11 January, 2012

21-Days of CHUCK! Day 7: Gimme Dramedy or Gimme Nuffin'


Some shows do comedy. Some shows do drama. And a few shows try them both at the same time, sometimes in the same scene. Few have done it as well as CHUCK. Most just fail at it.

What is a "dramedy" anyway? I know whenever I use it in every day life, most people look at me like I have two heads and a hideous mole on my arse. Okay, so that is actually true, which is why I have never revealed myself in public, but that still doesn't change the fact that people just don't use the word in normal daily interactions.

To those sophisticated in TV land speak, it is pretty obvious what it means. A "dramedy" is a drama with comedic elements. Or, a comedy with dramatic elements. In the case of CHUCK, I would say it is 70/30, comedy/drama. Though, in certain episodes, the drama does outweigh the comedy. But the need for the term exists because lots of dramatic shows have comedic moments. And even more comedic shows have dramatic moments in them. However, they don't normally surf between the two in every episode, nor through most of the scenes in each individual episode.

I latched onto CHUCK in many ways because of the fact that it could seamlessly go from heavy dramatic moments to very lighthearted without it seeming contrived. In one sequence the Buy More dudes discuss the validity of Sarah being "the right girl" and a few seconds later an angsty moment between Chuck and Sarah discussing a fake break-up, with Sarah then fake crying causing a very confused reaction by Chuck, dovetailing right into Lester moving in on Chuck's sloppy seconds. One quick little sequence mashed so many emotional buttons that you either loved it or went to watch something stupid like D-listers dancing.

CHUCK also never shied away from heavy drama. Sarah had a pretty emotionally damaging childhood. Chuck and Ellie were essentially abandoned by their parents. And there were exes and romantic interests and romantic obstacles at every turn. Not to mention deaths of important characters tossed into the mix. All the while, the show had to deliver laughs and make you forget about genres.

I suspect part of its success in delivering so much is a large part of its lack of ratings success. A friend of mine and I have often referred to CHUCK as THE PRINCESS BRIDE of television. Both are funny, cute, adventurous, action packed, romantic, and about characters who are very complex in the subtext, but easy to digest for those who don't want to look beyond what was shown to them.

Both CHUCK and THE PRINCESS BRIDE also lacked wide support from the general public but gained passionate support from those who loved them. And over time, "Bride" has gone from what was considered a financial failure to a movie that is now viewed as one of the best comedies of all time.

In time, and with the passion of the fan base sharing its love with anyone who will listen, the little dramedy named CHUCK could grow to become more powerful in death than it ever was in life. You know, like that crazy old wizard Ben Kenobi!

What say you, people who like to comment? Are you even still reading these articles? Should I stop here?


22 comments:

  1. Please don't stop. I enjoy your articles very much. :)

    Like you, I absolutely adore the dramedy aspect of the show. It's genius sometimes! I too have to explain to new viewers what the term dramedy means, haha. I actually learned about it when I started watching the show.

    A good example of this happened in Other Guy when Sarah realizes that she killed Shaw's wife, but then Chuck and his team appear and he realizes that Shaw is not trying to kill Sarah... he then cancels the tank. LOL, so cute! A really dark episode like Subway also had lots of those moments through out. It's one of the reasons I love this show, it rarely bores me and a lot of times brings me great joy. If only more people gave it a chance, I'm pretty sure lots of them would enjoy it. Let's hope syndication helps with that. We also need to continue to share it with others.

    S.

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  2. Please don't stop! I am enjoying the articles very much. I plan to make a generous donation if you make it to 21.

    I love this show more than any other I have watched and agree that the dramady is part of the reason. I think the third factor is that it is heartwarming. A mix of comedy and drama delivered by talented actors who make you forget they are acting. Its both an escape from the real world and an expansion of your real world as you come to care about the characters as if you knew them for real. I've even become attached to the actors and will support them and look forward to their next ventures, especially Zac. Never ever have I experienced such a phenomenon and I hope/wish others will continue to discover this jewel of a show as it goes into sindication.

    Sg (Suellen, pronounced Sue Ellen - a good ol Texas name)

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  3. Good article.

    Prior to Chuck, the first time I noticed "dramedy" as a genre was Ally McBeal. That show was a huge hit, though. It also lasted just five seasons (112 episodes). It actually won Emmies in the comedy category. Similarly, I think that's the category Chuck has entered itself into.

    Perhaps, Ally McBeal succeeded in attracting a lot of viewers because the milieu it operated in was a familiar one--lawyers.

    Chuck's not only a dramedy, but it somehow combines spies with "big box" retail humor and a whole bunch of nerd culture. It's not as familiar to the masses.

    Another reason may be that the TV landscape just wasn't as cluttered as it would be by the time Chuck came around.

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  4. In later years it shifted more to the comedy which I liked because it meant the characters had actually found that balance they were looking for in the early part of the series. So growth represented more fun times and that is awesome for me.

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  5. "I plan to make a generous donation if you make it to 21."

    INCENTIVE! Only 14 to go!

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  6. Keep going!!! Love me some 21 days -- to dull the heartbreak ;(

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  7. I tend to agree with your article, but there is a sentence that made me think: "I suspect part of its success in delivering so much is a large part of its lack of ratings success". So do I, in fact, but then I ask to myself: isn't it like saying "Look at me, I am so smart! I appreciate a show that the masses can't even understand!" That might be true, but still...
    In other words, and I know that (if you want) you will answer with your usual bluntness: do you really think that it is so? And if yes, how much this aspect affected the ratings, in your opinion?

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  8. Henry, I don't think the show is smarter than some other shows, or anything like that. But I do think it takes a certain type of person to stick with it for five seasons. Someone who wants more than the standard comedy, or drama, or stale jokes etc. CHUCK juggles a lot more than most shows.

    But I would never say that it does each element better than other shows. I do think it does ALL those elements in one show better than any other show.

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  9. I absolutely agree with that, HGF!

    S.

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  10. Excellent answer, thanks.
    Just what I thought: if you want to switch off your brain for an hour, this is probably not the show for you (well, most of the times...).
    And this is what most of the people probably wants when they watch TV...

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  11. I'll picket WB for a movie if I get Chuck supporters. We need a movie. Nothing like seeing Chuck on the big screen. Now that's DRAMEDY .... Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Thats all folks!!!

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  12. Good luck with that. WB will not make a movie until they sell about 10 million DVDs.

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  13. www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSHBvwnOARQ. Yvonne FTW.

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  14. I love Yvonne more than life itself... but I can't watch that video. It's like watching a murder.

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  15. How can there be a movie when everone dies at the end?

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  16. Why would you love someone that much when she couldn't give a fuck if you died tomorrow?

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  17. Yvonne would care if I died. For like 20 seconds... she would care.

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  18. She would care for more than 20 seconds. She used to intro your podcast and did three of your events. I bet she would be inconsolable for 2 minutes.

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  19. Top 2 perfect dramedic moments:

    2) S1 Vs Nemesis: Chuck & Bryce speaking Klingon (w/ hilarious delivery by Zac) then quickly shifts to Chuck interrogating Bryce and being taken as the human shield.

    1) S3 Vs Tic Tac: Coming back from the security checking mission, Team B gets briefed that the Laudanol was stolen. Chuck hilariously assuming it was a test to see if he would betray Casey. Tone quickly shifts to the serious side without skipping a beat when Sarah disarms Casey.

    Man. I. Love. This Show. Did I miss anything, HGF?

    CTWMjtm! (Chuck The Walker Movement, join the movement!)

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  20. One thing that I have noted in the later parts of the shows life is just how much Yvonne is enjoying her work (not that she did not before). But it is like the Lost episode Tricia Tenaka is Dead when Josh Holloway, Domic Monahan, Daniel Dae Kim and Jorge Garcia just look like they are having fun it can make a show just so fun to watch. My favourite parts of HIMYM at times is just watching Cobie Smulders laughing at all the material that comes out, she looks like she is having a blast.

    Since Chuck and Sarah have been together you can see a difference in how Yvonne plays Sarah, she is smiling and happy all the time and that like the previous two examples I gave above comes across as very endearing and genuine. I mean she was smiling in versus the baby after she stabbed Ryker and Chuck came up to her, lol :)

    So yeah that makes the mix of Drama and Comedy just pure fun and it is all excellent stuff.

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