Even the producers of “Desperate Housewives,” ABC’s newly minted Emmy nominee for best comedy series, concede their red-hot show is a far cry from what most viewers recognize as a classic TV sitcom.
But they insist that the serialized suburban tale, a surprise hit that led a ratings rally at ABC last season, is hardly a traditional drama either.
“We don’t know what we are,” Tom Spezialy, an executive producer and show-runner for the series, told Reuters on Thursday after his series gained 15 Emmy nominations, adding: ”I think we’re funny. We strive to be funny.”
“Housewives,” which tied NBC veteran “Will & Grace” as the most-nominated series on U.S. television, could become the first ABC show to win best comedy honors in 17 years.
But some critics and rivals suggest that ABC stretched the show’s comedy credentials to enter it in a more hospitable Emmy category.
“That show is not a comedy,” said Bill Lawrence, executive producer of NBC’s hospital sitcom and Emmy rival “Scrubs,” who nevertheless describes himself as a fan of “Housewives.”
“I don’t find that show as funny as (NBC political drama) ’The West Wing,”’ he said. “I find ’Desperate Housewives’ to be a great late-night soap, and it’s going to crush in the comedy Emmys as an hour-long show that’s not a comedy, and it’s not that fair.”
The theory goes that this year’s comedy race was less competitive than usual due to the absence of several perennial comedy contenders — recently departed “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Sex and the City” among them — while the field of potential drama nominees was especially crowded.
In addition, ABC had a more straightforward candidate for best drama in another new hit with lots of buzz — the castaway thriller “Lost.”
“I wish we could say we were that shrewd,” Spezialy said of his show’s entry as a comedy. “We just thought it was funny. I can’t say that we plotted to win the Emmy nod in that way.”
Spezialy said he and fellow executive producer and creator Marc Cherry “structure stories and scenes as if we’re telling a comedy, and yet we don’t run away from the drama. So it is a pure mix of both.”
The precedent for such hybrids competing in the Emmys as comedies was set six years ago when “Ally McBeal,” the popular Fox legal “dramedy,” was nominated and won in 1999.
Detractors, however, say the five ladies of Wisteria Lane have more in common with prime-time soap operas of yore, such as “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” than with their Emmy competitors. Neither of those shows ever won the top prize.
The Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS on Sept. 18.