Lost as well as Veronica Mars play a major role in how episodic and serialized formats work in conjunction with each other. An episodic format is when each episode is a unique instantiation of a premise involving the same characters and situations. While a serialized narrative format is when each episode builds on the last, involving related premises, characters, and situations. Lost’s and Veronica Mars’ ability to balance both narrative formats stems from their use of flashbacks. Flashbacks create a way for the audience to understand a characters’ narrative arc better from episode to episode. However, because of the serialized format of the shows, there is no closure at the end of the episodes. The audience is forced to go on to the next episode in order to continue where the story left off in the last episode. The complexity of television adopts self-conscious devices like flashbacks in order to show the character’s wants and needs. This alone can push the audience to bond or relate to a character not only that episode but over the course of the series. In both shows, the flashbacks are used as a tool to understand the backstory of the protagonists’ and how those experiences have influenced her decision making and personality. Since we only have so much time per episode it is important that the show gives short explanations as to why each character acts the way they do. All in All, both pilots effectively teach viewers how to watch the series with the use of flashbacks. 

In contrast to Veronica Mars, LOST we can analyze the discourse time of the show in order to see how both a serialized and episodic format is balanced. Discourse time is the temporal sequences, durations, and choices made in the narrative discourse. This is seen throughout both episodes as a way of intertwining the lives of each character. Each character that we meet influences the narrative story based on the choices that they make. An example of this is of the little boy finding handcuffs in the jungle while trying to find his dog.

The handcuffs then appear later in a conflict between two men who accuse each other of being a prisoner on the plane. Following this event, we later come to find out that the actual prisoner was the woman leading the hike to the mountain. Even in the midst of all the conflict, the doctor is helping a man who turns out to be the officer in charge of the prisoner. The goal of getting off the island did not change nor did the unknowns of the jungle which makes the show serialized. The situation of getting off of an island that has unknown mysteries is the goal of the show, as they are “lost”. The audience is motivated to continue watching the narrative unfold from episode to episode to hopefully see by the end of the series that they are rescued from the island in one piece. In closing, analyzing the discourse time of Lost helps the audience to try and understand how each character has an influence on each other’s narrative development. 

Whilst Lost does not use voice overs, Veronica Mars takes advantage of it in order to push the narrative arc of the story and her relation to each character. The audience is forced to view each and every character through the opinions and experiences of Veronica. By the use of her voice overs we are only able to follow her from episode to episode and not as many characters like in Lost.

Nevertheless, because the audience is limited to her knowledge about the cases, we have to continue watching the series in order to understand how things will unfold. Viewer knowledge can align or diverge from characters in various ways, as sometimes we wonder what a particular character is hiding while other times we share their secrets and can understand what other characters cannot. In this specific case, we share the thoughts and secrets of Veronica. To conclude, the serialized and episodic format of the show makes it easy for the audience to build a relationship with Veronica and later see how her character changes throughout the show. 

Chess, Shira. “Television & Complexity” Lecture, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, February 2, 2021.

Mittell, Jason. “Narrative.” In The Craft of Criticism: Critical Media Studies in Practice, edited by Mary Celeste Kearney, 35-46. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2018.

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