The One With The Laugh Track (SCP Mini)

Laugh tracks started out as something unavoidable in the world of comedy. Pantomimes (the historical equivalent of sitcoms), plays, and early TV shows with studio audiences would have natural laugh tracks because there would be a real, laughing audience. Somewhere along the way, audiences got so used to being prompted when it’s time to enjoy a joke that laugh tracks went from being a side-effect of comedy to something that now needed to be inserted.

Television executives of the 50s and 60s had such a low opinion of the general viewership that they believed a comedy would get a bad reception if it didn’t have a laugh track.…   [continue reading]

The Last Joke of the Scene: Sitcoms and Sincerity

Television imitates life. The fact that it’s only an imitation is clearer in a sitcom than any other genre. If you distil TV down to its most basic elements — and then simplify each element further — you’re left with the sitcom.

Many sitcoms break the formula, but the most popular (and sometimes older) shows don’t. The Big Bang Theory, Full House, That 70s Show. Even newer releases like The Ranch. They are in the usual form of television but predigested and tidied up to the point where any mystery, crisis, tension or deeper meaning is diffused almost instantaneously, whether that’s at the end of the episode, or at the end of a scene.…   [continue reading]

The Unbearable One-Dimensionality of Sitcoms

An American family home in the suburbs in the ’90s.

Enter Funny Guy who’s about to make the same joke at the start of the scene as he does at the end of the scene, both times resulting in Studio Crowd Laughter #4.

Small Child enters to a resounding Studio Crowd Aww, transitioning into Laughter #4 again because she’s managed to get a line out in broken English. The first guy’s saying something about how he’s so sick of the Nerdy Neighbor ringing the doorbell all the time… and as if the exact opposite of what he wants is happening, the doorbell goes off!…   [continue reading]