Thursday, November 01, 2012
UP ALL NIGHT switches to multi-camera format
But I find it telling that this decision was made after ten single-camera episodes were filmed for season two. What this says to me (and it’s just a guess) is that those ten shows weren’t working. They had already made some pretty drastic premise changes going into season two.
The decision to make the switch was executive producer Lorne Michael’s. It has been viewed by some as a way to save money and others as a way to inject some more energy into the series. My sense is it was both.
NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said: “We know what the multi-camera audience does for the live episodes of 30 Rock, plus after seeing both Maya and Christina do SNL within the past few months, we knew we had the kind of performers — Will Arnett included — who love the reaction from a live audience.”
So that’s what they’re saying now. Multi-camera shows provide energy and excitement. A few years ago it was “Multi-camera shows are stale and tired.” If you came to a network other than CBS with a multi-camera show you were considered retro and out-of-touch. Now shows are switching to them mid-stream.
Here’s what generally happens when a single-camera show goes multi – the shows get way funnier. Happened with both THE ODD COUPLE and HAPPY DAYS. Why? Because writers and actors had to now earn their laughs. They couldn’t just say this was amusing enough, they had to actually get laughs from real human beings. It’s amazing how much tougher you get on material when accountability is hanging over your head.
And it poses a question – well, if multi-camera shows are funnier, why aren’t there more? That’s a excellent question. With few exceptions (MASH, MODERN FAMILY, ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW), most of the classic comedies over the last sixty years have been multi-camera. I LOVE LUCY, THE HONEYMOONERS, BILKO, DICK VAN DYKE, ALL IN THE FAMILY, MARY TYLER MOORE, GOLDEN GIRLS, TAXI, CHEERS, SEINFELD, FRIENDS, FRASIER, RAYMOND to name just a few were all filmed or taped before a live studio audience. It’s not the form that’s tired, it’s the execution. So why not more of them? They're not cool. But let me ask -- do audiences watch shows because they're cool or because they're entertaining?
Getting back on topic, how will UP ALL NIGHT fare? First off, the showrunner is Tucker Cawley who I know. He’s an excellent writer and comes from a multi-camera background, having spent years on RAYMOND. He’ll be fine at the helm. Plus, it’s only five episodes.
Make no mistake, the series will have to be drastically re-configured. How you tell stories will be very different. You’re restricted by the number of sets. With single-camera shows you have a lot more flexibility in where you can shoot and where you can put the camera. You can be more visual. But UP ALL NIGHT is basically a domestic show. It’s a lot easier converting that premise than say MASH.
And as Mr. Greenblatt stated, the cast has experience performing in front of audiences. And they’re all accomplished comic actors. They’ll be fine.
One concern I would have if I were showrunner is how to change the nature of the dialogue and still be true to who the characters are and how their speech patterns have already been established. That might be tricky. Because multi-cam has a different rhythm. It’s more set-up/punch-line. You’re going to have to walk a fine line. But again, it has been done successfully before. No reason why UP ALL NIGHT can’t pull it off too.
I wish the show luck in its new format and look forward to seeing it. Hey, they had to do something. And it's not like the old days where you just start filming the shows in color.