If you’ve seen Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet, you’ll know it’s a show that combines comedy with all of the blood and gore you might find in something like Evil Dead.
Genre-bending shows may be so hot right now, but it isn’t something altogether new. These shows were genre-bending before it was cool…
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
High school is already such a drag. But throw vampires, werewolves, and demons into the mix — there are bound to be extra growing pains. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was more than just Joss Whedon’s first foray into television. It took the teen drama that had developed out of the late 1980s and smashed it up against a less traditional format of supernatural fantasy.
When the Scooby Gang wasn’t crushing vamps into corporeal dust, they took the time to experience all the ups and downs of high school (and eventually, college) life. Blooming sexual identities, junior rock bands, and cliques all exist on the show’s surface layer. When it’s all taking place over a literal Hellmouth, Buffy juggles both genres with general ease.
Aside from spawning another genre-spanning series, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer still lives on for fans in comic books and other media. Almost 20 years after its premiere, the show continues to inspire other works and stir up a critical conversation. Not bad for something that Whedon initially described to viewers as “My So-Called Life meets The X-Files.” [Nick Murray]
When you think of a missing person mystery, you usually don’t think of 20-somethings in Brooklyn solving the case in-between brunches. Search Party on TBS takes that concept and runs with it. It blends the comedy of an HBO show (see Girls, Insecure, etc.) with a serialized crime story.
Dory (Alia Shawkat) is trying to figure out her way in life post-college and comes across a Missing Person poster on her way to work. She recognizes the girl in the poster as someone she used to know. It affects her more that she initially thinks, as this was someone just like her. Soon she takes it upon herself to figure out what happened and enlists the help of her friends as well.
The show deftly jumps from 20-something malaise to relationship drama, to relationship comedy without missing a beat. It also doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Dory isn’t looking to solve this mystery out of altruism. It becomes abundantly clear that this is giving her a purpose that she hasn’t had in a long time and is using it for her own ends. By the time the first season concludes, things have taken an extremely dark turn; and I’m very interested to see where they take it for the second. [Bob Aquavia]
Schitt’s Creek is one of those rare comedies that breaks tradition and brings in not just coming-of-age flair, but drama as well. It’s a comedic and eerily dramatic look at a life of wealth, middle age, and being an outsider. Centered around a formerly rich family now living in Podunk USA the show reminds us that no one is safe from backstabbing former friends and economic collapse.
While mostly comedic, the romantic elements for its showrunners, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel levy, and Annie Murphy, are filled with struggle. Parents Johnny and Moira have a healthy marriage filled with love but are still susceptible to the strains of poverty. The siblings hold opposite ends of the relationship spectrum: the daughter, Alexis, is the apple of many men’s eye; yet the son, David, is figuring out his sexual identity and place in the world.
The show touches on friendship, politics, and even what it means to understand one’s self. Ultimately the show succeeds on all fronts. Brilliant in its comedy, dramatic in its realism, and utterly hopeful is its romanticism. The show provides a unique take on fish out of water can’t swim, as the family flounders in their new environment. While not the best-received comedy in the last few years, it is a hidden gem worth finding. [Thomas Wilson]
McG produced his share of films and television, sprinkling comic elements into action-themed media. Perhaps his greatest achievement in bending a genre was the beloved television series, Chuck. This heartfelt romantic comedy disguised as an espionage/spy thriller represents what a successful multi-genre series should be: true to both genres.
Zachary Levi stars as Charles Bartowski (Chuck), an underachieving genius working the equivalent job of the Geek Squad at Best Buy. Through circumstance, his brain is implanted with a government mainframe and he inherits access to every government secret. The government wants it back and the enemies of the United States want to use him for their devious purposes.
Enter Sarah Walker, a CIA agent. Her mission is to either apprehend Chuck or terminate him before the information falls into the wrong hands. She sees that Chuck can be a government asset, convincing them to hire him instead of killing him. As they work together, romance ensues.
When bending genres the trick is to not allow one to overshadow the other. In Chuck, the high-tech spy world action is solid and does not subtract from the romantic story of a real spy and a fake spy trying to find happiness. [Ryan Aday]
Stop me if this sounds familiar. Warring factions jockey for power. Political games abound with shades of gray. Supernatural elements that will eventually threaten everyone. If you said Game of Thrones…well, you’d be right. But the newest show to take on the mix of intrigue, power, and an ever-expanding universe is SyFy’s The Expanse.
Based on the ongoing series of novels by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse takes place two hundred years in the future, with humanity having colonized the solar system. The series so far sees three primary factions fighting: Earth, Mars, and the miners of the Asteroid Belt. An uneasy truce keeps everyone in line but it’s fragile at best.
The first season had multiple threads and genres going at once. A noir-ish tale of a detective trying to find a missing girl. A group of miners survive tragedy and seek to both survive and expose the truth of what happened. Political players on Earth look to both keep the peace and push for war. By the end of the first season/beginning of the second, all these threads and characters have come together. Now’s the perfect time to stream it and catch up, because the ride has just shifted into the next gear. [Bob Aquavia]