Why people are baffled by The Bear’s Emmy wins

The show deals with issues of loss, grief, anxiety, identity and stress, and while, like in life itself, there are obviously moments of humorous levity within all this, you sense that comedy, and making people laugh, isn’t the prevailing reason why creator Christopher Storer devised this series.

The irony is that the night’s best drama series winner, Succession, arguably has far more laugh-out-loud moments, which led to Vanity Fair interestingly dubbing it “not an American drama, but a British comedy”. Indeed, in a reverse criticism of that applied to The Bear’s categorisation, Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk commented in 2019 about Succession’s Emmy nominations that it was “weird to see [it] nominated as a drama, because, in so many ways, Succession is a comedy“. It was only as the series’ world-building progressed that it became more obviously a drama.

Why has it been categorised this way?

So why has The Bear been classified as a comedy? Perhaps, some have claimed, it was a strategic move on its producers’ part, the suggestion being that it had better chances in the comedy categories. As Screen Rant theorised ahead of Monday’s ceremony: “Opting to focus on their secondary genre increases the chances of The Bear’s success. Not only could the crowd be a little thinner in the comedy pool, but The Bear’s dramatic edge gives it an even greater advantage regarding how much it stands out from its competitors.”

The divisions between comedy and drama categorisation at the Emmys have looked increasingly tenuous: in 2015, the Television Academy (the organisation behind the Emmys) automatically and somewhat spuriously placed any show that clocks in at or under 30 minutes in the comedy category, and any show longer than that in drama. But in 2021, this all changed again when the Academy announced that they would no longer take into consideration a show’s running time when categorising it as a drama or comedy, instead allowing shows’ producers to position themselves in whatever sector they saw fit. If the rationale behind The Bear’s genre placement was a tactical one, then it certainly worked.

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