Can silly and serious drama mix?

I just saw the movie “My Name is Doris” today. It was just an average movie, and one thing that really hurt it IMHO was it tried to mix slapstick comedy with some serious dramatic elements (the title character has toxic family isssues and is a hoarder). Do you know of any movies or TV shows that mix serious drama and farcial comedy well, or is it just not possible?


The TV series MASH did it very well, IMHO.

The Sopranos

Excel Saga

In my opinion (and I realize this is an opinion many are going to disagree with) Doctor Who is an example of a show that failed because of this. They would do several episodes in a row that were supposed to raise the serious dramatic tension and then they’d throw in an episode of pure silliness.

And for me, it ruined the show. The silliness destroyed any chance that I was going to take the serious stuff seriously.

My favourite comedy of recent years has been medical based show Scrubs. Amid the frequent silliness they regularly added emotional and dramatic points. I felt it worked well.

On the other hand I felt Breaking Bad, certainly in the first couple of seasons, dropped in some heavy handed, near slapstick humour which I found grating. Later seasons were able to add occassional humour amid the serious drama more successfully.


Shakespeare. Dumas.

One of the best things ever to be on television, the miniseries The Singing Detective (ignore the unfortunate theatrical film of the same title), is dark, gripping, and surrealistic, and also chock-full of zany comedy–notably, characters abruptly breaking into '40s song and dance numbers.

This recent season of X-Files attempted it. I don’t think they succeeded, though strangely because the silly episodes were the most popular.

They’re not farcical as such, but I love the balance of humour-to-drama on the Canadian show Murdoch Mysteries.

*Annie Hall
Oh! What a Lovely War
King of Hearts

Of course Shakespeare, but you don’t have to be mean about it.

The Silent Hill videogames produced by the original Team Silent used moments of silliness very effectively amidst all the drama and horror.It was a smart move on their part, as deliberately breaking the tension when they meant to do it avoided people laughing for release at something they meant to be taken seriously.

Xena: Warrior Princess.

The running thread through the who series was drama bordering on melodrama, but each episode could be anything. Sometimes it was slapstick and farce, sometimes it was straight comedy, sometimes it was drama with heavy symbolism.

The mixture of comedy and melodrama can make for an uneven tone, which is why “Cable Guy” didn’t do it for me.

It’s a difficult balance. The dramatic masks, Comedy and Tragedy were discussed in another thread. I don’t think it work well in the movie business where ambiguity is discouraged, you want your audience to walk away laughing or crying, but not confused. Still it gets done in some ways, Indiana Jones mixed melodrama and comedy in a successful mix, a story with a fantastical quality like that has a better chance of success.

Life Is Beautiful ?

The African Queen

Yeah, definitely.

This might sounds weird but I think Adam Sandler’s Click did this decently well.