This has been bugging me for a while, and I did attempt a google search on "British word for TV series" but I was unable to unearth anything helpful.

In the US, a season of a TV show refers to the group of episodes produced in a single run. Each year a show can be renewed for a new season. In the UK, this is called a series.

In the US, a series is the group of all the seasons together; a series might culminate after seven seasons. The series refers to the entirety of the show itself; it is a compilation of all seven of those seasons.

So, to get to my question: what is the British term for the American series? The US has a series composed of multiple seasons; for the UK, a series of series(es?) doesn't make much sense. So I imagine there has to be another term for it, but I've never heard it and can't seem to find it through google. Is there a Brit in the house who can shed some light on the matter?

4 Answers 4


Confusingly, in British English series refers to both an indiviual season and the collection of all seasons (or to the show itself, in the abstract).

For example, here's the Series history section of the Wikipedia article on Grange Hill:

Grange Hill was originally conceived by ATV comedy writer Phil Redmond, who first approached various television companies with the idea in 1975, unsuccessfully. In 1976, he managed to sell the idea to the BBC, and the children's drama executive Anna Home gave the series a trial run of nine episodes, the first being broadcast on 8 February 1978.

From the start, the series caused controversy for its real-life, gritty portrayal of school life, rather than the more idealistic school dramas that preceded it. Redmond has said that he wasn't really able to start pushing the boundaries until later series. This led to Redmond being summoned to lunch by BBC bosses and forced to agree that there would be no further series unless he toned things down. Grange Hill's highest profile period was undoubtedly the mid-late 1980s. One of the most famous storylines during this time was that of Zammo McGuire and his addiction to heroin. This storyline ran over two series (1986–87) and focused on Zammo's descent into drugs and how it strained his relationship with girlfriend Jackie and friend Kevin. The show's other favourite characters during this period were Gonch and Hollo played by John Holmes and Bradley Sheppard. During his time at the school (1985–89) Gonch took part in many moneymaking schemes, most unsuccessful. There was a comedic element to the duo's relationship that worked well with viewers. Script editor Anthony Minghella, who worked on the series for several years during the 1980s, later won an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The English Patient in 1996.

During the 1990s, Grange Hill did not receive the same media attention it did just a few years previously. The teachers were now equals in the narrative with their personal lives taking up almost as much time as those of the pupils. In 1994, two characters were introduced with disabilities, Denny Roberts (Lisa Hammond), who suffered from dwarfism, and Rachel Burns (Francesca Martinez), who had cerebral palsy. Both characters were presented as "one of the gang" and hated any special treatment because of their circumstances. This prompted the BFI's 2002 publication The Hill And Beyond to comment that Grange Hill had perhaps become politically correct. Beginning on 4 April 1993, to celebrate Grange Hill's 15th anniversary, the first fifteen series of Grange Hill were repeated during CBBC's Sunday, and later Saturday morning slots on BBC1 and BBC2. The repeats ended with Series 16 in 1999. Interest in Grange Hill renewed in the late 1990s and the series celebrated its 20th anniversary with the introduction of sinister Scottish bully Sean Pearce (Iain Robertson), who carried a knife and slashed the face of a classmate. Cast member Laura Sadler, who was heavily involved in this storyline, died after falling out of a building in June 2003; four years earlier her Grange Hill character Judi Jeffreys was killed after slipping and falling out of the window of a burning storeroom in the school.

By 2001, the series was almost entirely issue-led and the decision to tackle the subject of rape upset some parents. But when Phil Redmond took over production of Grange Hill in 2003, his plan was to get the show back to its roots and the issues were toned down as Redmond skewed the show towards a younger audience. In early 2006, it was announced a film of Grange Hill was to be released in late 2007 focusing on the lives of former pupils but has not yet appeared.

Grange Hill returned on 14 April 2008 with its final series, including a return of the original theme music. Series 31 returned to BBC1 after the 2007 series was shown exclusively on the CBBC Channel.

However, the US English usage season is also widely understood, and can be used to distinguish between the two concepts without sounding "American" (in the same way that sidewalk for pavement would).

  • 2
    Zero, it does sound American. I haven't heard the word season much in the UK. Only by television announcers referring to programmes that are obviously American, like Law and Order.
    – Tristan
    Jul 26, 2013 at 11:48
  • @Tristan Hmm, doesn't to me. Perhaps I've been away from home too long ...
    – user2098
    Jul 26, 2013 at 12:07
  • 1
    Most perplexing! Throughout that article you can tell which series is meant from context, but it's still quite confusing. I really did expect that there would be another word for this!
    – WendiKidd
    Jul 26, 2013 at 16:04

Wendi, when people in the UK talk about a television programme in general, without specifying any particular episodes, they usually refer to it by its name.

An alternative would be just to use the word programme, once the person speaking has already established which one they are talking about.

  • I disagree, "Programme" is still mainly used to refer to a single episode, or more generically about a single episode of a non-specific series. eg "I'll just check the news and then you can put your programme on"
    – Jon Story
    Oct 27, 2015 at 16:17
  • Episode is generally used to refer to a single episode. Programme is generally used to refer to the whole output. "Doctor Who is my favourite programme." "The new series of Doctor Who starts next week." "I can't wait to see what happens in the next episode of Doctor Who."
    – Dave
    Oct 28, 2015 at 11:20

In theiry, series refers to both the individual runs and the entire thing in British English.

However, we do use season too, and "Season" has now mostly come to be analogous with the US usage for "season". This is because we're watching more and more US TV.

"Series" has dropped out of usage to a large degree when referring to a single season, and is more often used to refer to the whole series (as per the US usage) although this isn't quite as clear cut.

We'd tend to use Boxset or Marathon a lot of the time, to refer to the entire series, although this is context specific (eg Marathon refers to binge-watching a series).


UK English uses programme and, more informally, show as the collective for all the episodes of a production. As mentioned elsewhere, shows are mostly referenced by name.

Looking at the UK's two biggest public service broadcasters we see:-

  • Programme is used on the BBC.

  • Show is used by ITV.

This may say something about the BBC's aims to provide higher production values as they are publically funded.

The broadcaster Channel 4 and the UKTV network use both programme in an internal / industry context and show for the viewing public.

Some regions and age groups use programme for a single unspecified episode or where the choice of show is blatantly obvious in context (as in they watch it religiously). The context of knowing when to use programme vs. show is quite important but hard to describe, Brits will know when you get it wrong. For example "Can you be quiet!? I want to watch my programme!" or "Warning: The following programme contains flashing images."

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