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Old 08-10-2010, 11:21 AM
johnspartan johnspartan is offline
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History of "this show filmed in front of a live studio audience"?

It seems that for a certain time period (perhaps 70s and early 80s?) shows made a regular point of having a cast member explain, usually during either the opening or the closing, that "this show was filmed in front of a live studio audience."

Was this a legal requirement? If so, what was the rationale behind it? And was it overturned at some point, because it doesn't seem to be the case anymore?

Or was it just some weird "mark of quality" thing as laugh tracks became more pervasive, to say "hey we're not using a laugh track"?
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Old 08-10-2010, 04:13 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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The first sitcom I remember with the tag was All in the Family, although there were probably others, perhaps variety shows, that used it before.

I think it was "the mark of quality." To be shot live implied they were putting it on almost like a play, and the laffs were spontaneous and genuine, not that machine-generated junk.

But if you go back and watch sitcoms from the 1950s, you'll notice immediately that the laugh tracks were MUCH more obnoxious than those that came later. Compared to something like, for example, The Bob Cummings Show, the laugh track for Gilligan's Island was a work of subtle genius.
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Old 08-10-2010, 06:03 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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It was a sign of "quality"; for some reason, back in the early 70s, it was something that producers considered important.

Note that just because they were filmed before a live audience, you were hearing actual audience laughter. All shows filmed before a live audience used a laugh track in the final version. By then, though, they had learned how to use to more subtly than in previous times.
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Old 08-10-2010, 06:08 PM
obfusciatrist obfusciatrist is offline
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Ken Levine recently answered a question about this (in relation to Cheers) on his blog, here.

He says it was just because people wrote in complaining about the fake laugh track.

Last edited by obfusciatrist; 08-10-2010 at 06:09 PM..
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Old 08-11-2010, 02:09 PM
johnspartan johnspartan is offline
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Thanks!

Always struck me as strange. Or bad English at least. "filmed before a live studio audience". Well isn't live redundant? filmed before a studio audience would suffice.

But then, TV never has been the place "to boldly go" for proper grammar ;-)
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Old 08-11-2010, 02:13 PM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnspartan View Post
Always struck me as strange. Or bad English at least. "filmed before a live studio audience". Well isn't live redundant? filmed before a studio audience would suffice.
I suppose they could have filmed the show and played the film for a studio audience, recording their responses, and then broadcast the resulting film with the recorded laugh track. Of course the audience would have been "alive" but the show would not have been performed in front of the live audience. I don't know if such a thing was ever practiced, but it seems to me to be a way to manipulate the audience response: If they don't laugh loud enough the first time, play the scene over and try again without inconveniencing the actors to repeat their performance.

Last edited by Sigmagirl; 08-11-2010 at 02:14 PM..
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Old 08-11-2010, 02:20 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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I don't have a cite now, but I'm fairly certain that the live laughter was often "sweetened" to make it sound better. These shows were not done in one take, and the audience could be forgiven for not laughing quite as much the third time they saw something as opposed to the first.

Perhaps "live" audience was to make it sound as if the show was broadcast live, which it was not.
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Old 08-12-2010, 12:57 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigmagirl View Post
I suppose they could have filmed the show and played the film for a studio audience, recording their responses, and then broadcast the resulting film with the recorded laugh track. Of course the audience would have been "alive" but the show would not have been performed in front of the live audience. I don't know if such a thing was ever practiced, but it seems to me to be a way to manipulate the audience response: If they don't laugh loud enough the first time, play the scene over and try again without inconveniencing the actors to repeat their performance.
Yes. "All In the Family" was presented that way, late in the show's run. Audiences would usually attend the taping of a Lear show such as "One Day at A Time" and be treated to a finished and edited "All In the Family" episode to get their reactions to it. When the show aired, there was a voice-over by Carrol O'Connor that said, "All in the Family was played to a studio audience for live responses."

Lear took pride that "All In the Family" never used canned laughter. All of the laughter heard was genuine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_in_...ily#Production
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Old 08-12-2010, 01:20 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigmagirl View Post
...I don't know if such a thing was ever practiced, but it seems to me to be a way to manipulate the audience response: If they don't laugh loud enough the first time, play the scene over and try again without inconveniencing the actors to repeat their performance.
Because of all the special effects both Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie were filmed without an audience onset, edited, and then final product what shown to an audience in order to get the laught track.
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  #10  
Old 08-12-2010, 01:25 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by johnspartan View Post
But then, TV never has been the place "to boldly go" for proper grammar ;-)
To boldly go is absolutely perfect grammar. It's only that people somehow got it into their heads that English infinitives can't be split. (We've had lots of threads on why this came about.) This is completely wrong, ahistorical, and grammatically nonsense. Yet it seems you can't kill it.
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Old 08-12-2010, 03:48 PM
vertizontal vertizontal is offline
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Do they hire people to be "professional laughers" to sit in the audience and laugh uproariously at the appropriate times?

(Was it really that funny every time Flo said "Mel, eat my grits" or J.J. said "Dy-no-mite!" ?)

Last edited by vertizontal; 08-12-2010 at 03:50 PM..
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Old 08-12-2010, 04:22 PM
JohnT JohnT is offline
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Now I'm thinking about Harlan Ellison's short story "Laugh Track", where:

Quote:
Throughout his life watching and creating television comedy, a harried television writer believes he can hear the laughter of his dead Aunt Babe laughing gaily at comedy shows throughout the decades. Apparently, her distinctive laugh was recorded on an tape loop which serves as the laugh track to show after show. Noting that over the years, the quality of Aunt Babe's recorded laugh has degenerated, the writer soon realizes that some part of his aunt's spirit has left its electronic imprint on the tape, that she is trapped in a hell where she is forced to laugh at the most insipid of sitcoms. To free her, he sets himself on a quest that leads him to the Phantom Sweetener, a technician who works in the secret underbelly of network programming.
http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm

It was yet another in his "things today suck and were so much better when I was a kid, nyah nyah nyah" theme, but still an entertaining story.

Last edited by JohnT; 08-12-2010 at 04:23 PM..
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