Canned Laughter

Even 1960s cartoons such as The Flintstones and The Jetsons used laugh tracks.

 

Charley Douglass didn’t like the laughter he was hearing.

The sound engineer, who was working at CBS in the early days of television, hated that the studio audiences on the US TV channel’s shows laughed at the wrong moments, didn’t laugh at the right moments, or laughed too loudly or for too long. So he took a page from radio producers before him who had pioneered the use of recorded laughter, most notably when Bing Crosby began pre-recording his show – which allowed his engineers to add or subtract the laughs in post-production.

The idea of ‘the laugh track’ spread quickly through the new medium—and caused immediate controversy that would last until modern times. Actor and producer David Niven sniffed in a 1955 interview, “The laugh track is the single greatest affront to public intelligence I know of, and it will never be foisted on any audience of a show I have some say about.” But TV producers remained wed to the idea of providing some sort of audience reaction to make the viewing experience more communal; after all, audiences were still largely used to enjoying their entertainment via live performance or in the cinema, both of which provided fellow laughers. The industry’s ambivalence toward the practice was best summed up in a cursory Billboard magazine item in 1955: “TV production chief Babe Unger hates canned laugh tracks, but thinks audience reaction is necessary for The Eddie Cantor Comedy Theater because TV viewers expect an audience to be there.”

Seinfeld is one of the most cutting-edge sitcoms of all time, but it too had canned laughter despite looking more like a single-camera show (Credit: NBC)

Seinfeld is one of the most cutting-edge sitcoms of all time, but it too had canned laughter despite looking more like a single-camera show (Credit: NBC)

Breaking Bad as a Sitcom with canned laughter.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports

ABC’s Wide World of Sports was an American sports anthology television program that aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) from April 29, 1961 to January 3, 1998, primarily on Saturday afternoons. Hosted by Jim McKay, with a succession of co-hosts beginning in 1987, the title continued to be used for general sports programs on the network until 2006. In 2007, Wide World of Sports was named by Time on its list of the 100 best television programs of all-time.

ABC’s Wide World Of Sports Intro – 1969

Super Secure Secret Shield Entrance

Maxwell Smart entering the headquarters of CONTROL.

Get Smart is an American comedy television series parodying the secret agent genre that became widely popular in the first half of the 1960s with the release of James Bond films. The program was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and had its television premiere on NBC on September 18, 1965. The show stars Don Adams (who also worked as a director on the series) as agent Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Edward Platt as Thaddeus the Chief. Henry said that they created the show at the request of Daniel Melnick to capitalize on James Bond and Inspector Clouseau, “the two biggest things in the entertainment world today”. Brooks described it as “an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy.”

TV Classics

The Six Million Dollar Man is an American science fiction and action television series, running from 1973 to 1978, about a former astronaut, USAF Colonel Steve Austin, portrayed by Lee Majors. Austin has superhuman strength due to bionic implants and is employed as a secret agent by a fictional U.S. government office titled OSI. The series was based on the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, which was the working title of the series during pre-production.

Following three television pilot movies, which all aired in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man television series aired on the ABC network as a regular episodic series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. Steve Austin became a pop culture icon of the 1970s.

A spin-off television series, The Bionic Woman, featuring the lead female character Jaime Sommers, ran from 1976 to 1978. Three television movies featuring both bionic characters were also produced from 1987 to 1994.

Colorful History

Daniel Boone is an American action-adventure television series starring Fess Parker as Daniel Boone that aired from September 24, 1964, to May 7, 1970, on NBC for 165 episodes, and was produced by 20th Century Fox Television, Arcola Enterprises, and Fespar Corp. Ed Ames co-starred as Mingo, Boone’s Cherokee friend, for the first four seasons of the series. Albert Salmi portrayed Boone’s companion Yadkin in season one only. Country Western singer-actor Jimmy Dean was a featured actor as Josh Clements during the 1968–1970 seasons. Actor and former NFL football player Rosey Grier made regular appearances as Gabe Cooper in the 1969 to 1970 season. The show was broadcast “in living color” beginning in fall 1965, the second season, and was shot entirely in California and Kanab, Utah.

The Big Valley is an American Western drama television series which ran on the American Broadcasting Company Network (ABC) from September 15, 1965 to May 19, 1969—comprising 4 seasons. The series is set in the mid-late 1800’s on the fictional Barkley Ranch in Stockton, California. The one-hour episodes follow the lives of the Barkley family, one of the wealthiest and largest ranch owning families in Stockton, lead by the matriarch Victoria Barkley (Barbara Stanwyck) and her sons Jerrod (Richard Long), Heath (Lee Majors), Nick (Peter Breck), and daughter Audra (Linda Evans). The series begins approximately 6 years after the death of the family patriarch Thomas Barkley. Although he is never shown in the series (other than a painting), the character of Thomas Barkley is referred to as a major plot point many times. The character of Heath Barkley is introduced in episode one as the illegitimate son of Tom Barkley. His presence and claim to the Barkley name is the focus of much of the dramatic plots in season one. While the successful and rich are often portrayed, in present day, as the unscrupulous villains, the Barkley family are portrayed as the upstanding citizens of Stockton, modeling justice, fairness, and often times, going against popular sentiment to uphold the underdog’s rights. The series was created by A.I. Bezzerides and Louis F. Edelman and produced by Levy-Gardner-Laven for Four Star Television.

Retro TV Shows: “Lost in Space”

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Lost in Space is an American science fiction television series, created and produced by Irwin Allen, which originally aired between 1965 and 1968. The series is loosely based on the 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson, and on a comic book published by Gold Key Comics titled Space Family Robinson. The series follows the adventures of the Robinsons, a pioneering family of space colonists who struggle to survive in the depths of space. The show ran for 83 episodes over three seasons, the first year of which was filmed in black and white.

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On October 16, 1997, the United States is gearing up to colonize space. The Jupiter 2, a futuristic saucer-shaped spacecraft, stands on its launch pad undergoing final preparations. Its mission is to take a single family on a five-and-a-half-year journey to an Earthlike planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri.

The Robinson family consisted of Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife Maureen (June Lockhart) and their three children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Billy Mumy). The family is accompanied by U.S. Space Corps Major Donald West (Mark Goddard), who is trained to land the ship. The Robinsons and Major West are to be cryogenically frozen for the voyage, and they are set to be unfrozen when the spacecraft approaches its destination.

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Meanwhile, Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), Alpha Control’s doctor, is revealed to be a saboteur on behalf of an unnamed nation. After disposing of a guard who catches him on board the spacecraft, Smith reprograms the Jupiter 2’s B-9 environmental control robot (voiced by Dick Tufeld) to destroy critical systems on the spaceship eight hours after launch. Smith, however, becomes trapped aboard at launch and his extra weight throws the Jupiter 2 off course, causing it to encounter a storm of asteroids. This, plus the robot’s rampage, causes the ship to prematurely engage its hyperdrive, and causes the expedition to become hopelessly lost in the infinite depths of outer space. Smith’s selfish actions and laziness frequently endanger the expedition; however, Smith’s role assumes less sinister overtones in later parts of the series.

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The X-Files TV Disclaimer is Over The Top

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A TV channel is playing reruns of the original X-Files every night. I loved that show back in the nineties. Space aliens, werewolves, mutants and many other paranormal entities creating havoc in Scully and Mulder’s lives.

But the new disclaimer is just plain wrong. Check out the vid below:

In all the time I watched that show I did see some violence. But never was there coarse language, nudity and sexual activity. Suffice it to say seeing Scully in the nude would have been pleasant.

Not one boob, no sex scenes and practically no vulgar terminology. Not once! I guess it is just lawyers dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.