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Act Breaks (PT15)

Alex and Nick discuss the goal and narrative impact of TV act breaks, also known as the structural core of every television episode ever.

Why do shows have act breaks? What is the difference between an act break in comedy versus drama? What impact has the inflation of act breaks in shows had on TV stories?

The Paper Team smashes to black…



1 – Introduction to act breaks (00:30)
2 – Act breaks and TV narrative (12:29)
3 – Inflation of act breaks and impact on pacing (18:28)
4 – Writing without acts (31:00)
Takeaways & Resources (40:04)


Format of Gunsmoke
Over-the-top Content (OTT)
Smash to Black – TV Tropes
Coup de théâtre
One Mississippi
NBC’s Seeso
Julie Plec on Act Breaks
Tom Fontana


“Basic TV Act Structure” – Excerpt from “Showrunners” by Tara Bennett
“Cracking the Sitcom Code” – The Atlantic

Special thanks to Jason J. Cohn for helping us edit this episode.

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Paper Team
Paper Team
Alex Freedman & Nick Watson

Paper Team is a podcast about television writing and becoming a TV writer.

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