Do the Emmys need a new 'dramedy' category?

Many of TV's top shows blend laughs and tragedy, putting the Emmys in the awkward spot of honoring semi-dramatic fare like Nurse Jackie and Glee in the comedy field

Edie Falco plays a nurse struggling to deal with her prescription pill addiction in "Nurse Jackie": Does that sound like a straight-up comedy?
(Image credit: Ken Regan/Showtime)

The Big C is a TV series about a woman struggling with her cancer diagnosis. Nurse Jackie follows a pill-addicted mother whose life crumbles around her. Glee confronts anti-gay bullying, the loneliness of being disabled, and the heartbreak of being an outcast. And these series are strong contenders for Best Comedy at September's Emmys. Seriously. With Emmy nominations due in a matter of weeks, many industry insiders are increasingly frustrated that shows that flirt with darkness are forced to compete against more obvious comedies like 30 Rock and Modern Family. "The Academy has never known what to do with us," complains Weeds showrunner Jenji Kohan. "So they've tossed us into the category consisting almost entirely of balls-out comedy." Is it time for the Emmys to add a new category: Best Dramedy?

Yes, the current system isn't fair: When "not particularly funny" series like Glee and Nurse Jackie win comedy nominations, says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter, it's at the expense of other series "that actually make you laugh," like Parks and Recreation and Raising Hope. "Dramedies" don't belong in the Outstanding Comedy category because "if comedy is truly outstanding, it makes you laugh."

"Emmys: Why comedy nominees aren't funny anymore"

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And it leads to awkward moments: The abundance of "hybrid" series currently on TV "merit their own award for shifting seamlessly between dark comedy and heartrending drama," says Ray Richmond at Deadline. Remember when Edie Falco won Best Actress in a Comedy last year for her dark, angry performance in Nurse Jackie? It "spotlighted the inconsistency" of the category, espcially when Falco expressed shock at winning the award for a role that "isn't funny."

"Emmys: Do we need a dramedy category?"

Wait, broadening the definition of comedy is a good thing: Recognizing that a somewhat dark show is still a comedy helps our tastes evolve, says The Big C's executive producer Jenny Bicks, as quoted by Variety. Indeed, those shows are "getting people excited about comedy again." As more series that tackle dark subject matter find themselves "in the mix" for comedy Emmys, it becomes more clear that the genre is no longer "just defined within this narrow window of 'sitcom.'"

"Comedy conundrum: Dark and stormy vs. light"

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