Traditional television shows were easy to categorize.
One-hour shows were dramas and half-hour shows were comedies. Pretty simple, hey? To make things even simpler for TV schedulers, entertainment, game and reality shows generally fitted into the 30 minute time slot. Okay, there were exceptions.
With the rise of new TV viewing platforms and the incidental rise of new TV show genres, a new force in storytelling has arisen; the dramedy (or dramady) depending on where you studied. Examples of such TV shows include GIRLS (HBO), CASUAL (Hulu), GRACE & FRANKIE (Netflix), and the now defunct WEEDS & CALIFORNICATION (SHOWTIME.)
How do you define dramedies?
Top marks if you guessed they were a hybrid of drama and comedy. Why not just call them comedic dramas or dramatic comedies? The easiest answer is that they are neither.
They are truly hybrid TV shows. TV guides often list them as 30 minute dramas or comedies, but neither tag is entirely appropriate. Still, I’ve yet to see a TV guide list them as dramedies. Maybe they should get more creative.
First things first. A comedic drama suggests that a TV show is mainly a drama with some comedic elements, usually to offer the audience some respite. You probably guessed that a dramatic comedy is essentially a comedy infused with a few serious, dramatic elements to keep the show more grounded. This nomenclature ensures that the predominant genre is always clear.
To call them comedy-dramas or drama-comedies suggests that both genres are equally (or almost equally) represented. You could try this convention, but TV shows evolve and the comedy/ drama ratios may change as the season progresses. Besides, it gets confusing for the audience if the genre of the TV show keeps changing.
As a matter of necessity and accuracy, the contraction term, DRAMEDY was born. Why not a COMA? Well than means something else entirely. It’s a term TV writers probably wouldn’t want associated with their TV scripts. Unless of course, it’s a medical show.
What are the elements of a dramedy?
A true hybrid TV show exists as a TV genre in its own right. Similar to mixed-race people. Dramedies aren’t dramas posing as comedies. They are simply dramedies. Period.
They typically have the look and feel of a single camera TV show. There are fewer standing studio sets such as a diner or a family home. There is more location shooting.
They lack the tight A story, B story structure of sitcoms and dramas. Instead, they opt for more ensemble-type, serialized stories that span several episodes, or even the entire season. They may have a closed-ended storylines in certain episodes.
They have a more realistic tone by avoiding the zany, madcap tropes of comedy or the mawkish, overly serious tone of some dramas.
They tend to have a more extensive exploration of emotion rather than issues and social behavior. This is a function of writers having more time to focus on each storyline.
The situation or issue is the starting point; but rather than focusing on how each character reacts to it, it explores their feelings, morality and spirituality.
The resolution tends to be more clouded, or even open-ended; sometimes leaving it up to the viewer. Dramedies certainly lack the cookie cutter solution to the problem template of regular comedy and drama.
So there you have it. Time to write.