It’s Okay To Like Melodramas Even If The Emmys Hate Them
1 Comment »Jul 20, 2012
By Alex Cranz
Quick name the five most critically lauded dramas on television!
Likely you’re starting off with Mad Men, maybe Breaking Bad? A little Boardwalk Empire. Some Homeland. And I bet Game of Thrones finds its way onto your list.
They’re very different kinds of shows but they all have the same thing going for them. They’re the new breed of popular drama. The leads are twisted and charismatic anti-heroes and the cast of characters lead arduous lives where everything is left unsaid except for those rare moments when there’s a gun (or crossbow) to their heads or it’s Sweeps month.
They’re smart television and carefully crafted. They swim in Emmy nominations and compete to see who can show the most bare breasts or tortured consumption of drugs and alcohol.
But they’re not the only kind of drama on television.
On USA Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino are leading a cast in the very fun political drama, Political Animals. On ABC Shonda Rhimes is making Grey’s Anatomy the most watched network drama (no seriously it has half the ratings it had in its hey day and it’s still top dog) and forcing Kerry Washington to spin a web of lies while pining for the hunky POTUS on Scandal. And out on CW The Vampire Diaries is working hard at being the sharpest and most entertaining show on television.
What do these shows have in common (besides my affection)? They’re melodramas. Often times really, really good melodramas that require the same craftsmanship as Mad Men. But it’s really not cool to admit you like them except for in the frilliest corners of Tumblr or six beers deep at a party.
Only, they’re actually pretty popular. Your mom watches Scandal and Political Animals. You sister watches Grey’s. At least two teenagers in your neighborhood get a weekly dose of the Salvatore brothers. They just don’t talk about it. They visit these shows, are entertained by them, and then they move on.
Meanwhile we obsessively dissect Nucky’s motivations and explore Tyrion’s trouble relationship with women. It’s…socially acceptable to have a conversation at a party about Mad Men or Breaking Bad. You’ll get side eye or a blank look if you tried to talk about the season ending plane crash on Grey’s though.
But guys. Internet. Lovers of television. It’s okay. These shows? They’re very different! Comparing them? Saying Breaking Bad season four is absolutely superior to Grey’s Anatomy season two? That’s silly! That’s apples and oranges. That’s like comparing either to the latest season of Parks and Recreation. They’re different breeds of entertainment. One is a straight forward modern drama. The other is an old-fashioned melodrama. Creating them requires very, very different goals but for both to really work (and for the record those are two of the best seasons of television ever crafted) they have to be lovingly shaped. There is no room for error.
So it’s okay to like both. In fact maybe you already do. Downton Abbey? The over-nominated British behemoth that consumes your Twitter feed and makes you watch PBS for the first time in years? It’s a melodrama. Bates and Anna may be wearing fancy clothes, but they’re still worrying about finding a time to finally be together and in love despite Mr. Bates being framed and arrested for the murder of his super evil ex-wife.
I think it is the British accents. Apparently they give melodrama the prestige it’s been sorely missing.
If Elena started worrying about her love for Damon and Stephan in a Welsh accent Vampire Diaries would probably come away with, like, twenty Emmy nominations.