Multicamera shows get no respect

DGA contenders admired but not awarded

Multicamera shows get plenty of laughs, but, like Rodney Dangerfield, no respect at the Directors Guild of America Awards in the comedy series category.

Compared with single-camera shows, multicamera is actually pretty close in total wins since the category’s creation in 1970 (20 for single cam, 17 for multi). However, for the past several years, single-cams have not only taken home the award, they’ve also dominated the nomination slots.

Directors know that it’s not a case of one technique being more difficult than the other — just different.

“I have a lot of friends who are multicamera directors,

says hyphenate Paul Feig, a 2008 nominee for directing the “Dinner Party” episode of “The Office.” “I’m really in awe (of what they do). You’re running a four-ring circus in a way.”

While one solution would be to create two different awards, some feel that could become a slippery slope.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that a one-hour episode of ‘Ugly Betty’ couldn’t be more different from a ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ (but) it’s not up for me to say there should be separate categories,” says director Richard Shepard, who won the 2006 DGA comedy series award for directing the “Betty” pilot.

“I’d be more likely to support (separate) categories for pilots and series. Pilots have more money and more time, and that’s not fair to series directors.”

Arguably, the DGA could even justify an additional category for hourlong comedy shows, given that programs including “Betty,” “Moonlighting,” “Desperate Housewives,” and even “Grey’s Anatomy” have all been nominated for the comedy series award alongside half-hour programs, though Shepard cautions that “there are so many categories (already).”

Multicamera directors ultimately might only have to wait for the passage of time until they get back on the DGA Awards ballot.

“TV is cyclical,” says director James Widdoes, a 2004 DGA Award nominee for “8 Simple Rules” and a current director of “Two and a Half Men,” “‘Til Death” and “The Bill Engvall Show.” “The multicam genre is in a bit of a valley now, much like before Bill Cosby decided to do (“The Cosby Show”) for NBC in the ’80s. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to do a multicam again.”

Current worries about the global economy could even play a factor in seeing more multicam shows sooner than later.

“They may come back because they remind us of better days,” offers Shepard. “As networks start cutting back, the (multicam comedy) may be making a return engagement.”

Whether or not the category is redefined, directors still look forward to the ceremony.

“To sit with your competition is fun,” says Feig. “We have so much in common. It’s great to tell horror stories and gossip about people we’ve all worked with. I really look forward to it.”

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