Even though it has tackled such heavy topics as homophobia and teen pregnancy, Glee will follow in the footsteps of one-hour series Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty by vying for Outstanding Comedy at the Emmys. Eleven years after Ally McBeal became the first dramedy to score a win in the category, Glee is considered a lock to earn a nomination July 8, and it may well win the trophy Aug. 29. But comedy purists are asking: Do hour-long shows — which mix lighthearted moments with full-on tearjerkers — really belong in a category that usually honors traditional sitcoms? A handful of comedy writers polled by EW have their doubts.
“We bust our asses trying to get as many laughs into the shows as possible,” gripes one veteran scribe. “Dramedies don’t do that.” Adds another: “I’ve seen Glee a couple times, and I like it okay. But it has never, not even once, made me laugh, which seems like something any comedy should do.” Still, that writer points out, “I don’t know that a show like Glee should be competing against, say, The Wire, either.”
The Emmy brass recognizes the issue, but is understandably reluctant to create a new award for dramedies. “To [add] another category just to take care of the odd ducks would dilute the meaning of each one,” says John Leverence, the academy’s senior VP of awards. Still, the pressure is on Glee to submit comedic episodes that can go toe-to-toe with three-time winner 30 Rock and this year’s breakout, Modern Family. (Glee plans to offer its pilot and the Madonna episode for consideration.) But other than the musical numbers, creator Ryan Murphy argues, Glee isn’t that different. “People get caught up on that ‘dramedy’ label. But every time I watch 30 Rock or Modern Family, I am moved,” he says. “The more heart that a show has, the bigger laugh you get in the payoff. All in the Family had a rape episode. Just because it’s a sitcom doesn’t mean it’s not moving. And just because it’s a one-hour [show] doesn’t mean it’s not funny.”
Glee aired its first season finale on Tuesday; it averaged nearly 11 million viewers. The episode was the highest-rated season finale for all freshman series this year.
—With additional reporting by Whitney Pastorek