Publication Date

April 2012


Lisa Dombrowski


Film Studies


English (United States)


The historical epic has not traditionally been embraced by TV series, relegated instead to the realms of miniseries and TV movies. But in the mid-2000s, as the genre began to enjoy a reemergence in Hollywood films, epics found popularity and success as premium cable series. This cycle of pay-cable epics have adapted and refocused conventions of the historical epic. These shows fit the epic onto TV, but also offer a unique variation on it. I argue that the abundance of censorable content available to the premium cable format allows these shows to achieve a level of visual excess necessary to the genre; at the same time, their highly serial narratives foster long-term, exclusive viewerships, vital to premium’s subscriber-based model. Seen in this light, pay-cable epics are neither pale imitations of their filmic counterparts nor bloated, gratuitous television spectacles, but creative works that combine aspects of genre and format in distinctive ways, and are worthy of further study.



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