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An anthology series is a radio, television, or film series that presents a different story and a different set of characters in each episode, season, segment or short.[1] These usually have a different cast each episode, but several series in the past, such as Four Star Playhouse, employed a permanent troupe of character actors who would appear in a different drama each week.[2] Some anthology series, such as Studio One, began on radio and then expanded to television.[3]



From Ancient Greek ἀνθολογία (anthología, “flower-gathering”), from ἀνθολογέω (anthologéō, “I gather flowers”), from ἄνθος (ánthos, “flower”) + λέγω (légō, “I gather, pick up, collect”), coined by Meleager of Gadara circa 60 BCE, originally as Στέφανος (στέφανος (stéphanos, “garland”)) to describe a collection of poetry, later retitled anthology – see Greek Anthology. Anthologiai were collections of small Greek poems and epigrams, because in Greek culture the flower symbolized the finer sentiments that only poetry can express.


Many popular old-time radio programs were anthology series. On some series, such as Inner Sanctum Mysteries, the only constant was the host, who introduced and concluded each dramatic presentation. One of the earliest such programs was The Collier Hour, broadcast on the NBC Blue Network from 1927 to 1932.[4] As radio's first major dramatic anthology, it adapted stories and serials from Collier's Weekly in a calculated move to increase subscriptions and compete with The Saturday Evening Post. Airing on the Wednesday prior to each week's distribution of the magazine, the program soon moved to Sundays in order to avoid spoilers with dramatizations of stories simultaneously appearing in the magazine.[4]


Genre seriesEdit

Radio anthology series provided a format for science fiction, horror, suspense, and mystery genres (all produced in the USA, unless noted):

Nelson Olmsted of NBC's Sleep No More fantasy series.

The final episode of Suspense was broadcast on September 30, 1962, a date that has traditionally been seen as marking the end of the old-time radio era.[6] However, genre series produced since 1962 include:


In the history of television, live anthology dramas were especially popular during the Golden Age of Television of the 1950s with series such as The United States Steel Hour and The Philco Television Playhouse.[7][8]

Dick Powell came up with an idea for an anthology series, Four Star Playhouse, with a rotation of established stars every week, four stars in all. The stars would own the studio and the program, as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had done successfully with Desilu studio. Powell had intended for the program to feature himself, Charles Boyer, Joel McCrea, and Rosalind Russell. When Russell and McCrea backed out, David Niven came on board as the third star. The fourth star was initially a guest star. CBS liked the idea, and Four Star Playhouse made its debut in fall of 1952.[2] It ran on alternate weeks only during the first season, alternating with Amos 'n' Andy. It was successful enough to be renewed and became a weekly program from the second season until the end of its run in 1956. Ida Lupino was brought on board as the de facto fourth star, though unlike Powell, Boyer, and Niven, she owned no stock in the company.

American television networks would sometimes run summer anthology series which consisted of unsold television pilots.[9] Beginning in 1971, the long-run Masterpiece Theatre drama anthology series brought British productions to American television.

In 2011, American Horror Story debuted a new type of anthology format in the U.S. Each season, rather than each episode, is a standalone story. Several actors have appeared in the various seasons, but playing different roles—in an echo of the Four Star Playhouse format.[10]

The success of American Horror Story has spawned other season-long anthologies such as American Crime Story and Feud.[11]

American dramaEdit

British dramaEdit

Canadian dramaEdit

Indian dramaEdit

Pakistani dramaEdit


Children and familyEdit


Crime dramasEdit





Mystery and suspenseEdit


Science fiction and horrorEdit


Title Started Ended Seasons Episodes Notes
Dead Man's Gun 1997 1999 2 44 -
Death Valley Days 1952 1970 18 452 -
Frontier 1955 1956 1 31 -
Frontier Theatre 1950 1950 - - No episodes are known to have survived.
Zane Grey Theater 1956 1961 5 149 -
Cheyenne 1957 1962 7 107 -


Anthology film series are rare compared to their TV and radio counterparts. There have been several attempts within the horror genre to have a franchise with an anthology format, such as with the Halloween franchise where the third film, Halloween: Season of the Witch, was meant to be the beginning of a series of anthology horror films, but due to negative reception that plan was shelved.

Drama seriesEdit

Title Started Ended Instalments Notes
Cities of Love 2006 N/A 5 [12]


Title Started Ended Instalments Notes
Shinobi no Mono 1962 1970 9 Composed of five unrelated stories/characters. Story 1 (films #1-3), story 2 (films #4-5, 7), story 3 (film #6), story 4 (film #8), story 5 (film #9).
The Bloodthirsty Trilogy 1970 1974 3
The Ninja Trilogy 1981 1984 3 Composed of Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination.[13]
Shake, Rattle & Roll 1984 N/A 15
Cloverfield 2008 N/A 3
Marvel Cinematic Universe films 2008 N/A 22 [14][15][16][17]
DC Extended Universe 2013 N/A 7
A Star Wars Story 2016 2017 2

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Anthology series changing television". UWIRE Text: 1. 23 October 2015 – via General OneFile.
  2. ^ a b "Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  3. ^ Sterling, Rob (2015). "About Writing for Television". Patterns. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1505707465.
  4. ^ a b Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3.
  5. ^ Page 20: Widner, James F & Frierson III, Meade. Science Fiction on Radio: A Revised Look At 1950–1975. Birmingham, Alabama: A.F.A.B. Publishing.
  6. ^ Chimes, Art. "Last Radio Drama". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  7. ^ Kraszewski, Jon (Fall 2006). "Adapting Scripts in the 1950s: The Economic and Political Incentives for Television Anthology Writers". Journal of Film and Video. 58 (3): 3–21. JSTOR 20688526.
  8. ^ Simon, Ron (2013). Riggs, Thomas (ed.). "Philco Television Playhouse". St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (2nd ed.). St. James Press. 4: 144–145.
  9. ^ Ray Bradbury on Film and TV: Starlight Summer Theater (1954) Archived October 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ American Horror Story, retrieved 2019-04-19
  11. ^ Malone, Michael (2 May 2016). "Anthology format gets a 'true' rebirth: AMC is the latest of many nets modeling shows after True Detective and Fargo". Broadcasting & Cable. 146 (17): 24 – via Academic OneFile.
  12. ^ "'Berlin, I Love You' Trailer: Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren Star in Fourth 'Cities' Anthology Film". /Film. 2019-01-20. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  13. ^ "The Ninja Trilogy Blu-ray from Eureka Video". Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  14. ^ "A big Thursday opening for 'Avengers' sets the stage for a record weekend | The Spokesman-Review". Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  15. ^ "Avengers: Endgame – How Marvel conquered Hollywood". 2019-05-09. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  16. ^ "The MCU's Avengers movies are unique – because they genuinely work like superhero comics". 2019-05-09. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  17. ^ "Neaux Reel Idea: Avengers: Endgame Review (Spoiler Free)". Big Easy Magazine. 2019-04-26. Retrieved 2019-05-12.

External linksEdit