Whatever happened to …

… recorded live television?

The inspiration for today’s post came again from Sheila Stewart who sent me off to a blog post from David Truss about laugh tracks.

I think we all have our favourite shows and David makes reference to a couple of show that I’m not a fan of! I think they’re just silly and not worth my time. These days, I’d rather while my time watching a good drama but who could forget the classics like …

I know that it’s a certain time era, but hey!

Who could forget shows like

  • Of course, Cheers but
  • The Jeffersons
  • All in the Family
  • Three’s Company
  • The Odd Couple
  • Are You Being Served?

and I’m sure that you could name more. (and why don’t you in the comments below)

It seems to me that these shows were so successful for a couple of reasons. First, they had terrific writers with all kinds of great lines, characters, and enough innuendo that you would pick up on things no matter how many times you watched them. What worked for them was a limited cast of characters, story lines that could be really worked, and all were shot in a single setting. So, it’s easy to see that a television studio could set up a stage and then work the stories around it and play it before a live audience.

We benefited because any laughter that was caught was real laughter made by real people watching it as it happened.

It’s easy to see that shows like M*A*S*H which has to be amongst the greatest comedy ever couldn’t fit into that setting because different episodes were in different locations. Recording live also means that the actors and actresses had to know their stuff because there wasn’t an option to retake and reshoot. If something was intended to be funny, they had to make it funny.

As David notes, you don’t necessarily have to get that reaction from an audience if you’re using a laugh track. You just edit the laughs in later. Laugh clips are easily found – here’s a nice collection – https://www.soundboard.com/sb/iolaughtrack. We’re becoming so used to being able to edit things afterwards today with social media; how many Instagram or TikTok videos are shot once and not edited?

So, for a Sunday, let’s have you check in with your thoughts.

  • Do you have any great favourite comedys? Was it recorded live?
  • Have you ever seen a show where a laugh track was added in during the wrong spot?
  • Do you teach students how to edit video?
  • Comedies, of course, aren’t the only shows recorded live – there are many talk shows with live audiences that are encouraged to interact – do you have a favourite?
  • Are there any comedies today that are recorded in front of a live audience?

And, a bit of trivia…

Please share your thoughts for Sheila and me to enjoy in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning post. You can check them all out here. And, if you have an idea like Sheila did, just reach out and share it with me. I’d appreciate it.

11 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, I think that David and I have similar tastes in shows, but I’ve also watched and enjoyed all six of the ones in your bulleted list. Full House was also a favourite of mine growing up, and I’m trying to remember if this one was filmed live. Hmmm … I’ve been thinking more about this show recently with the passing of Bob Saget. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


    P.S. I’m also thinking about how I used to watch TV almost every evening, and now, I never do. I tend to read instead. Is this because of the shows on now or because I find I have less free time than I did growing up, and I’d rather spend it with a book? Hmmm …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an interesting observation, Aviva. I think that self-care is more important than ever and if immersing yourself in a good book helps, then just go ahead and do it. I know that many people have abandoned traditional network television in favour of pay services and perhaps for the same reasons. Thanks for your comment and stay warm and safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally forgot that Cheers was in front of a live studio audience. I think much of Happy Days was too. That’s one I have fond memories watching… at least until Fonzie jumped the shark.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the initial inspiration and for dropping by, David. Happy Days was a solid favourite around here. I had a chance to meet Henry Winkler at an educational conference once. True fans will remember Chuck who ended up getting written out of the show.


  5. I often think of my past favourite shows without thinking about whether there was a live audience or not. I just tweeted you an article about Home Improvements that confirmed for me if both the show and the Tool Time show on the show were live (yes). The Partridge Family for the most part too, I have confirmed 😀
    It has been interesting to take in the adjustments that live shows like SNL have had to do during the pandemic. Performances in front of a live audience can have a key role to play for actors — pros and cons and varying impact depending on the show, etc, of course. I don’t watch any talk shows currently, but all have struggled recently, I suppose.
    Thanks for extending and expanding this topic, Doug.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Sheila. A little while back, SNL played without an audience and it just wasn’t the same. It reinforced for me that the actors feed off an audience. As for talk shows, I’ve never been a fan and so deliberately didn’t include them in the post.

    I appreciate that you continue to share ideas for this Sunday post. You’ve taken me places that I probably wouldn’t have.


    • I hope you don’t mind me sharing what pops into my mind for your Sunday theme — you do all the “heavy lifting” in writing about the ideas! I will never mind if you ignore my suggestions 🙂


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