Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle

Paper Info
Page count 6
Word count 1739
Read time 6 min
Topic Entertainment
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US

David Thorburn in “Television Melodrama” introduces the concept of multiplicity principle many producers are capitalizing on to win the heart of their viewers (601). Like many issues around the globe, Thorburn illustrates that the television melodrama series is also transforming with times to keep many viewers glued to the entertainment industry by focusing more on the plot rather than the characters. It is valuable to begin by defining television melodrama and the multiplicity principle described by Thorburn. A summary of the action television melodrama Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain” will be vital as an example to demonstrate the meaning multiplicity concept. Therefore, the analysis of Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain” shows how current melodramas have transformed in using the multiplicity principle compared to the past.

Description of Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle by David Thorburn

Thorburn describes melodrama as the focus on the sentimental use of the plot in a television series or movie at the expense of characterization by the extravagant depiction of moments and ends with a happy or a morally reassuring tone to make a sentimental appeal to the viewer’s emotions (595). Unlike past definitions that described melodramas as musicals dramatized the character’s performance to explain the theme, Thorburn elucidates that the current wave of television shows change the meaning to demonstrate the plot’s focus to attract the viewer’s emotions. Rouse concurs by stating that recent television shows are concentrating more on appealing to the audience’s emotions through thought-provoking moral themes rather than the traditional focus on the actor’s character traits (5). Besides, Thorburn is trying to elaborate on how the present crop of the production teams concentrate on society’s moral reality as the focus of designing an entertaining show for the viewers (Thorburn 602). Therefore, melodrama is the producer’s emphasis on the plot’s sentimental side, sacrificing characterization to end in a more happy or moral note hoping to entertain the audience by appealing to their emotions.

The multiplicity principle is defined as the development of several stories based on the genre crowded past events in one television episode (601). When watching the various melodramas, Thorburn is trying to extol that one can notice that an episode is crowded continuously with many underlying stories developed from previous shows to build an entertaining climax for the audience. Rebecca corresponds that producers are competing with each other by trying to make the television shows more complicated with many stories within an episode to entertain and capture the different viewers’ emotions (5). In his multiplicity principle description, Thorburn is trying to explain how modern melodramas create elaborate shows by crowding viewers with feelings of reality to develop that moral and entertaining end.

Summary of Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain”

The Captain is Ray Donovan’s second season finale. The Donovan family faces leadership wrangles as Ray, the current protagonist, faces imprisonment after her girlfriend, the reporter, wants to unravel the truth revolving around the death of the FBI most wanted Sally Sullivan (Uppendahl 2014). Mickey faces constant failure to become the best father and protector of the family. As Ray is coming out other jail for engaging in a scuffle with Mickey in the previous episode for putting his son at risk, he is faced with the challenge of trying to save her daughter by preventing Cookie Brown from watching the original video that shows her daughter witnessed him killing her boyfriend and his step-father. Mickey struggles to come to terms that he is not “The Captain” for getting Terry of his son arrested for the foiled plot to steal the store selling Marijuana (Uppendahl 2014). As Ray refuses to kill her reporter girlfriend because of his moral standards, Ezra, his boss, and the FBI director send his associate to kill her. On the other side, Cookie watches the original video and is unaware of whether he will kill him and her daughter (Uppendahl 2014). Mickey succeeds by winning the bet at the horse races to deliver the money. Ray succeeds in protecting his family by killing Cookie Brown.

The Application of Multiplicity Principle in Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain”

First, the episode is an excellent example of a melodrama where the plot focuses on appealing to the viewer’s emotions to end with both a happy and moral note. For instance, Mickey winning the bet at the racehorse is a happy and emotional moment because he has attained being the captainship status by providing money to his sons (Uppendahl 2014). The episode also provides viewers with an emotional moment of Ray’s reality as a father going against his moral standards by killing Cookie Brown to protect his daughter from killed. Despite it being an action series genre, the examples depicted by the episode highlights Thorburn’s sentiments of the modern definition of television melodrama.

As an action melodrama, the episode contains many notable historical stories that emphasize the plot rather than the characters to develop an entertaining climax for the viewers. The plot shows Ray facing the moral dilemma of killing Cookie Brown to protect his daughter and murdering his girlfriend to protect him from prison. In this instance, he maintains his family’s strength even though his wife is cheating on with policeman and goes against the odds of not reacting despite his reputation (Uppendahl 2014). Ray also fails to protect himself by disagree with the FBI director and Ezra, his boss, by failing to kill her reporter girlfriend. He also faces the dilemma of setting a morally upright father example to his son, who faces the potential threats of growing up to become a thug like the family’s men. Ray has a challenge in facing his brother, Terry, who has always been morally upright and realizes that he can sell his boxing business because he uses it as a front to wash his dirty money. Ray also faces his father, Mickey, who tries to overthrow him as the family leader by foiling all his plans (Uppendahl 2014). In a short period of 52 minutes, the director Michael Uppendahl has created a complex entertainment action series by combining all the past stories to win the viewer’s hearts.

Can the Episode do without the Multiplicity Principle?

The Episode cannot do without the multiplicity concept because the various crowding historical stories form the epitome of the action series that captures the viewer’s emotions and attention to continue yarning for more. Assuming that the stories of Abby, FBI director, Ezra, and Terry are left out, Ray would have an easy moment in deciding whether or not to kill Cookie Brown. The plot will concentrate on Ray’s characterization as a father who can do anything to save her daughter. The film will not be entertaining compared to when the stories are included because it will eliminate suspense since the viewers can easily predict what would happen. Rebecca (6) supports this notion by stating that viewers are yearning for complex plots that create suspense before delivering an ending. Removing the stories would develop a straightforward series filled with more action sceneries and less emotional appeals. Therefore, the lack of the multiplicity principle in the episode with not does justice for the viewers.

Differences between Current and Past Melodramas

The focus on the plot’s theme on modern melodramas compared to characters traits in the past shows is one of the notable differences using Thorburn’s multiplicity concept. In the past, the melodramas concentrated on showcasing the actor’s character traits to entertain and attract viewers. Rebecca (9) observes that past melodrama concentrated on telling their stories using actors to shift the audience focus to the protagonist making the viewers search shows to watch based on the actors. By contrast, the modern melodrama moves the viewer’s attention to the plot by combining many stories within an episode, such as in “The Captain”. Thus, Thorburn’s multiplicity principle focuses on the plot to include many past stories within an episode that distinguishes the contemporary series.

The inability to predict the outcome and the limited emotional moments in the past shows is another contrast between modern and traditional melodramas using Thorburn’s multiplicity concept. Thorburn (600) indicates that the lack of multiplicity principle in the past led to the development of straightforward television shows filled with fancies and less emotional appeal where viewers could easily predict the outcome. For instance, many action series heroes would always emerge victorious after facing a certain hurdle in the story. The existence of the multiplicity principle in the current melodramas such as “The Captain” has led to the creation of shows with complex storylines filled with moral reality and emotional appeals, making it difficult for the audience to predict the outcome.

Changes the Current Melodramas should implement to make them more Interesting

Based on the analysis of Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain”, producers should change small impossible fantasies to develop a more realistic show because they can create a fake impression on the viewer’s mind. For instance, when Mickey bets $20,000 on horse number seven, “The Captain”, it is impossible to fathom such a situation, in reality, making the scene appear fake to the audience. The hard work of capturing the viewer’s emotions tends to diminish in an instance. Therefore, television shows should avoid fantasies to capitalize on the multiplicity principle to deliver more thrilling and entertaining shows.

Steven Johnson’s Perspective of “The Captain”

After watching “The Captain”, Steven Johnson would not be left behind in commending the sophistication application of various stories that evoke emotions and builds adrenaline creating suspense in the audience’s mind to develop such an unpredictable happy and emotional ending.


Thorburn’s multiplicity principle analysis using Ray Donovan Season Two Episode 12 “The Captain” how modern melodramas have developed complex, emotional and realistic themes centered on the plot rather than the characterization concept in the past shows to keep the audience entertained. The past definition of melodrama demonstrates simple and predictable musical shows that focus on the protagonist of the story using fantasies as the plot. The introduction of Thorburn’s multiplicity concept illuminates how modern television programs have developed sophisticated themes, ending with a realistic, moral, and happy unpredictable note, appealing to the viewer’s emotions. Therefore, current producers should create real yet practically impossible scenarios using the multiplicity concept to keep the audience more entertained.

Works Cited

Rouse, Rebecca. “Media of attraction: a media archeology approach to panoramas, kinematography, mixed reality and beyond.” International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling. Springer, Cham, 2016.

Thorburn, David. “Television melodrama” Television as a Cultural Force, edited by Douglass Cater and Richard Adler, Praeger Publishers, 1976, pp. 595-608.

Uppendahl, Michael. Ray Donovan Season 2 Episode 12: The Captain. Showtime Networks, 2014.

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EssaysInCollege. (2022, May 24). Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle. Retrieved from


EssaysInCollege. (2022, May 24). Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle.

Work Cited

"Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle." EssaysInCollege, 24 May 2022,


EssaysInCollege. (2022) 'Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle'. 24 May.


EssaysInCollege. 2022. "Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle." May 24, 2022.

1. EssaysInCollege. "Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle." May 24, 2022.


EssaysInCollege. "Television Melodrama and Multiplicity Principle." May 24, 2022.