piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
with comedy-dramas. and i am trying to poke around the definitional edges so as to better predict which shows i might like.

total failures in recent past:
chuck
eureka

successes:
dead like me
weeds

when i look in wikipedia, i can see that it's not clear to people what constitutes a comedy-drama. which makes sense because there are no fixed lines; the definition only asks that approximately equal elements of comedy and drama be present. it seems that the definition slips easily: in the cases of comedy in which characters actually have some true emotional resonance, and with dramas that contain some element of comic relief.

but if i count all of those then the term becomes nearly meaningless, because there are so many shows now in which both comedy and drama are present in some combination. to me a show that's primarily drama with some banter thrown in doesn't qualify as a comedy-drama. for example, bones: this is first and foremost a drama, and there is no comedy outside of banter. criminal minds has comic relief through flamboyant penelope garcia and her interactions with other team members, but it's dead serious the rest of the time. or dexter, which has comedic elements in dexter's own observations about people (including himself), though the show inches a bit closer to the invisible line i draw.

i am quite happy with dramas that have comedic elements in the form of banter and black humour between characters, probably because those are my own native modes of dealing with stress. i'm also fine with comedy in which the characters become something more than spear carriers for a joke -- i guess ugly betty would qualify, since i did come to care about some of the characters, and their lives seemed quite real -- but that's a special case, i think. i am also fine with pure comedy where i don't emotionally care about the characters because they're just delivery vehicles for the humour, like in better off ted.

what rubs me the wrong way is if the writers get the melange of comedy and drama wrong. for example:

body parts strewn about in dexter are never comedic; they're dead serious. even if dexter waxes rhapsodically about the artistic arrangement, the body parts are not funny; if anybody is laughing, it is shocked laughter at dexter's alien-ness in that moment.

body parts strewn about in a monty python sketch: funny ha-ha, not serious at all -- no problem with that.

body parts strewn about in eureka: say what? am i supposed to feel bad for larry who got used by nanoids as a "carbon source"? then a) humanize larry for me at the start, and b) don't show me the bloody leftovers with taggart and the sheriff being not phased one bit. and i don't mean they crack "EMT under stress" kind of jokes; they simply do not react like real people would react to finding bloody remains. i cannot take any of the characters in eureka seriously, and in consequence i don't actually care when something bad happens to them. it also doesn't help that the science is horrendously boondoggled, and there too the comedic and serious aspects are confused.

in chuck the timing is off so badly that i don't believe any of the serious action is actually serious. chuck is a likeable guy. i WANT to like him. but i can't really care about anything because he lives in this totally fake-appearing world with all those other unreal characters.

both eureka and chuck get this sort of thing wrong as a matter of course. they try to make me like a character and then fuck with the process at the wrong time. they throw in a bad joke when i am feeling emotionally vulnerable. they constantly yank me out of their own story.

on the other hand, dead like me and weeds succeed because they give me time to move from laughing at the ridiculous stuff to feeling a character's pain. their characters feel authentic, even when they engage in antics that no real person would engage in.

i think that's the central point for me.

on 2010-10-09 04:40 (UTC)
tablesaw: A close-up of Dracula, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The text reads "Dark Master" and in smaller text "bator". (Dark Master (Bator))
Posted by [personal profile] tablesaw
for example, bones: this is first and foremost a drama, and there is no comedy outside of banter.
Strongly disagree.

In college I studied the history of the comedy, and the first thing we did was address the definition of comedy. In short, comedy is a story with a happy ending. Which was weird at first, but made more sense as we went along. Comedies are not necessarily humorous, though they often are, but they

Bones never has really troubling endings. Bones and Booth restore order to their happy world. Bones's emotional distance helps to keep the viewer from being drawn into the turmoil of the situation as in Criminal Minds, or even Law and Order.

Along the same lines, I have a hard time seeing Eureka as anything but comedy; I don't know what sort of drama there even is in the show. It's all about resolving conflicts back to the point of bucolic peace. Chuck adds elements of melodrama, but it also doesn't really touch on drama. (I also think that Chuck has been really crappy about characterization, but I don't think this is the reason.)

on 2010-10-09 07:28 (UTC)
tablesaw: A close-up of Dracula, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The text reads "Dark Master" and in smaller text "bator". (Dark Master (Bator))
Posted by [personal profile] tablesaw
Important things to forget to write.

Comedies are not necessarily humorous, though they often are, but they all share a general structure of a peaceful resolution, as opposed to the catharsis. The most typical example is in a love story where two opposing forces become united in marriage love.

Love stories, romantic comedies, are actually a great place to look for this aspect of comedy. There's not particularly a lot to laugh at, but it generally makes you feel good, you smile, you finish the story content and pleased. As opposed to a drama or tragedy where, even if things are resolved "positively," there are nagging doubts, or the elements opposed remain opposed in such a way as to cause destruction again later.

So it's not so much looking at classical or modern definitions but looking at a structural definition, which is most relevant, I think, because this is a discussion of genre, and of audience expectation.

When looking at procedurals that restore the status quo, you only really need to look at the status quo that they're going back to. In CM and L&O, the world is filled with terrible people, and it's a struggle just to put one away. The emotional strain on the people who do is great, and there is little or no relief for them. That's not a happy ending. It's not tragedy, but it's definitely drama.

In Bones, they live in a brightly lit family where the minor relationship foibles of a group of friends can always be discussed over or near the skeleton of a brutally child. Only the Gravedigger episodes and possibly Booth's tumor interrupt that.

on 2010-10-09 05:36 (UTC)
lqc: (Burger)
Posted by [personal profile] lqc
It might be a little far leaning into the comedy, but have you seen the tragically short-lived My Name is Earl. The humor is a bit low-brow at times so it's not everyone's cup of tea. I would also say check out Leverage or Burn Notice if you want more leaning towards drama with just a hint of humor.

on 2010-10-09 06:14 (UTC)
maize: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] maize
What, if you've had the chance, did you think of Pushing Daisies?

on 2010-10-10 01:55 (UTC)
red_trillium: cartoon cat that says "I love cats but can't eat a whole one" (DW sheep - Portal Dreamwidth sheep)
Posted by [personal profile] red_trillium
I never got into Chuck, never saw Eureka or Weeds. I loved Dead Like Me and when I want something to put on that I can half-pay attention and still have a story/emotional interaction with I'll put in Dead Like Me.

I love Pushing Daisies too, it's what I like watching when I'm feeling really down.

Where would you put The Vicar of Dibley? Pure comedy or comedy drama?

I agree, Dexter isn't really a comedy to me. I enjoy it but wouldn't think "comedy" when I watched it.

on 2010-10-10 04:19 (UTC)
kareila: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kareila
because they give me time to move from laughing at the ridiculous stuff to feeling a character's pain. their characters feel authentic, even when they engage in antics that no real person would engage in

The show that hits that sweet spot for me is The West Wing.

on 2010-10-10 10:56 (UTC)
kareila: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kareila
I laughed harder at parts of that show than anything I'd seen since Monty Python.

Granted, the comedic parts weren't necessarily there in every episode.

on 2010-10-10 11:10 (UTC)
kareila: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] kareila
I recommend at least the first three seasons. I stopped watching after season four.

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