Commentary: ‘Barry’ And The Rise Of The Dark Dramedy

by Frank Martin

It’s always interesting to see the evolution of different genres. Comedies of the 1990s had a certain slapstick tone that more or less faded in the 2000s as the dramedy took hold. This emerging genre combined situational comedy with a serious tone portraying real life lessons as opposed to the hyper-reality often seen in the ’90s. Although, even this genre wasn’t meant to last. Television had an explosion of suspense and thriller stories that became immensely popular. It was only a matter of time before this phenomenon combined with the dramedy to give way to a brand new genre that seems to be a “dark dramedy.”

Two great examples of this are the HBO shows Barry and White Lotus. The former is about a hitman having an existential crisis who takes up acting to give meaning to his life. The latter is about a high-end resort filled with extremely wealthy people who have uncomfortable interactions with the resort’s staff. Neither of these shows are straight-up comedies. If anything, they would be labeled as dark comedies focusing on unconventional jokes and grim situations, undoubtedly falling into black comedy territory.

This black comedy is displayed through what can be described as scenes of drama. They aren’t light and they aren’t inconsequential, like many comedies often are. They have real stakes and feature what are supposed to be portrayed as real characters. This gives a sense of seriousness to the stories that comedies — especially dark comedies — don’t often concern themselves with. It’s still an emerging genre and more are sure to take advantage of its tone and style in future years. And after the dark dramedy starts to outstay its welcome, it will be interesting to see what genre rises in its wake.

Barry and White Lotus are both streaming on HBO Max.

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