Saturday, July 09, 2016

Just for laughs

Poor old Sam Wollaston. The Guardian's hapless TV critic recently ventured that "studio laughter has no place in modern sitcoms", claiming that it's outdated and that audiences are now more sophisticated and don't want to be patronised by having jokes signposted for them. To make his case, he cited the recent boom in quality comedy shows that don't have studio laughter.

Cue a forthright rebuttal by American comedy writer Ken Levine, a veteran of such shows as M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier and The Simpsons, who contended that Wollaston's argument is just personal opinion, that a live studio audience not only holds writers to account (a poor script means few laughs) but also benefits actors, and that shows with studio laughter such as Frasier aren't any less funny or enjoyable now than they were when they first appeared.

Among those who subsequently weighed in on Levine's side was Graham Linehan, co-creator of Father Ted, a show Wollaston described as "certainly one of the greatest sitcoms ever, and probably my own favourite". It must have been painful, then, to find Linehan commenting: "Only TV writing is held in such low regard that someone as consistently uninformed as Wollaston can keep his job"...

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