Monday, September 13, 2010

The sitcom Pepsi Challenge

This is something new – a cross-blog debate. Answering a Friday question once I mentioned that single-camera sitcoms seemed to move quicker than multi-camera shows. Earl Pomerantz, in his excellent blog, disagrees. Here’s his full article, well worth reading.

I agree with just about every point Earl makes except the conclusion.

Here’s what Earl said:

When I watch The Office, or Community, or 30 Rock, or Modern Family, I find myself invariably glancing at the clock, amazed at how much time there is still left in the show. To me, these shows are excruciatingly slow.

On the other hand, a well-crafted multi-camera show, skillfully blending story and jokes, seemed to be over before I knew it. I’m speaking of the old multi-camera series, grounded in story and character, not today’s versions, which eschew story and rely almost entirely on jokes.

I completely agree that better story telling will make for a better more compelling show. Earl goes on in another post to cite a great example, a multi-camera episode he wrote for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Not just great. Award winning great.

But it’s an unfair comparison. I don’t think you can pit a classic multi-camera episode up against a COMMUNITY. Different styles, different eras, catering to different audiences.

For a more accurate test, what if the opponent was an equally classic episode of MASH? (By classic I mean Larry Gelbart, not us.)

But having written MASH I can tell you, we packed as much into each episode as was humanly possible. That was the format established by Larry and Gene Reynolds. We had from two to four plots going in each episode. The dialogue was a stylized banter that when it worked was just crackling. We strove to get emotion, drama, comedy, silliness, pathos, scope – anything we could find – into the show.

Which show would you prefer if you took the Pepsi Challenge of quality? That depends on personal taste. To me, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW was the pinnacle of comedy writing. To write one was my ultimate goal. But I know writers of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW who felt the same about MASH. Still, I feel it’s fair to say MASH moved quicker.

My partner David teaches sitcom writing at USC. He was surprised to learn in one of his classes that many of the young students had never seen CHEERS. So he assigned the class the first season to watch. (I contend the first season was the best). A lot of the students were not overly impressed with it. Why? It moved too slowly.

I think Earl and I would agree that too much importance is placed on pace today. The audience is used to it, they have unlimited other choices, and in general we’ve become a society that can no longer tolerate being bored even for a minute. Where as story telling used to be the master we served, now it’s speed. So showrunners will employ visual techniques, rapid-fire scenes, and a barrage of jokes. Sometimes it’s at the expense of story, character, or genuine emotion.

But it doesn’t have to be. Again, personal taste but I think MODERN FAMILY does a great job of mounting a zippy show with a lot of humor and depth.

Now, let me pose another question. Can a show be too fast-paced for its own good? I mean, that’s where we’re heading, right? My answer is yes. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT jammed so much into each half-hour that I think it wore out a good portion of the audience. The material itself was hilarious and sometimes inspired but it was just so dense. Audiences need to catch their breath. So I caution show creators: speed can kill.

Who knows? Someone may come along with a sitcom that goes back to the pace of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and viewers hail it as “groundbreaking”, “daring”, “unprecedented”. And the number of cameras won’t matter.

What do you guys think?


Michael said...

A few years ago, I heard an interview on NPR with someone who had studied and compared TV shows of the 1950s with those of the 1990s and early 2000s, and in turn looked a bit at the era in-between. He found that today's shows have a lot more dialogue and a lot more going on, albeit in less time, given the increase in the number of commercials. His classic example of a one-hour drama that moved differently than anything in the past was The West Wing. That said, he made the point that today, with computers and other fast-moving gadgetry, attention spans are so different, the TV shows reflect that.

Anonymous said...

Because the pace in comedy nowadays is so frenetic, I think that writers feel that they need to fill gaps with anything that will get a laugh, which is why we have so many shows with occasional good bits sandwiched in-between tons of crude, obvious, infantile humor (Family Guy, Judd Apatow flicks, lots of Kevin Smith stuff). Keep the laughs rolling constantly, no matter what. For every good, well-earned laugh, there will be 4 awful jokes on each side of it. I miss the days when comedy let you take a breath or two. Alex Toth said he spent the first half of his professional like figuring out what to put in to his work and the second half figuring out what to leave out. This applies to writing comedy too. Just because you CAN do a thing, doesn't mean you should.

Rinaldo said...

First of all, I would say that if you're watching a sitcom, and periodically amazed at how much time is left, that indicates that it's moving amazingly QUICKLY, not slowly. It makes a lot happen in a short time. So I find Earl's premise faulty (in fact, dead wrong) on this.

doubleshiny said...

I agree totally with the reliance on jokes and one liners over story. When talking about episodes of Cheers you could use shorthand by saying "You know, it was the one where Woody has to meet Kelly's family for the first time", or "When the guys from Gary's steal Tecumsah". With some modern comedies you only remember the gag, not the situation.

benson said...

Comparing today with the 60's may be apples and oranges, but comparing 60's with 60's may be fair. Andy Griffith was single camera, Dick Van Dyke was three. I don't think of one as faster or slower. Both had great writing, great acting, etc, and are simply great. I don't ever recall thinking one was faster paced than the other.

gottacook said...

I have spent almost no time with the current sitcoms that Mr. Pomerantz finds slow (The Office, Community, 30 Rock, Modern Family). However, I've seen most of the 150 or so episodes of Malcolm in the Middle by now, mostly in syndication, and although that is a single-camera show, it never seems slow or underwritten to me. Every episode I've seen seems well-paced. So with respect to Mr. P, I don't think his complaint is truly an aspect of whether a show is single-camera or not.

Mac said...

Steven Spielberg was talking about this phenomenon recently, and he said 'Jaws' would never be a hit today, as the audience wouldn't wait that long to see the shark.
I read an interview with Ricky Gervais where he said (of the original British 'Office') - "Drama is life with the boring bits taken out, in 'The Office' we put all the boring bits put back in." But The Office built up by word-of-mouth from a cult-y little show that few people watched (and some bad reviews) into the success it became. I doubt it would have survived on a commercial channel as it would never have been given the chance to build up an audience.
So I dunno, I suppose the audience' attention span must have changed over the decades, but I think the broadcasters' fear of losing the audience' attention probably drives the gag-cramming phenomenon as well. As much as I like 'Family Guy', sometimes it seems like it's saying "never mind that bad gag, there'll be a good one along in a few seconds."

Mac said...

Steven Spielberg was talking about this phenomenon recently, and he said 'Jaws' would never be a hit today, as the audience wouldn't wait that long to see the shark.
I read an interview with Ricky Gervais where he said (of the original British 'Office') - "Drama is life with the boring bits taken out, in 'The Office' we put all the boring bits put back in." But The Office built up by word-of-mouth from a cult-y little show that few people watched (and some bad reviews) into the success it became. I doubt it would have survived on a commercial channel as it would never have been given the chance to build up an audience.
So I dunno, I suppose the audience' attention span must have changed over the decades, but I think the broadcasters' fear of losing the audience' attention probably drives the gag-cramming phenomenon as well. As much as I like 'Family Guy', sometimes it seems like it's saying "never mind that bad gag, there'll be a good one along in a few seconds."

Roger Owen Green said...

Good comedy goes at the right pace. Bad comedy makes you check your watch. Number of camera is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

David Lee here. On this subject I can add that there was a conscious effort on Peter, David, and my part when developing FRASIER to slow things down. We were in the SEINFELD ascendancy when short scenes, quick jokes, and quick cuts to the next were beginning to take hold. We made it one of our goals to see how LONG we could make a scene before cutting to the next. Of course story sometimes vexed us, but we always tried to have as few scenes per episode as possible, a couple of times managing to capture the "holy grail" of an episode done in real time. "My Coffee With Niles" and "The Dinner Party" come to mind. Did they seem slow? I really didn't care. The goal was not winning the "Fastest Seeming Comedy" Emmy. We also thought story was paramount and that it was fine to go without a joke for a while if that story was compelling. And it was better to wait a page for a great joke rather than surround it with a bunch of lame ones. We seemed to do okay following some of those ideas.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

It's hard for me to generalize about pace, except to say that network shows have to get faster because they a) have less time and b) have more plots per show. But Everybody Loves Raymond was a big hit that deliberately tried to be slower than the average network show, by banning most B stories and taking more time over each scene. Similarly, Big Bang Theory often moves at a leisurely pace, at least compared to single-camera competitors -- which hasn't hurt its popularity. And then when you note that cable dramas are often slowish (like Mad Men) I don't know that I can say definitively that today's audiences want a certain kind of pacing.

The odd thing about the multi-camera format is that it makes shows feel both slow and fast: the actors and their delivery have to have the snappy, fast pacing of stage comedy, yet they often take more time over scenes, show characters entering and exiting the room more often, all the things that contribute to the accusation of slowness. You watch Dick Van Dyke or Phil Silvers -- the delivery and movement of the characters is often faster than anything today, but the stories are more leisurely, in part because there's only one per episode.

But then, even multiple stories don't automatically create a fast pace: Barney Miller was one of the first sitcoms to do multiple stories every week (along with M*A*S*H), yet its pacing always felt very deliberate because of the low-key way the actors played it.

One other thing about modern pacing in comedy is that because the stories are often very small, they have to be combined with other small stories to make a complete episode. That's the Seinfeld/Friends legacy -- take seemingly trivial problems and string them together (and in Seinfeld, blow the little problems up into big ones). Mary Tyler Moore or Everybody Loves Raymond would usually have one story per episode, but it would be something little that blows up into something big (death of Chuckles; deep-rooted family problems) enough to carry the whole half-hour.

I'd personally be happy to see an artistically ambitious multi-camera sitcom adopt a HBO kind of approach where the stories are slower (as they tend to be on HBO) but bigger and more significant. Unfortunately premium cable networks are uninterested in multi-camera sitcoms, and when that approach is tried in single-camera, you just wind up with a "dramedy."

Todd said...

Bowing to the twin gods of Pace and Punchlines has a cost: Character.

It's difficult to build a relationship with characters that are inhabiting a cartoon, e.g., "30 ROCK".

I call it the "NIGHT COURT" phenomenon. Here was a broad sitcom if ever there was one. Yet they would often try to pull audience heartstrings with some overly earnest moral monologue by Judge Harry Stone.

It's hard, however, to be emotionally engaged when there's been a 2-D circus freak show taking place in your courtroom.

Tone, tone, tone.

The very first question to answer when formulating a comedy.

tarotbyleamarie said...

I really agree with this. Writers don't care about storyline. Just being quirky and getting a laugh here and there.

Josie said...

I think you're both alluding to the same phenomenon but coming to the wrong conclusion. The Office and Arrested Development both have more going on per episode. Neither show can be distilled down to a one sentence plot line but their really isn't a show on TV now, outside of maybe the police procedurals, where a member of the audience is expected to handle just one storyline.

MTM:The Office::Dallas:The Sopranoes. Not in terms of any precritical greatness level, but in terms of storytelling technique. MASH is a fantastic transition between the two eras, where there are multiple story lines happening but the A storyline can be descibed in a sentence that doesn't need a lot of "because" and "well on last episode"

The expectations for the viewer, with multiple reviewing options, is that if they think they missed something to rewatch it, and in turn that sells thing like DVRs, DVDs, and increased Hulu's relevance.

Matt said...


You posted an observation a little while back about MASH that left me astonished. It was something I'd never picked up on. You said ( and I'm paraphrasing) the pace of MASH scenes still hold up in today's world of faster paced shows.

That was amazing insight.

MASH, when compared to other shows of its era, moves incredibly fast and manages to pack in a lot of story. I think this is why MASH, today, still feels so timeless.

But to your point about shows moving fast: SEINFELD lead the way, as David Lee points out. In this regard, SEINFELD was groundbreaking. Most of their scripts run between 70 - 80 pages. 30 ROCK is another great example. COUGAR TOWN almost feels frenetic, as does THE MIDDLE. It's like being around someone who is wolfing down their food. You notice that you're eating faster too. When a show is too fast paced, it has a negative reaction (to me at least). I start to feel .. almost anxious.

Interestingly, I was watching HAZEL the other day (off DVD) and the tempo felt right. Not too slow. Not too fast. This from a show from 1961.

Ben K. said...

When I was a kid, there was a big Marx Brothers revival, and that's also when the later "Pink Panther" movies and some of the classic Mel Brooks flicks came out. My friends and I thought they were all hilarious -- I can't remember ever laughing so hard.

Now, I watch these movies and they all seem surprisingly slow, with long pauses between the jokes that seem to drag things down. It may be partly my age or the lack of an eager movie-theater audience to laugh with, but I really do think that I've learned to expect (and need) a much faster pace in comedy.

-bee said...

You know, I feel incredibly grateful to have grown up in the 60's.

Not because 60's TV shows were so great (on the contrary - I hold that the 60's were the worst decade - thus far - for TV shows). but because in those days, local TV stations filled up programming time with older TV shows and films. As a little kid I and my friends didn't distinguish between The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Star Trek, Flash Gorden, Johnny Quest, Creature Feature, Man From Uncle.

So I feel like we grew up without prejudices. i mean, what comedy pacing is SLOWER than Leave it to Beaver (a charming, very unappreciated show IMHO) or The Little Rascals? "Faster" comedy was represented by The 3 Stooges, Soupy Sales, Abbot and Costello, Laugh In.

So I guess I find it strange that Eric's students found Cheers 'too slow'. I don't find any shows too fast or too slow - if they are FUNNY or clever. Cheers is great, MASH is great, Frasier is great, The Office is great, Modern Family is great. The Simpsons - one of the fastest paced shows ever was consistently great until it kind of lost it's soul (after about 10-12 years, not bad). But I could only take about 2 minutes of "3's Company" or "The Lucy Show" or "2 1/2 Men" before having to turn off the TV.

So I dunno, I think this distinction between 1 and multiple comedy shows is a false one, really. Both formats have their place.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Ben K: I think in the case of those films, they simply work better in theatres -- they're timed for audience reaction, and the pauses don't seem like pauses when a theatre audience is there. (It's like Spielberg lengthened the pause after Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman because the test audience was laughing so hard.)

One thing I'll add is that we all say movies used to be slower-paced, but in some ways that's factually untrue: movies today tend to be much longer, on average, than they used to be, taking longer to tell their stories and delivering much more exposition. I think many of us use "slow" as a synonym for "old" -- if the storytelling style seems old-fashioned or dull, it may strike us as slow-moving even if it isn't.

Sebastian said...

To be honest - I don't care at all. As long as the jokes are funny and the writing is good I don't mind looking at my watch because usually that means I notice that so much happened already and there's still episode left. I often notice that on shows that are very good like Modern Family. About halfway in I notice that the third act still hasn't started and they already covered a gazillion things, while on Big Bang Theory the show is over in a heartbeat because it jumps from one joke to the next. I love both shows equally and every comedy in general that is good.

Nothing is more excruciating long than an episode of "Hank".

Tim W. said...

Pace is definitely a lot faster today. I think that has it's pluses and minuses. It's obviously not just television. I think movies sometimes are focused too much on pace and less so on character development and story.

I went to see The American when it came out and thought it was very good, but most people I talked to who had seen it didn't like because they felt it was boring. It certainly wasn't fast, but the deliberate pace increased the tension. And then you've got Transformers...

DwWashburn said...

One camera, three camera, ten camera. Makes no difference if the script sucks. The only "camera" effect I despise is that hand held jerky camera that is used in a lot of "one camera" shows now. I guess they're trying to show us how life was seen through Katherine Hepburn's eyes.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

The MTV generation and its 20-second attention span is to blame, IMHO.

Kirk Jusko said...

If it bores me, it moves slow. If it entertains me, it moves fast. The number of camera don't matter

Chris said...

I think The Simpsons deserves a lot of the credit/blame for ramping up the pace of sitcoms. I don't know a single comedy writer under 50 who hasn't watched close to a hundred episodes of the show, and it's clearly an influence on shows like 30 Rock. Of course, you can move a hell of a lot faster in a cartoon than you can in live action, but they managed to make those jokes around the big punchlines great as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is apocryphal (sp?) or not, but didn't the Marx Bors. perform most of their movies as stage shows first? They would then have someone time how long the audience laughted at each joke so they knew just how long to pause after each joke when they made the filmed version?

That said, the bottom line to me is that funny is funny regardless of speed. I appreciate the dense packing of Arrested Development and the deliberate pace of Cheers and Frazier. I also appreciate the ultra-rapid fire style of Family Guy.

For anyone who appreciates great pacing and timing, I will recommend checking out Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel. Most episodes feature two disconnected 11-minute segments. Not only does each segment have an A-story (P&F build something), a B-story (P&F's sister Candace tries to bust them) and a C-story (Perry the Platypus, aka Agent P, battles his nemesis, Heinz Doofenshmirtz.) Plus plactically every episode features a catchy song. That's all in 11 minutes, yet all the characters are richly drawn and the plots exceptionally intricate. However, a six year old can appreciate practiclaly all of it. Some jokes go ever youngster's heads, but worry not as there'll be another joke up very shortly. Overall it has some of the cleverest writing going on today. (Really, check out the scene in the episode 'Comet Kermillion' regarding having found the cure for antidisestablishmentarianism. Truly and brilliantly absurd.)

Tom Quigley said...

David Lee said...

""My Coffee With Niles" and "The Dinner Party" come to mind."...

Not to turn away from the main them of Ken's blog today, but David, I just had to comment: I thought that "My Coffee With Niles" was an excellent way to end FRASIER's first season. The final exchange between Frasier and the waitress essentially summed up the season perfectly...

And speaking of lines from another Grub Street program, for some strange reason earlier today, the image of Antonio sitting in the airport lobby, strumming his guitar and singing "My goat knows the baseball score" popped into my head... I'm giggling even as I write this...

MikeN said...

Forget about comparing Cheers with modern shows, just compare First Season vs last season of 24.

MikeN said...

For people complaining about multiple plotlines, I say look at The Simpsons. It has lowered in quality because the network took away a few minutes for ads, and they cannot develop the multiple plotlines like they used to.
Do you remember the episode with Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Don Mattingly, etc?

Well those guys were in the SECOND HALF of the episode. The first part was The Natural, with Homer's special Wonderbat taking his team to the finals.

A_Homer said...

I have to agree that Cheers seems incredibly slow-paced today, it plods in my opinion and I saw it the first time that way as well. Cheers felt, and was, a theater-play, complete with waiting for audience reactions in the old Norman Lear style... compared to Seinfeld which was having the audience-reactions (Kramer's entrances) but factored it in with the pace (During the moment Kramer works the material further in character, not stands waiting before finding the space to deliver a line). Seinfeld relied on different sets, interiors and exteriors, and the editing to make cut-aways between seperate storylines. The important part there in my opinion was the trademark Seinfeld way that often converged these storylines to hilarious effect. That introduced another effect - an anticiaption of the end, to see just how will the authors put it together. And before we say too much about time for commercials shrinking the show, Seinfeld got rid of the theme song (thank GOD) which was just a waste of so much time. That must have balanced out in relation to the growing amount of space lost to commercials.

The Simpsons were incredible when they were at their peak years. In terms of how the tempo factor felt, I think it felt fast because they dared to have a world where non-sequitors operated and it worked, which meant they could introduce something in the beginning that had no cause-and-direct effect on the second half. That felt liberating because watching, I had no idea just where is that storyline going to go - but there was a logic, it wasn't just gags like Family Guy.
In the case of Seinfeld or the Simpsons, the point was the pacing was modern and improved by the sense of anticipation to watch just WHERE is this going - not being able to anticipate, either because of the way the knot is made in the end of Seinfeld, or the nature of the non-sequitor, or detours that are the rule in the Simpsons. It wasn't about fast changes welded together by image/logo titles (like with Third Rock), there was this writerly and film/television sense to them, which I enjoyed to watch. NOT theater-stage sense, where the best example is Frasier, which was in the end like a Noel Coward farce on speed, thanks to the caliber of the actors too.

Paul Duca said...

Slightly off topic, as it doesn't relate to number of cameras, but a good point nonetheless:

Critic John Leonard wrote the TV column for the original LIFE magazine in its last few years (under the name "Cyclops"). This put him in place just as two major new strains of sitcom development were getting underway.

Leonard emphatically favored the MTM concept of what a sitcom should be, and despised the Norman Lear take on the same subject--raving over MARY TYLER MOORE and BOB NEWHART, loathing ALL IN THE FAMILY and MAUDE.

DwWashburn said...

On the Marxes, their first two movies, the Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers were Broadway plays filmed in the early days of sound. For three of the movies they later filmed for MGM (Night at the Opera, Day at the Races, Go West) they sent the brothers on the road to perform selected scenes from the upcoming movies in movie theatres to judge audience reaction and determine how they should be filmed. This is why when you watch the contract scene in Opera or the Tootsie Frootsie scene in Races there are pauses between lines. This is where the live audiences were laughing.

Anonymous said...

I don't see see a heck of lot of difference between
say Two and Half Men, and the classic sitcoms
of the seventies, of which I measure all sitcoms

The Cosby's - Sienfeld, quality retains the
same pace, the same techniques, the office
is not a show that gets any real mumbers,
and its up against a crappy line up - the
office woundn't get the numbers to survive
in a fair world.

DawnMarie said...

It never occurred to me to look at my watch during a half-hour show. I've never lost my bearings in that short a time. I think for me there are shows I wish were longer and shows that I don't watch.

I prefer the MTM and Frasier style of character based humor. When Mary walked into Lou's office, you knew there was going to be some insanely funny dialogue. Same with Frasier and Niles in the coffee shop. The anticipation alone brought more than one laugh. If they had been walking through talking with 100 other things going on there would not have been the same sense of anticipation.

But I think that slower pace depends a lot on performers that can carry on a scene non verbally between the dialog.

Pat Quinn said...

When you wrote: too much importance is placed on pace today. The audience is used to it, they have unlimited other choices, and in general we’ve become a society that can no longer tolerate being bored even for a minute. Where as story telling used to be the master we served, now it’s speed. So showrunners will employ visual techniques, rapid-fire scenes, and a barrage of jokes. Sometimes it’s at the expense of story, character, or genuine emotion.

I immediately thought of "Cougar Town". I feel like I am running a race when I watch that show...I am in the state of trying to figure out if anything from the scene they just cut away from, was funny...not paying any attention to the beginning of the next not-funny scene.

wolferiver said...

I guess I think this is a stupid argument. A slower, gentler pace can work for an audience, and so does a faster pace. Arguing about what show is better, Mary Tyler Moore or MASH, is like arguing about whether cherries or bananas are the "better" fruit. If you like cherries and dislike bananas, you can't help but give the nod to cherries -- and vice versa. There are also people who hate both fruits, and people who love both. There's no ultimate right or wrong answer to the question of what's the best fruit.

I LOVE rapid, dense dialog and lots of activity on a show. (Yes, I loved all of Aaron Sorkin's shows.) For me, shows that have a lot going on in them are a feast for the mind and the eye, and bear up well over repeated viewings. However, at some point, things can easily become frenetic and no longer entertaining.

Paradoxically, I also appreciate a slower and deliberately paced comedy. I enjoyed Frasier, but I also enjoyed Tim "Tool Time" Taylor on Home Improvement. The latter was rather formulaic, and every episode seemed to be variations of the same plot, but the charm of the characters and the skill of the actors still made me laugh. (And, to be sure, the clever writing behind it all.) Both shows aired the same night in the same timeslot and I spent YEARS being torn over which show to watch. You could argue that Frasier was a more sophisticated show with a lot more subtlety and variety, but the final arbiter is how popular a show is with audiences, and IIRC, both shows ran successfully for years despite being up against each other.

If I really had to pick, for me I guess the single-camera show is what I like better. The 3-camera show ultimately always feels slightly claustrophobic, because the action revolves around an obviously limited number of settings. But I've certainly enjoyed lots and lots of 3-camera shows, and some 1-camera shows left me lukewarm. Barney Miller, which mostly took place in a single setting, is one of my very favorite shows. I recently re-watched the famous Turkey episode of WKRP In Cincinnatti, and was stunned to realize that most of the famous dialog is all done by verbal description by actors sitting in the sound booth of the station, with only an occasioinal cut-away to Les. It could practically be just a radio show, that's how bare-bones that episode is. And yet almost everyone who remembers that episode seems to remember actually seeing the turkeys. That's what good writing and good acting give you, and whether it's in a 1-camera or 3-camera show is irrelevant.

VP81955 said...

The first sitcom I can recall regularly watching, "Dobie Gillis," moved absurdly fast -- something William Schallert told me was the intent of the show's producers. It certainly gave the series a youthful feel, no doubt pleasing its target audience of the early sixties.

WV: "graph" -- yup, a real word.