Normal People

ISSUE #21 – Contemporary mini-series or the powers of the in-between

The production of mini-series continues to grow, initiated by both television channels and streaming platforms, and increasingly supported by actresses and actors from the film industry. Miniseries such as Top of the Lake (2013), P’tit quinquin (2014), Chernobyl (2019), Small Axe (2020) or, even more recently, We Own This City (2022) are drawing a vast aesthetic constellation, induced by very varied production strategies.

The French notion of mini-series is very broad; in the Anglo-Saxon world, it is broken down into sub-categories with porous borders: miniseries, limited series, limited-run series in the strict television field, anthology mini-series. The commonly accepted definition of miniseries is based mainly on the self-contained narrative and reduces both the structure and the modalities of exploitation to a limited number of episodes (generally less than 12), to be broadcast – in the case of limited-run TV series – on consecutive days and over a short period.

The aim of this conference is to question the aesthetic powers of contemporary mini-series, produced since the 2000s, to analyse the singular seriality and the modes of production that are related to them, to address their specific modes of broadcasting.

What principles of seriality are at work in mini-series? Do the limited number of episodes and the strategies of time-limited broadcasting imply different narrative forms from those of long-running series? How are the writing of spaces and the evolutionary dynamics of characters constrained by this “limited seriality”?

Mini-series are often part of smaller economies and circumscribed temporalities. To what extent can they constitute creative spaces conducive to aesthetic inventions, to the deployment of singular filmic forms, sometimes implemented by filmmakers coming from feature films? How do certain mini-series rely on journalistic or sociological observations to create narratives of limited seriality that plunge into the social workings and cultural dynamics of our time?

These questions will be examined in the light of the two other standard genres: series (in the literal sense of the term), of which mini-series are a reduced and limited modality, and feature films, of which they constitute an extension with serialities.


Bertrand Bacqué and Olivier Zuchuat, Cinema Department

Cover image: Normal People (BBC 3, Hulu, 2020)


The Godfather (1972)

From the big screen to the little screen : converting feature films into mini-series

Capture d'écran de The Red Riding Trilogy (Channel 4, 2009)

Hybridizations, in-betweens, film-effect and mini-series effect in “The Red Riding Trilogy”

Capture d'écran de Small Axe (BBC, 2020)

“Small Axe” by Steve McQueen : towards a limited seriality

Capture d'écran de Dragon Zakura ドラゴン桜 (TBS, 2005)

Power of the in-between, a standard of the Japanese series

Top of The Lake (2013)

“Top of the Lake” – Auteuristic mini-series?

Capture d'écran de Coincoin et les Z'inhumains (ARTE, 2018)

The writing process of French mini-series

Capture d'écran de The Third Day (HBO, Sky Atlantic, 2020)

“The Third Day”, renewing the serial space

Capture d'écran de Normal People (BBC 3, Hulu, 2020)

“Normal People”: linkings and unlinkings

Capture d'écran de We own this city (HBO, 2022)

“We Own This City”, a coda to “The Wire”

Capture d'écran de Five days at memorial (Apple TV+, 2022)

The mini-series “Five Days at Memorial” versus the long-running medical series: another ethic of disaster

Capture d'écran de Big Little Lies (HBO, 2017)

The star as author: Nicole Kidman and the mini-series

Capture d'écran de Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu, 2020)

From book club to mini-series, the strategy of Reese Witherspoon

Capture d'écran de Making a Murderer (Netflix, 2015-2018)

User-Generated Seriality : Transmediating the Boundaries of True Crime Mini-Series

Watchmen (HBO, 2019)

Watching “Watchmen”, or the transmediadaptation of contemporary North America