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When I say a series within a series, I'm thinking specifically television though it could be used elsewhere like novels and movies. And I'm specifically asking for a "series" of shows that fall under one umbrella but don't encompass the whole franchise. In a specific hypothetical, I'm looking for a word that would be used for several different tv shows that are all related to a specific topic and exist within the same cinematic universe, but are apart from other tv shows in the same cinematic universe.

Examples that aren't quite what I'm looking for but related: A movie example would be the Star Trek reboot movies. That series of movies are called the "Kelvin" movies for in-universe reasons. But they don't encompass the whole franchise. There are other movies and TV shows within the Star Trek franchise.

A more specific movie example could be the Captain America movies. There's 4 movies in the Captain America series of films, but there's more movies in the overall series of films known as the Infinity Saga. And the Infinity Saga does not encompass the entire Marvel franchise.

A TV example even if it doesn't fit the criteria well, would be in Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery the Season was broken up into 2 different "Chapters" The first Chapter consisted of 9 episodes and was all about the Klingon war and the second chapter consisted of 6 episodes and was about the mirror universe. Most people would call this series of episodes within a series of seasons within a TV series, an "arc." I'm not looking for the word arc, which is why I said the Star Trek Discovery example did not fit the criteria well. It's just to give you a ball-park of what I'm looking for.

Maybe there isn't a word. But if there is, I'd like to know it. Also if you can find any words that are tangential that could also be helpful.

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    When a new TV show is formed in the same universe- say a supporting character or even a minor character becomes the main character in a new show- it’s called a spinoff. But that is not within the same series. It becomes two shows. All in the Family and The Jeffersons for example.
    – Damila
    Apr 28, 2022 at 3:01
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    Maybe you’re looking for the wrong thing. Maybe it’s called a series and what you don’t know is the word for the larger encompassing structure- not a series. Marvel calls it a universe. Another series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    – Jim
    Apr 28, 2022 at 3:45
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    @Jim I've always understood "universe" to mean the fictional world within which the action takes place. Various movies, comic books, TV shows, webisodes, etc. can take place within the same universe. Apr 28, 2022 at 6:02
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    It's strange that you can't name an example of what it is you're looking for. Can you point out where your semi-examples deviate from the intended meaning?
    – Joachim
    Apr 28, 2022 at 6:55
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    If there is a term for this, it is a technical term of the industry, so you are more likely to get a useful response on the Movies & TV Stack Exchange.
    – jsw29
    Apr 29, 2022 at 16:33

3 Answers 3

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A more specific movie example could be the Captain America movies. There's 4 movies in the Captain America series of films, but there's more movies in the overall series of films known as the Infinity Saga.

I'd call this a story arc.

The four Captain America films present a story arc about the character Captain America within the Infinity Saga.

The Infinity Saga films present a story arc about ... whatever they're about ... within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Similarly it's very common nowadays for, for example, the episodes within a season of a TV show to form story arcs. Each episode has its own conflict and resolution, but it also contributes a small advancement in a larger story that takes several episodes to conclude. For example, about two characters becoming romantically involved, or about a top villain committing several crimes that form a plan to achieve some bigger goal (but are, of course, ultimately foiled by the heroes).

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  • "there's more movies in the overall series of films"= There are, please.
    – Lambie
    Apr 28, 2022 at 17:01
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    @Lambie, it's a quote from the question post, not my words. Do you want me to tack a "[sic]" on it? Also, it's very common usage in my experience...bordering on something you'd only complain about if you're the kind of person to complain about "who" being used as an object instead of "whom".
    – The Photon
    Apr 28, 2022 at 17:07
  • These "series within series" might usually encompass a story arc, but that doesn't mean a story arc is a series within a series, though. Nevertheless, I have heard people talk/write about this type of framing as a story arc.
    – Joachim
    Mar 17, 2023 at 10:16
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Some words that come to mind are Saga, Trilogy, Quintet, Mythos, Story, Chronicle, Book, or Iliad. My first pick would be the word "Saga"

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What comes to mind is 'frame story':

  1. a secondary story or stories embedded in the main story.
  2. a narrative providing the framework for connecting a series of otherwise unrelated stories.
  3. a literary device that uses such a narrative structure.

These definitions point out that it could refer to either side of the concept: the narrative within which another narrative takes place, or that narrative embedded within.
Lexico only defines it as the former.

Classical literary examples include the Divina Comedia by Dante, The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, and Boccaccio's Decamerone.

Synonyms include "frame tale, frame narrative, sandwich narrative, or intercalation".

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  • The problem is "frame story" refers more to a meta story than what OP is talking about - the people meeting in the pub frame the Canterbury Tales, for instance, and the story of the sultan and Scheherazade frame the Arabian Nights.
    – No Name
    Oct 30, 2022 at 7:16

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