Increased comedy competition could bring hurdles for offbeat show
Fox’s “Glee” has racked up its share of awards this year — picking up a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, People’s Choice and Peabody — but the fact that it’s an hourlong musical comedy might hurt it come Emmy time.
Comedy was widely considered to have made a comeback this year, with “Glee” and ABC’s “Modern Family” leading the pack. “Modern Family” also won its share of kudos, taking home both Directors and Writers Guild awards as well as a Peabody.
But other comedies also have come on strong, with CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” scoring record ratings, and NBC’s “Community” and “Parks and Recreation” both winning critical accolades. Starz’s “Party Down” and Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara” — starring Toni Colette, last year’s Emmy-winner for best comedic actress — are also all dark horses in the category.
All of those shows except “Glee” are half-hours, leaving observers to wonder whether that will help or harm the Emmy hopes of Ryan Murphy’s singing sensation.
“Glee” is a multifaceted, hourlong show that includes comedy, drama, singing, dancing, trampoline bouncing and almost anything else the writers can throw in. “Modern Family” fits the more traditional comedy model — 30 minutes of dealing with the trials and tribulations of family life, which is standard sitcom subject matter, whether that family is the traditional Barones of “Everybody Loves Raymond” or the cobbled-together Harpers of “Two and a Half Men.”
“(Being an hour) certainly makes it more challenging,” says Dana Walden, chairman of Twentieth Century Fox TV, which produces both “Glee” and “Modern Family” and is the driving force behind their Emmy marketing campaigns. “You have to reach a little bit harder through the campaigning process, but that’s good for your show. It brings it to the attention of that many more people.”
“I hope ‘Glee’ gets points for everything it takes to produce that show — the production numbers, the wardrobe, the choreography — but the show is fighting tradition,” says Joe Earley, Fox’s executive vice president of marketing and communications. “As much buzz as it has, I feel ‘Glee’ is the underdog,” when it comes to winning the Emmy.
To combat that potential prejudice, Earley says that Fox’s marketers made sure to clearly brand the show as a comedy from the minute it premiered.
“In our advertisements for ‘Glee’ around town, the visual is Rachel (Lea Michele) getting a slushy in the face,” says Earley. “That poster makes it clear we’re talking about a comedy.”
Other hourlong comedies have paved the way for “Glee.” Fox’s own “Ally McBeal” won the Emmy for best comedy in 1999, and Tony Shalhoub twice won the Emmy (in 2003 and 2005) for lead comedy actor even though USA’s “Monk” is an hourlong crime procedural. ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” never won the Emmy — and is unlikely to be nominated this year — but did secure the Golden Globe for top comedy in 2005.
While “Modern Family” does have the benefit of being a half-hour, it also leaves the traditional behind as it portrays three interlocked families.
” ‘Modern Family’ is fiercely contemporary,” says Walden. “Its storylines do not feel like those that have been captured in past sitcoms. The show is much bolder in its comedy than many multicamera shows, although it does share some of those rhythms.”