I think the line between TV dramas and comedies is drawn in wealth. And Maslow, or something.
These things are important, from a writer-ly perspective. It’s good to identify the tropes, so that you can tweak them to your own design and not fall prey to cliché (hey, that’s catchy). It’s also good to understand societally erected boundaries (the middle-schoolers among us are snickering), so that you know what to expect if/when you break them.
Comedy thrives in upper middle class environments. Think Friends, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, and even Family Guy. Sure, the cast occasionally talks about money issues, but they’re never a real problem. I mean, no one is ever threatened with starvation, probably because starvation is definitely not funny. And that’s the whole catch: modern comedies exist in an illusory world, where the jokes can be focused upon because they’re not being threatened by reality. Unless you’re talking dark comedy, but that’s another story.
Drama, on the other hand, exists on the extremes. Things are dramatic if you either have no money or too much money. Too little power, or too much. Game of Thrones, How to Get Away with Murder, Soap Opera, Downton Abbey… Everyone is rolling in the $$$ or dirt-poor. Probably because things get complicated when you move toward each extreme. Life is dicier, and drama thrives on dicey schtuff.
An interesting practice is to identify where on this slider a show/your character falls. What makes situations funny? What makes them dramatic? You might agree with what I’ve said above, or you might find something different (and if you do, please share it!)
As for the writing process, understanding this spectrum and pinpointing where your characters fall is a great tool that you can use to explore the nature of your work or your character more deeply.
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Don’t steal my words. They’re mine. Zachary Barnes 2015©