EMMYS: Do We Need A Dramedy Category?

Deadline TV contributor Ray Richmond files this report:

In a creative medium that’s increasingly shedding its labels, embracing hybrids, and blurring lines, many see the Primetime Emmy division of shows into comedy series vs. drama series as too confining. And, in the case of numerous shows, utterly misleading. One solution could be an “Outstanding Dramedy” category. Not that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences want more Emmy categories. Quite the contrary — the powers-that-be keep trying to shed some. But this year’s shows, like TNT’s Men Of A Certain Age, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, FX’s Rescue Me, Fox’s Glee and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Weeds, Shameless, and United States Of Tara do seem to merit their own award for shifting seamlessly between dark comedy and heartrending drama in the same episode.

“The Academy has never known what to do with us. So they’ve tossed us into a category consisting almost entirely of balls-out comedy,” complains Weeds showrunner Jenji Kohan to me. “If you like to sway that pendulum back and forth between drama and comedy, which is what we pride ourselves on, it makes it nearly impossible to compete. If I’m a comedy judge, and I’m looking at Weeds and 30 Rock, and I’m thinking, ‘What made me laugh more during the half-hour, the show with jokes or the other one?’, it’s really no contest.”

This year, especially, it seems absurd for a suburban mother’s battle with cancer (The Big C) to duke it out for an Emmy with ABC’s Modern Family and NBC’s 30 Rock. But don’t forget that Fox’s Ally McBeal was the comedy series Emmy victor in 1999, as well as an example of hour-long shows that have skirted the lines of comedy and drama. Interestingly, its executive producer David E. Kelley at awards time in 1996 received a SAG nomination for Boston Legal as a comedy ensemble. The following year, he earned a SAG nod for it as a drama ensemble.

Even more confusing, the lead comedy actress category has been won three of the past four years by performers in dramedies: America Ferrera in 2007 for Ugly Betty, Toni Collette in 2009 for United States Of Tara, and Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie just last year. Falco, at that Emmys, spotlighted the inconsistency of putting performers from such radically different series styles under the same banner when she opined in the press room backstage that she was “shocked” and “dumbfounded” to have won a comedy statuette for a role that “isn’t funny.”

Diablo Cody, the creator-exec producer-writer on United States Of Tara observes to me, “I think the real issue is the fallacy that dramatic scenes are inherently harder to play than broad comedy. Each is using a completely different set of muscles.”

TV Academy awards SVP John Leverence tells me the Board of Governors acknowledges the categorization dilemma and annually reviews the level of support for a dramatic- comedy category or group of categories. But, to date, there has been no groundswell to do it. “We’ve opted to keep comedy series as an embrace of the full gamut of sitcom plus dramedy,” Leverence offers. “It’s often the case that, in dramedies, the hub character isn’t necessarily funny, as Edie Falco so famously noted last year, but the characters serving as spokes complementing the hub are quite funny, as they are on Nurse Jackie.”

Newly-named Showtime Entertainment President David Nevins surprisingly informs me he isn’t pushing the TV Academy to immediately institute dramedy into the Emmy mix, even though he would have the most to gain from it. “I honestly don’t think that viewers are crying out for new Emmy categories, and I’m also not sure that Emmy voters find the issue of comedy vs. drama all that confusing. To my mind, the fact that a show like Shameless can be funny and irreverent only increases its entertainment value as a drama. That The Big C has the dramatic chops of Laura Linney, only increases its appeal as a comedy.”

But Showtime also has seen Emmy comedy breakthroughs for idiosyncratic half-hours, not only by Falco and Collette, but by top comedy series nominations for Weeds in 2009 and Nurse Jackie last year. Nurse Jackie co-showrunner Liz Brixius saw 2010’s multitude of Emmy nominations for her show as a “huge vindication, because it meant that the TV Academy voters could see it’s got its own kind of humor.” Agrees Nurse Jackie co-showrunner Linda Wallem, “It’s cool to see the comedy nominations not just be sitcoms anymore and how diverse the category can be now. It’s like a wonderful island of misfit toys.”

Big C showrunner Jenny Bicks says that creating a dramedy category for the sake of darker fare like her show isn’t necessary. “I feel like the category itself has morphed, and the voters right along with it. That being said, do I think it will be tough for us to ever win an Emmy? Yeah. And I get that.”

  1. I think you should also include ‘Castle’ in the Dramedy category. It’s in fact the #1 dramedy show if we’re talking about audience.

    1. Castle stinks, though! It wouldn’t deserve to be nominated all the classy shows that were mentioned.

  2. If there was a separate category, Glee would unfortunately be nominated, and have a real shot at winning.

  3. I’ve been wanting a dramedy category for a very long time, ever since the Showtime leading actresses began gobbling up comedy nominations; it’s unfortunate because they deserve nominations and they definitely deserve to win Emmy Awards for their performances, but not in the comedy or drama category. I would fully support a new category!

  4. No. Series are allowed to submit themselves in either comedy or drama. They have a choice in the matter. If your show’s material is strong enough, it will win. It doesn’t matter if it blurs the lines between comedy and drama.

  5. Agreed about Castle, it is a perfect example of a series that can only get its deserved recognition if there’s a dramedy cateogory. Because of the police procedural aspect, it’s just a little too far over the drama/comedy line to qualify for comedy. But it’s too comedic to have the ‘heft’ needed for Drama nominations. So someone like Nathan Fillion is never going to win Best Actor if the category is Drama and the competition is Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, etc. But he’s SO good at what he does, and it’s a shame there isn’t a better way to recognize people/shows that deliver both comedy and drama.

    And it would better, too, for the true comedies if the dramedies were sequestered in their own category. Because, currently, the dramedies that are just over the line in the comedic direction to qualify for comedy categories often end up winning awards for their non-comedic performances (Edie Falco, Chris Colfer on Glee, etc). Which means that a lot of really funny comic performers go unrecognized.

  6. I say yes. Should Chris Colfer win an Emmy for comedy following a season in which his strongest storyline was drama? It’s unfair to the actors who are straight comedy if he does, in fact, win.

  7. Wouldn’t it be easier to divide the categories into best thirty minute show and best hour show or longer and get rid of drama and comedy categories?

    1. This was my sentiment almost 25 years ago when our run of “Frank’s Place” was burdened with the odd word dramedy. By terming shows ‘short form’or ‘long form’, the Academy could help creativity and encourage the mixture of elements seen in what we refer to as tragicomedies. It would be the equivalent of what books do – the short story and the novel.

  8. I think there are enough shows that clearly aren’t either drama or comedy. I would love to see that.

  9. The one thing I do know is that many of these shows clearly do not belong in the Comedy category. And that’s why I didn’t vote for a single one of them.

    My opinion is that dramas which contain comedic elements belong in the Drama category, while comedies that contain dramatic elements belong in the Comedy category. Except for a few cases, I think most people would agree on which ones belong where. So why are they all currently being shoehorned into the Comedy category?

    1. Disagree – I think Nurse Jackie and The Big C are both clearly comedies. They are structured like comedies and each contain comedic characters, even if their protagonists aren’t necessarily overtly comedic. A show like United States of Tara is more debatable, but I do believe that Nurse Jackie and The Big C should contend in Best Comedy Series. And I don’t think a dramedy category should be created solely for Showtime’s breed of comedy.

      1. The BIG C story beats aren’t comedic. They’re dramatic. There’s a lot of humor in the show, however.

        The finale ended with the son finding all the presents the mom was keeping stored for his future birthdays. He breaks down in tears.

        That’s a real knee-slapper, right?!

        I don’t believe in a Dramedy category. It’s one or the other.

        Part of the problem is — does the show’s genre dictate what kind of performance an actor or actress is going to have? I’d call Walter from Fringe’s performance comedic, but I wouldn’t call Fringe a comedy by any means.

  10. I like this idea. When it comes to awards in this town, there is a very obvious bias towards drama being more worthy than comedy – even when the category is comedy! For years the Humanitas Award for comedy writing went to the most serious, least funny script of the year. It’s great to be thought-provoking and lift up the human spirit, but in a comedy category you have to be FUNNY while doing it.

  11. Castle should be nominated regardless of whatever category because the show and nathan fillion and stana katic are phenomenal. Can we please shake up the nominations please!

  12. I honestly don’t think it’s fully necessary. Essentially, humor comes out of truth and humanity so all things that are well-done will have some humor in them. Conversely, a well-written comedy will also have (perhaps a less stated) sense of tragedy or pathos, which often what makes a situation funny.

  13. Can someone please acknowledge that NO ONE watches Nurse Jackie? NO ONE. It gets far less than a millions viewers. Edie is just collecting awards based on the Sopranos…well deserved, but not for Nurse Jackie.

    1. I just tried this weekend to get through Nurse Jackie Season 3 (failed, btw) and I can’t understand how this is even considered a comedy. I get dark humor, but this is just dark & humorless.

  14. I quite like Nurse Jackie, so back off.. it’s decent enough; though I will miss United States of Tara more.

    Look, how about this: Institute a Dramedy Category. Then, let’s just do away with the speeches. The winner is announced, they run the statue or whatever out to them in the audience, the wave their hand in the beauty contest way and onward we go. Whole damn thing done in 2 hours, 3 hours with some clips inserted. And the studios still get what they want, the logo of a win on the DVD/BD Box.. and promo commercials that market the win.

  15. Stopped caring about the Emmy’s when Matthew Fox didn’t win for the last season of Lost. Would love to see Castle and Nathan Fillion getting some recognition, but not going to happen.

  16. This is a ridiculous article because it will never happen, the emmys are actually trying to reduce the number of awards it gives and deadline is fully aware of this because of their reporting of the troubles it had securing a place on the networks.
    Do articles about about which performances should not be overlooked — such as Kadee Strickland from Private Practice. I’m sick of the same nominees and same winners. The good wife should finally win best series, it deserves it.

  17. There should be a separate category for dramedy. As they say comedy is hard so it is not equal to judge someone who masters comedy against someone that plays drama in a show where others get laughs. Can you imagine pitting Bob Hope against James Dean because there was a laugh in Giant? Or Desi and Lucy against the doctors of St. Elsewhere because there were funny patients? The medium has changed and fans would appreciate the awards more to reflect that.

  18. I remember the years when Moonlighting, one of the funniest shows of the mid eighties, would get multiple nods in the drama categories (Bruce Willis won best actor in a drama). Go figure.

  19. A very good idea, but I fear it’s like suggesting that Iowa no longer get to go first when picking Presidents. The truth is, many fine shows aspire to do something different than just be funny or create great drama. Dramedy is very much its own thing and should be acknowledged as such, but probably too forward thinking for the little minds of Hollywood.

  20. I have always felt it wasn’t fair to the comedies to not have a dramedy section…a lot of good shows gets no attention because of it.

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