By Bob Clark
When you get right down to it, good episodic-drama has very little to do with storytelling as an ends to itself. The best long-form multi-part narratives all certainly manage to tell satisfying tales with their own beginnings, middles and ends, surely enough, but simply telling those tales is never really the raison d’artre for the most compelling case histories of the medium. Episodic narrative has less to do with traditional storytelling, and more to do with providing variations on a theme, and the best examples tend to be the ones which provide the widest possible array of different variations on their particular premise while also wrapping them up in some kind of emotionally rewarding framework. Whether it be Boccaccio and Chaucer (who provided countless variations upon the themes of medieval, baudy love within the storytelling frame-tales of The Decameron and the Canterbury Tales), filmmaker George Lucas (whose repetition of visuals, dialogue and set-pieces throughout the Star Wars series turned those films into a space-opera full of its own cinematic leit-motifs) or cartoonist Chuck Jones (who provided Wile E. Coyote countless of Rube Goldberg-esque methods for how not to catch a Road Runner) storytellers depend upon patterns and variation to keep their enterprises fresh and engaging.