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The TV Showrunner's Roadmap by Neil Landau

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19Push them Off a Cliff

A cliffhanger is a plot device that leaves a character or characters facing either a dangerous situation or a shocking revelation. As all drama is essentially manipulation (and not reality), a cliffhanger leaves the audience asking, what’s going to happen next? Or a version of “holy crap!”

Broadcast networks also try to use their strongest cliffhangers during sweeps periods (February, May, July, and November) when advertisers calculate ad rates. “Sweeps” is calculated using Nielsen ratings. The better the ratings, the more networks can charge.

So let’s start with this basic question: what are the ingredients of an amazing cliffhanger?

Character in peril. Think of the timeworn image of the damsel in distress tied to the ...

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