The Thin Grey Line Between Comedy and Tragedy
Darrin Stevens' job is on the line. If he can't land that big, new account, well, his goose is cooked. That's the plot line of almost every Bewitched episode in the long-running series. Invariably, his young wife Smantha would find some magic solution that would make everything all right. We never were too worried about Darrin, we knew he wouldn't lose his job, but if he did we knew he'd find another one.
Robert Petrie, on the other hand, may have only been as secure as the ratings of the Alan Brady show. The fictional show featured on the old Dick Van Dyke Show. Petrie's problem was a tyrantical boss, show deadlines, and incessant need to find humourous situation in his life that he could adapt for that's week's show. Somehow he was always successful, even without a magical wife.
I guess my point is one of age. The two classic shows were comedies. No matter how the boss yelled, no matter how bleak the potential outcome, things never got too dark. It's my position that this was more to due to the lead actors age, than to the actual circumstances surrounding them.
Let's take a look at the american classic, Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is basically in the same boat as Darrin and Rob, but he has thirty years on them. His career is on the line, and he can't seem to land any new clients. The same basic plot line, but now we have tragedy. The audience realizes as well as Willy does, that the options are few past a certain age.
You want drama? Take Robert Petrie, make him 62 years old, and let him find funny jokes for the young Alan Brady. You can almost see the sweat begin to bead on Petrie's forehead.
There's a thin line between comedy and tragedy, and sometimes that line is colored grey.