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How to Cite TV Shows in Academic Papers

How to Cite TV Shows in Academic Papers

Essays about your favorite TV shows are some of the most exciting papers to write. 

The only thing students dislike about such tasks is the need to cite their sources. 

Luckily, I’m here to help you with the references for the entire show and specific episodes!

How to Cite TV Shows: APA

If your paper is in the APA format, you’ll need to start your bibliography reference by listing the executive producers of the TV series and then mention the dates when it ran (or when it started running). Then, include the italicized title of the show and the production company or companies it’s connected with.

Here’s what the result should look like:

Jones, A., Brooker, C, Rhoades, J., Ali, B. (Executive Producers). (2011–present). Black Mirror [TV series]. Zeppotron, House of Tomorrow, Broke & Bones.

As for specific episodes, you’ll have to start by mentioning the writers and director of that one. If it’s written and directed by the same person, write “(Writer & Director)” after their name. Then, mention the date when it aired, the title of the episode, the season where it’s featured, and end with a brief reference to the TV show itself.

Here’s an example of the result you’re looking for:

Brooker, C., Huq, K. (Writers) & Lyn, E. (Director). (2011, December 11). Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2) [TV series episode]. In Jones, A., Brooker, C, Rhoades, J., Ali, B. (Executive Producers). Black Mirror. Zeppotron, House of Tomorrow, Broke & Bones.
Bonus: How to Write a Movie Title in Academic Writings

How to Cite a TV Show: MLA

If you cite a TV series in MLA, you’ll need to start by finding the page of that show on Netflix or any other streaming service. List the creators mentioned there and include the URL leading to the series page. 

Note that the names of the TV show and the streaming service are italicized.

Brooker, Charlie, creator. Black Mirror. Zeppotron, House of Tomorrow, Broke & Bones, 2011. Netflix,

If you’re citing some dialogue from one specific episode, it’s better to cite that exact one. In such cases, you’ll need a link to the episode you’re citing, its air date, and the season. The rest will be just the citation of the TV show in a different order, like this:

“Fifteen Million Merits.” Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, season 1, episode 2, Zeppotron, House of Tomorrow, Broke & Bones, 11 Dec. 2011. Netflix,

How to Cite TV Shows: In-Text

The in-text citation is a parenthetical reference you use after the end of each direct or indirect quotation to indicate the source. With TV shows, you don’t have page numbers to mention there, but you have time codes. Let’s see how that works.

APA in-text citations

While MLA has a different system, please treat TV series like any other sources in APA (1). That means you must include the name of its creator and the years when the show started and ended. 

For example, an in-text for “Black Mirror” will look like this:

  • (Brooker et al., 2011-present).

If the TV series you’re citing has been only running for one year, you should include that information. 

MLA in-text citations

Since MLA treats the titles of TV shows the same way it treats the titles of movies, you’ll need to italicize it in your in-text citation, including the time codes for relevant sections. For example:

  • (Black Mirror 01:34-01:55).

You’ll have to cite a specific episode to make sure that your readers understand where your quotes are from. However, you don’t need to mention the season or the series name for a specific episode in your in-text citation. Just go with the title of that episode, as well as the start and end time of the quoted section.

For example:

  • (“Fifteen Million Merits” 52:00-54:30).
Bonus: How to Cite TED Talks in APA and MLA

Over to You

Now that you know how to insert a quote from any TV series in your essay, it’s time to try citing what you need! Don’t worry: 

You can always use this article as a guide and double-check all the necessary parameters, including italics and parentheses.

Although people use streaming services instead of television nowadays, the formatting for the shows from Netflix, Amazon, and other platforms is the same. All you need to do is understand the basics of creating a bibliography citation and not forget about the in-text mentions after every quote.



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