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Comedy-drama Television

By Edited Feb 9, 2016 0 0

Comedy-drama television is a genre that seeks to find a harmonious and pleasant blend of dramatic, intense happenings and light or humorous happenings. This genre has become increasingly popular in the last decade or so. Successful programs within this category have enough serious material to help viewers identify with the characters and enough laughs and slapstick to make the overall experience of watching cathartic.

The most popular American shows in this genre include entries like 30 rock, M.A.S.H, Salute Your Shorts, Pushing Daisies, The Office, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Monk, among many others. In all these cases, viewers will notice sympathetic characters that find themselves embroiled in thorny situations and therefore relate some level of stress until their predicament is solved, often in a silly or unusual way.

According to the Greeks, gripping and effective drama comprises pathos, or sympathetic pity, that a viewer feels for a struggling protagonist, as well as, via some resolution, catharsis, which is described as the powerful and therapeutic release of intense emotions. The overwhelming wave of relief a viewer might feel at the protagonist's eventual triumph or salvation is an example of catharsis. A dramatic-comedic piece that does not feature any pathos will feel empty and flat; it will be difficult for the audience to become involved in the process, to feel any concern for the characters. Likewise, a dramatic-comedic offering that lacks any catharsis might leave audience members feeling agitated or unfulfilled after being unable to see the dilemma resolved in a thematically satisfying way.

A skilled writer might, in some cases, intentionally manipulate these aspects of a comedy-drama in order to produce a desired effect. Perhaps, in a series finale, the writers may intentionally withhold the normal degree of catharsis and leave the series on an unresolved point of tension or tragedy in order to increase its perceived dramatic weight.

In any case, it is interesting to watch television series within this genre to observe how their writers attempt to tackle real-world issues in a way that is approachable for a television audience partly motivated to watch by a desire to be entertained and not lectured. Many such series may deal with reasonably weighty social issues like coming-of-age embarassments, racial tensions, socio-economic stratifications, political oppression, war, and even physical or mental disability.

One of the ways in which writers accomplish sensitive treatments of such contentious issues is by thematic projection. This is the process by which a writer can cast the same dynamics of a very serious issue into very silly circumstances. For example, instead of treating political dictatorship directly in documentary form, a comedy-drama writer might approach the subject via an episode in which a summer camp of kids finds themselves under the thumb of an insufferable stickler camp counselor. In such a scenario, writers would still be free to explore themes pertaining to dictatoriship, suppression, civil resentment, resistance and even revolution, but could do so while tailoring all specific instances to humorous and comparatively light hearted camp activities, groans around the campfire, toilet-papering rampages brutally squashed by the vigilant counselor, long sweaty marches through the mosquito-infested backwoods, etc.

The comedy-drama genre answers to the realities of television viewership: most people tune in when they are bored, sick, tired, or stressed and therefore are seeking something to lift their spirits and temporarily transport them out of their own situation. Meanwhile, however, television that is utterly vapid and without any dramatic framing whatsoever can only hold interest for so long. Therefore, the balance between relatable characters, the bizarre and complicated situations they find themselves in, and their humorous resolutions makes for compelling television that keeps its viewers entranced.

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