Can I cross-reference episodes from a television series?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Television series are divided into episodes and often air for many seasons. During the run of a series, performers, directors, and even the entity making the show publicly available (the “publisher”) can change, and thus publication information typically varies by episode. Thus, since the goal of cross-referencing entries in the works-cited list is economy and since relevant publication details pertain to the episode, not the series, this method is not usually a suitable option for television series.
If you discuss details of individual episodes and refer only to a few episodes, list the episodes individually in the works-cited list:
“Black Tie.” Directed by Arthur W. Forney, performances by Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth. Law and Order, created by Dick Wolf, season 4, episode 5, Wolf Films, 20 Oct. 1993. DVD.
“Manhattan Vigil.” Directed by Jean de Segonzac, performances by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, created by Dick Wolf, season 14, episode 5, Wolf Films, 24 Oct. 2012. Netflix, www.netflix.com.
“Snatched.” Directed by Constantine Makris, performances by Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth. Law and Order, created by Dick Wolf, season 4, episode 12, Wolf Films, 12 Jan. 1994. DVD.
If your study focuses on one or more television series and discusses many episodes, it will generally be clearest to organize your works-cited list with subheads (read our earlier post about using subheads). For example, in a paper on the various shows in the Law and Order franchise, you might use the following heads:
Law and Order
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Other Primary and Secondary Works
When you use subheads, ensure that your discussion makes clear the series you refer to so that readers can locate the relevant entry easily.
If you are discussing a television show generally, you can create a works-cited-list entry for the show and refer to relevant details in your writing:
At the start of the television series Victoria, Victoria struggles to prove she can handle her monarchical duties despite her youth and inexperience. By episode 2, when several characters conspire to have her declared insane, she gains an ally in Lord Melbourne, who comes to her rescue.
Victoria. Created by Daisy Goodwin, Mammoth Screen, 2016-17.