV series will return to be made after a break in the following year (i.e. there will be a new season). If the episode is the last ever episode (the TV series is ending), it is called a 'series finale'. In Spanish: "último capítulo de la temporada".

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Season finale:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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11. A type of TV series which has been made to last/run for only one season/year and the story ends in the last episode, is called a
         

Mini-series:
(noun) It is also spelt 'miniseries'. A 'mini-series' is a type of TV series which only lasts/continues for 6 to 10 episodes/parts (although it can have more or less episodes). Most 'mini-series' are made/written so that it only has a limited number of episodes (in the last episode, the story ends).

TV 'mini-series' can be both fictional (e.g. 'band of brothers', 'I claudius' etc...) or factual (e.g. 'the blue planet', 'the world at war' etc...). In Spanish: "miniserie".

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Mini-series:

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12. The name for the place on television like BBC 1, CBS or CNN that show/broadcast TV show/programs, is
         

Channel:
(noun) A TV 'channel' is also called a TV 'station'. It is basically the places on a television where you watch/see TV shows/programmes. In Britain, the popular TV 'channels' are BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Sky 1. In most countries you can watch a minimum of 5 different 'channels' or 'stations' on television. But if you have satellite or cable there can hundreds or thousands of different 'channels' to watch. In Spanish: "canal".

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Channel:

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13. The name for the extra episodes which TV series have for Christmas or Halloween, are called
         

Specials:
(noun) A 'special' is the name for episodes of a TV series where the format/structure is either very different from normal episodes or are used to celebrate special times of the year (e.g. Christmas, Halloween etc...). The most common type of 'specials' are made by TV series for the Christmas holidays. These episodes are normally called 'Christmas specials' and story is connected to something about Christmas.

Another type of 'special' is when the format/structure of an episode is very different to the normal episodes of a TV show/program. In this type of 'special' the presenters or characters often do a tour of a foreign country or go on holiday. An example of this, are the 'Top Gear specials', where the whole episode follows the presenters travelling in a cars in a foreign country. In Spanish: "especiales".

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Specials:

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14. Fictional TV shows/programs which aren't funny and don't try to make people laugh, are called
         

Dramas:
(noun) There are two main types or genres used to describe fictional TV shows/programs, 'comedies' and 'dramas'. A 'comedy' is a type of TV program which is written/made with the purpose of making people laugh (e.g. 'friends', 'the simpsons' etc...). A 'drama' doesn't have the purpose of making people laugh. It is a type of TV program where the story looks at more serious situations and subjects/issues that affect people (e.g. 'downton abbey', '24', 'the sopranos' etc...).

A lot of fictional TV shows/programs contain parts which are both 'comedy' and 'drama'. For example, in 'the sopranos', there are parts in the series that are funny. But 'the sopranos' is still called a 'drama' because most of the show/program is about serious subjects and doesn't try to make you laugh. In Spanish: "dramas".

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Dramas:

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15. A different way to say 'types' when talking about a TV show/program, is
         

Genre:
(noun) 'genre' basically means the 'type' of a TV show/program. 'genres' are used to group or categorise the different types of TV shows/programs together (so, it's easier for people to find the shows they like to watch). They normally group TV shows by the setting (location) and/or subject of the story (e.g. TV shows which are about the police trying to catch criminals are in the 'genre' called 'police/crime dramas').

But 'genres' can also be used to group/categorise TV shows by the style the story is told. For example, if a TV show is about doctors in a hospital and is told in a realistic way, it is called a 'medical drama'. But if there is a lot of danger and the story is very exciting, then it is in the 'genre' called 'medical thriller'.

There are hundreds of different 'genres' used to describe the 'type' of a TV show/program. And confusingly, one TV show can be called by more than one 'genre'. For example, 'the sopranos' is a TV series about the mafia. So as it's about crime, it's put into the 'genre' called 'crime drama'. But because it's storyline is very serious and realistic, it is also put into the 'genre' called 'drama'. In Spanish: "género".

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Genre:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.