I thought that I would post this sooner rather than later as this is more time sensitive than a person might realize. Otherwise, this could be lost in a heap of planned, future blog posts that might not happen until you realize that these comedies are gone. I may have to remind you more about this before I go any further, so I think that I will.
A multi-camera comedy is one that is basically defined nowadays as one where you would hear laughter in the background while you watch where a single camera comedy, the only other major type in terms of live action comedies, typically do not have laughter in the background. There are tons of other differences besides that, but that is what it boils down to in today’s world.
First, I’ll remind you that there used to be this huge way of doing animation with hand calling it cell animation. This was not only the most popular form of animation; it was the only form that would be used. Mult-camera comedies were the same way too. Cell animation is largely a thing of the past with a few shows remaining like that from before the transition and almost nothing new made that way after CGI took over. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that the last originally American made movie to use cell animation was Winnie the Pooh back in 2011, although I'm not entirely sure if I'm right about it.
Why is cell animation a good comparison? Well, let’s just talk about how much multi-camera comedies affected all the others. The laughter in the background was used in every comedy. Even all the animated ones would use it. Then, a slow domino affected started happening. The Simpsons became the first show to use neither a live studio audience nor a laugh track. Then the original, British version of The Office went without it, which made sense as it was filmed like it was a reality show. An American show called Malcolm in the Middle followed suit. Then, every comedy show filmed with only one camera never made use of a laugh track or live studio audience.
How much did this affect TV? Let’s look at what it has already done. When the WB was a network, there was a mixture of multi-camera and single-camera comedies. After it became the CW, it lost all of its comedies unless you count Whose Line is it Anyways? They have aired hour long shows that they call comedies that, of course, don’t have laughter in the background. NBC has almost no comedies anymore. Their last multi-camera one was cancelled this summer leaving only single-camera ones. This is the network that went from multi-camera hits like Frasier, Seinfeld, and Friends to single-camera ones like Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Community.
One time, FOX had a new TV season where they had two new comedies. Their single-camera comedy, New Girl, became a hit and a success. Their multi-camera one called I Hate My Teenage Daughter was a disaster and cancelled. They have not done a multi-camera comedy since, except for Dads. This is interesting as the network’s first primetime hit was a multi-camera comedy, Married with Children. ABC started having tons of single-camera comedies and cancelled the only remaining multi-camera comedies that they had for seemingly no good reason.
This leaves CBS as the last network to dissect. They have had tons of multi-camera comedies and still do. In fact, if you were a single-camera comedy on this network, you were as good as dead by the end of the season if not sooner. Then Life in Pieces flipped the script and they are doing more single-camera comedies this coming season. It is currently the only network to still have any multi-camera comedies on the air of the major networks and possibly any network, although it is likely that Disney channel or other networks like that have something like it nowadays.
There is good reason why people may not like laughter in the background of comedies that they watch anymore. People have been wanting The Big Bang Theory to stop using a laugh track even though it never has used that (they use a live studio audience). But people are tending to prefer to just watch a show and decide on their own when they should laugh. The main reason why killing canned laughter as it is sometimes called is a good idea is that people are less likely to notice a comedy is bad that way. They are also more likely to watch a sitcom for a reason other than its humor or attempts at it. The reason that there was more hatred for bad shows like Dr. Ken and The Odd Couple was probably the canned laughter and the bad sitcoms that don’t use them may get more of a free pass.
Honestly, I don’t think that there is much else to say outside of this closing paragraph. There could be no more canned laughter in TV shows in the future. It could disappear the way cell animation did. And if it does, you read it here first.