Comedy-drama or dramedy (a portmanteau of drama and comedy), is a genre of dramatic works (including film, television, and theatre) in which plot elements are a combination of comedy and drama. It is a subgenre of contemporary tragicomedy. Comedy-drama is especially found in television programs and is considered a "hybrid genre".
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The advent of radio drama, cinema and in particular, television created greater pressure in marketing to clearly define a product as either comedy or drama. While in live theatre the difference became less and less significant, in mass media comedy and drama were clearly divided. Comedies were expected to keep a consistently light tone and not challenge the viewer by introducing more serious content.
By the early 1960s, television companies commonly presented half-hour-long "comedy" series or hour-long "dramas". Half-hour series were mostly restricted to situation comedy (sitcoms) or family comedy and were usually aired with either a live or overdubbed laugh track. One-hour dramas included such shows as police and detective series, westerns, science fiction, and serialized prime time soap operas.
Arguably, one of the first American television shows to successfully blend elements of comedy and drama together was Jackie Cooper's military-themed series, Hennesey. Although the show featured a laugh track, it also contains many elements of character drama that occurred amongst the re-occurring characters and the guest stars. The laugh track was not extensively used in each episode; by the third season, it was eliminated completely from the series.
While sitcoms would occasionally balance their humor with more dramatic and humanistic moments, these remained the exception to the rule as the 1960s progressed. Beginning around 1969 in the US, there was a brief spate of half-hour shows that purposely alternated between comedy and drama and aired without a laugh track, as well as some hour-long shows such as CHiPs in the late 1970s to early 1980s. These were known as "comedy-dramas".
A notable early (1969-1974) example of this genre was the award-winning Room 222, one of the first fully racially integrated television series. The episodes blended comedy with weighty subjects such as race relations, integrity, student smoking and mortality as well as topical issues such as the Vietnam War and the plight of returning war veterans.
The sitcom formula pioneered by Norman Lear in the 1970s in which a half-hour multi-camera situation comedy addressed serious issues in a dramatic format on videotape before a live studio audience is considered another type of comedy-drama hybrid. Examples of this genre include All in the Family and One Day at a Time.
Another example was The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, which aired from 1987 to 1991. In fact, the term "dramedy" was coined to describe the late 1980s wave of shows, including Hooperman,Doogie Howser, M.D., and Frank's Place.
These early shows influenced how general TV comedies and series (especially family themed sitcoms) were developed. They often included brief dramatic interludes and more serious subject matter. An example of a successful comedy-drama series that distinguished this genre in television was the series Moonlighting. It generated critical acclaim and was a highly rated series worldwide. Another example of a successful comedy-drama was the television series Eight Is Enough. The show was distinct, because it was not a comedy-drama in the traditional sense. It was an hour-long series that used a laugh track, which was very unusual, but is considered a comedy-drama for the fact that it alternated between drama and comedy.
In addition, comedy-drama series have been associated with the single-camera production format.