Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Big epiphanies

In yesterday's post I made the sweeping, near-blasphemous statement that all one-camera sitcoms from the 60s are terrible and unwatchable. (there's a couple exceptions).

It just insults me that Darren yells, "Sam!" , Sam winces and says, "Well." and the laugh track laughs hysterically. I grew up watching this stuff, it took me years to realize not only isn't this funny, but it's terrible!

The catalyst was a visit to my high school journalism class by Joan Dinerstein, a Philly news personality. Far from being the smiling news anchor we saw on TV every night, she was a little more blunt about TV and TV news.

One of the things she said that stuck with me was, "Watch your family watch TV; are they laughing at the comedies?"

And she was right, no one was laughing at the comedies, we just sat like zombies.

Joan Dinerstein pretty much ruined TV for me. But in a good way.

The first time I actually burst out laughing at a TV show was that scene in the Simpsons where Homer skateboards into a canyon, gets pulled up by stretcher, banging his head on every crevice, and all in the space of 20 seconds, he is loaded into an ambulance, the ambulance hits a tree, the back doors pop open and Homer's gurney comes flying out of the back of the ambulance and back down the canyon!


So it took about 30 years of watching TV before I laughed out loud.

I'm talking about the sitcoms of the '60s and 70s, and though single-camera sitcoms with laugh tracks are pretty rare nowadays, the three-camera sitcoms in front of live audiences are guilty of being lazy and sweetening the laughter. Watch "Friends,"  or even "Big Bang Theory," for that matter. It's all set-up, punchline, hysterical laughter, set-up, punchline, hysterical laughter. Compare this to "Modern Family or "Kimmy Schmdt." These are single-camera sitcoms with no laugh track. We're not told when to laugh, we have to figure it out ourselves. The writers have to work for the laughs, they just can't have Ed O'Neill say to Sofia Vergara "Gloria!!" and Gloria says, "well."

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