They’re Members of an Elite Squad: Prime-Time Drama Super Fans

“There’s a sense of reward if you figure it out, but there’s also a sense of reward if you don’t,” he said. Can the screenwriters “get beyond your imagination”?

Carmen Mugnolo had never seen an episode of “Grey’s,” now in its 20th season, until his friend Kelcey Werner told him about a plotline in Season 2 in which an unexploded bazooka shell ends up lodged in a man’s chest.

That story alone was enough material for a podcast, he said. Now the two friends discuss every episode together on the podcast “Grey’s Academy.” So far they’ve made it through a ferry crash, medical malpractice, a runaway groom and the surprise death of a beloved character who is hit by a bus.

Soap operas, “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” have equal or higher episode counts, but the twists and turns of a prime-time drama can become hypnotic. The plot structure, Kidd said, is similar to that of children’s chapter books, in which each chapter has a beginning, middle and end within a bigger story.

“You don’t need to finish the book right away to be satisfied,” he said.

These shows create scenarios that people hope to never experience — crime, assault, rare medical issues — but they are essentially workplace dramas, Kidd said, with characters who struggle with careers, love, friendship and their sense of right and wrong.

Plotlines are often inspired by reality, including, for instance, the entire 17th season of “Grey’s,” which centered on the coronavirus pandemic. The two-part Season 6 finale was about a mass shooting at the hospital. And in “SVU,” many episodes take cues from the news, including the Jeffrey Epstein case in Season 21 and the Eliot Spitzer scandal in Season 11.

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