Friday, July 13, 2012

profound revelation

Readers, I'm about to BLOW YOUR MIND with my brilliant revelation.
In the past few years I've become a very selective TV viewer.  I don't have lots of time or patience for what passes for entertainment anymore.  I demand either clever writing, character development and scripting (Mad Men, SOA), or induced belly laughs (Modern Family).  I really want the belly laughs because TV's supposed to be an escape, right? But those genuinely funny moments are harder and harder to find.  In fact, the hardest I've laughed since watching Bridesmaids was about a week ago when Mr. D and I watched an episode of Duck Dynasty.  (Seriously, those rednecks with the ZZ Top beards tickle my funny bone--and the ending, where Willie reflects on the big lesson of the day reminds me of how each episode of Little House on the Prairie ended with Laura's monologue moment.)  While I was doubled over, tears welling in my eyes, I realized Something Huge.  This Something Huge is my new litmus test for any TV show.

If a TV show has a laugh track, it's going to suck.

Like every rule, this one has an exception--only one--and that's because Neil Patrick Harris (secret gay boyfriend #1) stars in it.  I'm not quitting How I Met Your Mother, but from here on out, if I hear the canned laughter essentially telling the audience, "this part is funny, you should laugh NOW," I'm turning it off.  

The laugh track has become a widely abused device over the past 7 years, in large part to gloss over completely shitty writing and fool audiences into thinking rehashed one-liners are hilarious.  As a writer who tries hard to generate honest humor in her own writing, I regard the laugh track with contempt, a lazy person's tool.  I'm an intelligent woman wanting smart, clever, funny and sharp writing and if TV wants my attention, the writers and producers better start putting out or I'm tuning out.

I don't care if the hottest new series of the season stars Jason Bateman, Alec Baldwin and Helen Mirren.  If the producers include a laugh track I'm not watching.  I'm getting my giggle fix off the truly funny shows that trust viewers to pick up on humor (Modern Family, The Middle) or shows that are unintentionally funny (Duck Dynasty, Pawn Stars). 

Spill it, reader.  Is this litmus test money or what?

20 comments:

  1. You know, I think you're on to something here. I hardly watch at all these days. Ryan and I have recently become hooked on "Scrubs" on Netflix. Have you ever watched that? It's laugh out loud funny.

    Happy weekend!
    (Psst: there's an 'e' missing in your post title...)

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  2. I completely agree about the laugh track. Steve and I tried watching Happily Divorced on Netflix a couple nights ago. There wasn't a canned laugh track, but the prompted studio audience laughter was so conspicuous, it took me right out of the show. The show isn't so great to begin with, but the laughter made it intolerable.

    I also forgive HIMYM, but once in awhile I notice the laugh track and have to turn the episode off. I'm much more a fan of shows like Modern Family, Parks & Rec and 30 Rock. Clever writing, good acting. That's what all shows need.

    In regards to this hypothetical show starring Jason, Alex and Helen: can you make that happen? I'd watch the three of them do pretty much anything.

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  3. I'm right there with you! We got hooked on Duck Dynasty while on vacation....that and Storage Wars (yeeeeeuuuup..was all I heard for the 15 hr car ride home!). The Middle is the kids favorite. Even now, I am near tears thinking about the time the mom ate doritos crumbs...

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  5. I love The Middle. Also Raising Hope.

    DH and I find Bait Car (on Tru TV) hilarious.

    http://www.trutv.com/shows/bait_car/index.html

    DH loves Wipeout. It's just silly.

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  6. I am so behind the times. I haven't seen any of those shows. I will watch "Doc Martin" on netflix and that's about it.

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    1. I discovered and enjoyed Doc Martin through Netflix too. I am a sucker for gentle humor.

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  7. It's a good litmus test, but I think there are exceptions. The IT Crowd has an annoying laugh track but it's a genuinely funny show, at least seasons 1-3. I haven't seen the more recent ones.

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  8. I agree, the laugh track is just annoying. I haven't heard of Duck Dynasty but love the name - I'll have to look for it.

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  9. Money. Sometimes the laugh track is what turns me off of a show.

    HIMYM is so good, although the on-again/off-again thing between Robin and Ted makes me a bit crazy.

    Jason Bateman, Alec Baldwin, Helen Mirren...this is why I heart you.

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  10. All the old sitcoms from the 1960s have laugh tracks -- Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch, Bewitched. I'm sooooooooooooo glad that the shows we watch these days don't have laugh tracks. In fact, that's pretty much a turn off for us, regardless of how good a show might be. I am a grown-ass woman and I don't have to listen to a laugh track if I don't want to.

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  11. I really love shows that include more gentle, witty, humor. This usually means British shows. But I really enjoy the forensics shows where the relationship between the characters includes humor, like Bones and NCIS. Without that humor, the shows are boring.

    When I was in college, I used to watch some sitcoms (most of them already old, like Wings) and I really enjoyed them. I've tried to watch modern sitcoms, and I can't decided if I've changed, or the humor has. They just don't seem funny to me, or worth taking the time to watch.

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  12. I have used that gauge for years. It's dead on.

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  13. I guess I never really noticed before, but now that I actually think about it...yes...annoying. I also laugh hilariously at The Middle and Modern Family and prefer them to any other sitcom.

    However, I have to admit there are two shows that make me laugh until I cramp that have obvious laugh tracks....Big Bang Theory and Friends. If I had a DVR it would be full of those shows and I would snort with laughter every episode. :)

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  14. We all love 'The Big Bang Theory', it appeals to the nerds... It's the only sitcom-type show we'd wach here. CSI is a fave, and of course boxed sets of Fawlty Towers, Monty Python and the rest for the REAL laughs.

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  15. Excellent litmus test! Remember the show M*A*S*H? Early episodes had a laugh track. As the show got older and better and the producers got wiser, they left the laugh track out. So much more enjoyable!

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  16. ...I feel sad to say it...there are so few comedy shows I really enjoy now. Like, regular ones to tune in to. "Ugly Betty" went off the air, but it was the last one I would take time to catch. I used to enjoy "Malcom in the Middle"..."Everybody Hates Chris" is pretty clever...but the ones I rrreeaallly liked growing up were the classics: the Dick VanDyke show, I Love Lucy, the Carol Burnett Show...then later, we as a Family would watch "All in the Family" at dinnertime, eating our dinners off the TV trays (dad from his Eames chair, mom and I on the couch)in front of the glorious machine: our television. *HA!

    If I stayed home sick, I tuned in to Phil Donahue and the Gong Show...

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  17. I've always disliked laugh tracks. Even when I was younger. I miss the live audience shows.
    It is hard to find anything worth watching these days. And I really just want comedy too. Life is too crazy with all the CSI kind of shows adding to it. Blech.

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  18. You are 100 percent correct, ma'am.

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Spill it, reader.