Emmy Talk 4 (Comedy or Drama or that’s it)
I’m going to take a small break from predicting stuff (like I haven’t taken a long enough break already) to discuss a very serious matter…
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I don’t care what anyone says. Yes, The Golden Globes can do some cool things like nominate Jennifer Love Hewitt for The Client List or give Katey Sagal a well deserved win (even though I haven’t seen Sons of Anarchy). The guild awards are surprisingly un-snobby, giving nominations to shows like The OC and a writing nomination for the underrated The Sarah Silverman Program. And the critics awards can sometimes get it completely right, like when the TCAs gave Nick Offerman an award, or when they gave nominations to Lauren Graham for The Gilmore Girls, even though the Emmys continuously snubbed them…
But The Emmys, in my opinion, are the best awards for television, and not just because they’re the oldest. I like that the Emmys have a LOT of categories, and honor different achievements altogether. From the main title design to the choreographers to the music directors to the actor, if you work in television, you have a chance at winning an Emmy. But, something the Emmys can’t escape is the arbitrary line between comedy and drama.
When the awards first began, comedy and drama were as separate as two peas in two different pods. Comedies were broad, with a laugh track, and multiple cameras. Episodes always ended with a joke and a smile. People watched comedies to escape. However, dramas existed in a world where people were melodramatic. Emotions were grossly sentimental. And the music in these shows consisted of bold violins doing crazy sharp things (you know what I’m talking about).
Even as time went on, through the 80′s and 90′s, comedies and dramas were separate and distinct. And even though dramas were beginning to lighten up and have some humorous moments, and even though comedies began having “very special episodes” that dealt with “issues;” no matter how bad things were for Roseanne, it was still authentically 100% a comedy. End of story.
However, nowadays, that line between comedy and drama is getting thinner and thinner, and it’s showing how outdated and out of touch the Emmys are becoming.
When a show has even the minor of humorous or quirky details, it competes in the comedy categories. Some of those shows include Enlightened, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Weeds, United States of Tara, Girls…pretty much any “dark comedy” on a premium cable channel. Louie can also be very dramatic (with episodes like “Eddie” or “Duckling”), but the show benefits from the stand up routines which, in my opinion, are usually quite hilarious. I just finished watching the first season of Enlightened, and while I thought the show was very good (and weirdly comforting and inspiring)…the show has maybe one laugh out loud moment every other episode…and the only reason the show is considered a comedy is because it’s half an hour. So the show is not funny, but it’s still great…does that mean it’s deserving of Emmys, even if it competes in the comedy category?
The examples I named above, in my eyes, seem more controversial than Glee, yet that show probably gets the most heat. And it was the heat that Glee’s been getting that inspired me to write this thing in the first place. Glee is a very dramatic show. Last year, Chris Colfer got a lot of Emmy buzz and might have even been considered a front runner in the supporting category. But his nomination was complained upon because it was for a performance that involved crying and talking dramatically and singing somber songs and crying some more and pretty much not being funny. I’ll finish my thought on that later. But, right now, I do believe Glee is definitely in the right category, moreso than the other shows I mention above. Yeah, the show can be dramatic, but the show is also filled with plenty of witty asides, funny facial expressions and cultural references that make the show belong in the same category as 30 Rock, not Breaking Bad.
Another show I want to discuss is Shameless and whether or not it belongs in the drama category. In short: it does. The show is very crazy and comedic…but I think a lot of that comedy isn’t really comedy. It’s simply more of a “look how far we can go” sort of comedy. For example, on the last episode of the season, the family considered eating bald eagle in lieu of a turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a shocking story line…but I wouldn’t necessarily call it funny. It’s just more of an overly quirky detail. I love these overly quirky details, but I don’t think it qualifies for the comedy categories. They probably could have gotten away with competing in comedy, but I’m glad they didn’t (although, I don’t think they would have done any better in terms of nominations or buzz anyway). The show’s dramatic moments are by far the most compelling thing about the show. Those moments are really the things that drew me into the show. (And, um, I really wish the show was given more credit but that’s another conversation for another time).
Now, let’s end this thing. You probably expect to me to make some grand statement about how the Emmys should change their ways, especially considering how I started this piece. The truth is…I don’t think there’s anything Emmys can/should do right now. Should they add a “dramedy” category for the shows mentioned above? I completely vote against that. One. because the term is actually pretty vague and loose…even looser than “comedy” and “drama”. And two, I honestly don’t think there are enough shows and contenders to justify that big change. The Emmys would become significantly less competitive. OK…so what about getting rid of the “comedy” and “drama” labels and just creating one single “Best Series” category…with 10 nominees. No. Because, yeah, even though TV is changing, there are still traditional dramas and traditional comedies that most definitely should not even be compared. Also, I think more overt comedies would generally be shortchanged and that’s not right in my opinion.
I guess I just wrote this article because this trend in television (comedies becoming more dramatic and vice versa) is something I’ve been noticing more and more and to just examine the complaints that have been going on with category placements. Even though there are some so-called comedies that I think should compete in drama despite their running time (Enlightened and The Big C being my two strongest examples), I don’t really believe the issue has gone out of hand yet. And for every award Edie Falco gets for Nurse Jackie, Melissa McCarthy is getting an Emmy for Mike and Molly, so clearly there’s a balance between the dramedies and the genuine comedies. But I don’t think this rise in the dramedy is what the original Emmy makers had in mind when they were creating these awards. And I think if the line between comedy and drama continue to get blurrier and blurrier, then the Emmys may have to rethink how they award shows in the future. But I don’t see that happening for a while.
On a final note, in terms of performances, if performance is good, it’s good; and I don’t like to dwell on category placements too much anyway. There are maybe one or two category placements that bother me a lot (particularly Rob Lowe competing in lead WTF). But, otherwise, I don’t want a category placement to affect whether a show or performer deserves an Emmy or not. So, last year, even though his performance was dramatic, I really did believe Chris Colfer deserved an Emmy. It’s not Best Comedic Performance…or Performance that Made You Laugh the Most. It’s simply Best Supporting Actor in a [show that just happens to be a] Comedy Series. He gave the strongest performance. He shouldn’t be punished because his show is placed in one genre and the writers gave him no jokes to work with. All that matters is the performance. Conversely, I preferred Jane Krakowski’s purely comedic performance over Julie Bowen’s and Jane Lynch’s more dramatic ones.
Feel free to point out any inconsistencies in this post. This was just a way to lay out my thoughts that have been swirling in my head.
Tomorrow, more Emmy predictions. Last month, I received more views than I ever had before so, for the ones reading, thank you so much for making me feel better after a couple slumpy months (Although, it’s understandable, I pretty much only wrote about American Idol ). With that, I surpassed my two year goal, and it’s only July so, again, thank you and more is coming up. Keep reading and liking and bookmarking and even try to spread the word if you can. Thanks again!