Friends or Modern Family, which comedy genre do you like?
Before I start, let me first explain the two genres of comedy shows.
There is the single-camera setup, which has no ‘laugh track’, similar to a regularly shot TV drama. And then there is the multi-camera setup, which is shot in front of a live audience and does have a ‘laugh track’, often contributed by the audience in front of whom it is filmed.
However, as times are changing, more and more networks are shifting to extravagant yet easier ways of shooting comedies. And who can blame them? After all, when you have to shoot in front of an audience, you risk a lot. The cost and time needed to continuously reorganise the set as per the script-demands, with the added issue of the joke not being ‘funny’ enough for an audience, could damage the morale of the producers and actors.
Actor William Shatner aka Captain Kirk, complained about not getting adequate responses from the audience continuously on his show $#*! My Dad Says. The producers used to run up to him all the time to work on the joke again until the audience finally laughed. Imagine Captain Kirk having trouble pleasing his audience!
Also, with the advent of amazing shows like Modern Family and 30 Rock, the monopoly of live audience sitcoms has been damaged. The monopoly that started in the late 1980s and remained till the early 2000s, thanks to shows like Seinfeld and Friends, is now somewhat suffering.
Here are the awards shared between your single-camera setup comedies (without a laugh track) versus multi-camera setup comedies (with a laugh track) between the years 2000 and 2014. I have taken data from the two awards that matter most in television: the Golden Globes and the Emmys.
The single-camera setup shows have enjoyed their overwhelming success. In fact, when it comes to the Golden Globes, the multi-camera setup genre has not won a single award.
But is it fair to judge a show based on just a couple of awards?
No. Not at all.
In fact, I for one enjoy the laugh-track loaded sitcoms a lot more. The way the audience changes its expressions and laughs at a good joke is always enjoyable. But the multi-camera setup still packs a punch with its – albeit few – good sitcoms.
So what should you go for?
Well, it depends. If you want to enjoy great acting combined with amazing locations and a great cast, then the single-camera setup without a laugh track is the thing for you. Shows like Veep, Episodes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and of course, the king of comedy lately, Modern Family, will definitely fulfil your appetite.
However, if you have had a dull day and want to laugh like anything (because jokes of multi-camera are funnier) or are short of time, a multi-camera setup with a laugh track is the thing for you. My preference of such shows would be The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Melissa and Joey and please, if you haven’t watched it already, you have to watch Friends before all of these shows to really get a taste of a multi-camera show with a laugh track.
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