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  #1  
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 online now
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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 online now
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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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  #13  
Old 07-04-2014, 10:13 PM
runningdude runningdude is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vertizontal View Post
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!" ?)
Well, consider that each taping session has a new audience, and presumably these are people enthusiastic about the show, and thus actually did react to an iconic line.
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Old 07-05-2014, 09:56 AM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is online now
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MASH tried to fight against all laugh track, something that makes the show a lot better if you turn it off on the DVD.

They ended up with a compromise: the chuckle track.....and no laughing at all in the operating room scenes.

If you never saw MASH without the laugh track, get the DVD's and enjoy. It never needed it and they did not pause for laughs like a lot of shows.
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Old 07-05-2014, 12:28 PM
CaptMurdock CaptMurdock is offline
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Y'know, I've tried to watch MASH without the laugh track. Except for the episodes that they specifically left one off (which tended to be more serious anyway) it just didn't sound right to me. I'm too used to it.

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Old 07-05-2014, 01:00 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
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.
Big Bang Theory says otherwise. The only thing more obnoxious than Sheldon (who should be thrown down the elevator shaft in the last episode) is the laugh track.
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Old 07-05-2014, 02:31 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
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 Love Lucy predates All In The Family and I remember it having an audience, on top of that, you could usually hear Desi's distinctive laugh in the background.

I also remember one show, can't remember what it was, saying that they would film it twice in one night, using the audience's reaction to rewrite jokes that didn't do well for the second filming. It might have been All In The Family.
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Old 07-06-2014, 12:39 PM
ftg ftg is offline
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
I also remember one show, can't remember what it was, saying that they would film it twice in one night, using the audience's reaction to rewrite jokes that didn't do well for the second filming. It might have been All In The Family.
By the AitF era, tapings wouldn't have been an entire episode in sequence. They would tape a scene, see how it went, redo it one or times till happy, then go onto the next scene. When a joke goes bust or something, they will do something else during the 2nd taping of the scene. Frequently they just cut it and work around it. Re-writing the joke is less common. For one thing, an audience is likely to laugh just as poorly for the fixed joke as the original.


It pretty much doesn't matter how good the show is, if you watch an episode without the laugh track it will seem really awkward. The laughter changes the timing of the lines which has a huge effect. You'd need to compare the same show with or without an audience to get a fair evaluation. I don't know that any show has done this and made them available.
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Old 07-06-2014, 02:13 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
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.
Yes, in general. Wiki has a detailed, interesting and solid article on the subject, which addresses the OP broadly and narrowly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laugh_track

Wiki:
Creator Norman Lear's All in the Family (CBS, 1971–1979) followed suit in 1971. Videotaped live, Lear wanted the studio audience to actually like the performer, with hopes of the two developing a rapport with each other. Lear was not a fan of pretaped audiences, resulting in no laugh track being employed, not even during post-production when Lear could have had the luxury of sweetening any failed jokes (Lear relented somewhat in later seasons, and allowed Douglass to insert an occasional laugh).[8] Lear's decision resulted in the show being a huge success, and officially ushered in the return of live audiences to the U.S. sitcom mainstream. To make his point clear, an announcement proclaimed over the closing credits each week that "All in the Family was recorded on tape before a live audience" or during the show's final seasons where live audiences no longer attended tapings of the show "All in the Family was played to a studio audience for live responses."[8]
BTW, Douglas was the guy who had a monopoly on the laugh track business for a while.

Last edited by Measure for Measure; 07-06-2014 at 02:16 PM..
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Old 07-06-2014, 02:37 PM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
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.
Yup. Sometimes audience laughter isn't enough and you have to manipulate it through the magic of software.

A show that has a live studio audiences is to television what a play is to a movie. (Work with me here.) When you have a live studio audience, you are limited to indoor sets, fewer sets, and you have to plan the shoot so the audience can see what you are doing. These are similar limitations to live theatre, with the exception being that in theatre, you don't get to do re-takes.

If you don't have a studio audience, you have a lot more freedom. You can shoot outdoors, you can have more sets, and you have more freedom in how scenes are shot (e.g., characters who are talking are face-to-face, not side-by-side). This is similar to a movie, with the laugh track replacing background music.

And, frankly, studio audiences involve people and people can be a bit unpredictable. You have people who think that they have to laugh at every scene, whether it's funny or not (or even appropriate); people who talk when they shouldn't; boredom because of multiple re-takes; hecklers; Debbie or Daryl Downers who don't laugh at anything and spoil the mood for the people around them; and so forth. These may be reasons why a showrunner may want to avoid a live audience.

Last edited by MsRobyn; 07-06-2014 at 02:39 PM..
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  #21  
Old 07-06-2014, 03:27 PM
Dale Sams Dale Sams is offline
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Originally Posted by CaptMurdock View Post
Y'know, I've tried to watch MASH without the laugh track. Except for the episodes that they specifically left one off (which tended to be more serious anyway) it just didn't sound right to me. I'm too used to it.

Proclamations of my extreme lameness will be accepted in due humility.
No, I understand. One of the Gilligan's Island movies were done without a laugh track. It was a bizarre experience.

I think the Brady Bunch movies ingeniously got around that by musical cues or puzzled looks from the 'modern characters'
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Old 07-06-2014, 09:45 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Originally Posted by MsRobyn View Post
...A show that has a live studio audiences is to television what a play is to a movie. (Work with me here.) When you have a live studio audience, you are limited to indoor sets, fewer sets, and you have to plan the shoot so the audience can see what you are doing. These are similar limitations to live theatre, with the exception being that in theatre, you don't get to do re-takes...
Although I Love Lucy was never actually broadcast live the early episodes were filmed exactly like a play was being performed, in real time, for the audience. This was very exhausting for the performs and Arnaz quickly realized that the audience would wait tru "intermissions" while the sets were changed and the actors changed costumes. Later one the show did experiment with location shooting and filmed inserts.
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Last edited by alphaboi867; 07-06-2014 at 09:45 PM..
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  #23  
Old 07-07-2014, 02:40 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Most drama and light entertainment (in England, at any rate) was done that way for many years, and audiences accepted props that did not quite work the way they had been supposed to or people fluffing their lines and strange noises happening off. Filmed inserts gave the cast time to get over to the next set and change their costumes if needed. Shows like Bilko and I Love Lucy were filmed with three cameras simultaneously covering three different angles and the result was high quality (technically) television, but it was very expensive as you never used more than a third of what you shot.
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