Drama (film and television)

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Main articles: Drama, Film, and Television

When used to define a specific genre or type of film or television programme, drama is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular subgenre, such as "costume drama," "political drama," "courtroom drama," "domestic drama," or "comedy-drama." These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

All forms of cinema or television that involve fictional stories are forms of drama in the broader sense if their storytelling is achieved by means of actors who represent (mimesis) characters. In this broader sense, drama is a mode distinct from novels, short stories, and narrative poetry or songs.[1] In the modern era before the birth of cinema or television, "drama" came to be used within the theatre as a generic term to describe a type of play that was neither a comedy nor a tragedy. It is this narrower sense that the film and television industries, along with film studies, adopted. "Radio drama" has been used in both senses—originally transmitted in a live performance, it has also been used to describe the more high-brow and serious end of the dramatic output of radio.[2]

Types of drama in film and television[edit]

  • Crime drama and legal drama: character development based on themes involving criminals, law enforcement and the legal system.
  • Historical drama (epic) (including War drama): films that focus on dramatic events in history.
  • Horror drama: a film that focuses on imperiled characters dealing with realistic emotional struggles, often involving dysfunctional family relations, in a horror setting. The film's horror elements often serve as a backdrop to an unraveling dramatic plot.
  • Docudrama: the difference between a docudrama and a documentary is that in a documentary it uses real people to describe history or current events; in a docudrama it uses professionally trained actors to play the roles in the current event, that is "dramatized" a bit. Not to be confused with docufiction.
  • Psychodrama: an action method, often used as a psychotherapy.
  • Comedy-drama: a film in which there is an equal, or nearly equal balance of humour and serious content.
  • Melodrama: a sub-type of drama films that uses plots that appeal to the heightened emotions of the audience. Melodramatic plots often deal with "crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship, strained familial situations, tragedy, illness, neuroses, or emotional and physical hardship." Film critics sometimes use the term "pejoratively to connote an unrealistic, pathos-filled, camp tale of romance or domestic situations with stereotypical characters (often including a central female character) that would directly appeal to feminine audiences."[3] Also called "women's movies", "weepies", tearjerkers, or "chick flicks". If they are targeted to a male audience, then they are called "guy cry" films.
  • Romantic drama: a sub-type of dramatic film which dwells on the elements of romantic love.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elam (1980, 98).
  2. ^ Banham (1998, 894–900).
  3. ^ Melodrama Films


  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Cook, Pam, and Mieke Bernink, eds. 1999. The Cinema Book. 2nd ed. London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-851-70726-2.
  • Elam, Keir. 1980. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New Accents ser. London and New York: Methuen. ISBN 0-416-72060-9.
  • Hayward, Susan. 1996. Key Concepts in Cinema Studies. Key Concepts ser. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-10719-9.
  • Neale, Steve. 2000. Genre and Hollywood. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02606-7.