Sam Wollaston, maintains in an article that not only should there no longer be canned laughter in sitcoms (for which I don’t disagree); there should no longer be actual studio laughter as well. In other words, never do a multi-camera show in front of an audience. Not in 2016.
And even if they do appear “dated,” does that prevent you from still enjoying them? If only I LOVE LUCY didn’t have audience laughter. Or THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.
I wonder if Mr. Wollaston believes stage play comedies are passé because actors still have to hold for audience laughter? How unnatural! How 1st-20th Century!
It’s such a stupid argument I have to shake my head. He’s welcome to say he himself prefers shows without any kind of laugh track but to suggest that multi-cams with audiences should no longer be made in this modern era is downright idiotic. (And before you claim I just have a bias for multi-camera shows, remember I wrote for a certain single-camera show too – MASH.)
Artificial laughter is distracting and insulting to the home viewer. But I see no harm in including the laughter that is earned. “Laughter” doesn’t make sitcoms seem stale – bad writing does. Tired jokes, situations you’ve seen a thousand times (done better), cliché tropes – those are the culprits. I would think a television critic would know the difference.
Here’s a value to audience laughter Mr. Wollaston seems not to know: It holds the writers accountable. There are some inspired single-camera shows. But there are also a lot that are weak and unfunny. The writers might be hysterical watching the dailies but the home viewer is staring at the screen saying, “This is some real lame shit.” On multi-camera shows you have 250 strangers telling you whether something works. Often the first cut of a show will be long by several minutes. The question becomes what to cut? On multi-camera shows it’s fairly easy. You cut what didn’t work. Single camera shows are just guessing. They might guess wrong.
Mr. Wollaston also disagrees with the claim that studio audiences result in better performances and he lists a few actors who perform quite well without audience assistance. Well, as someone who has produced shows for forty years let me just say, Mr. Wollaston, you’re wrong. Just flat out wrong. This isn’t my contention; it’s ACTORS’. For the same reason that they get a charge out of performing live on the stage, having an audience DOES energize performances. I’ve stood on those stages. I’ve seen the difference between when scenes are pre-shot or performed live. There’s a discernible difference, sir.