television

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I don't watch a lot of television, and thanks to TiVo, I don't watch anything that I don't really enjoy. This year, a couple of my favorites from last year are gone -- HBO's Six Feet Under and (especially) Showtime's Dead Like Me. (What happened to DLM? I never heard anything about it being killed, it just didn't show up this season.)

The good news is that the networks seem to be stepping up, at least NBC, with a couple of great new shows.

Tonight, as Deanna and I capped off a great hour of comedy with My Name is Earl and The Office, we started talking about what it is that we really like about the shows and Deanna suggested that one factor was that neither one uses a laugh track. I think that's a big piece of it. The comedies don't insult the viewer by telling him when to laugh. They don't follow that traditional sitcom strategy of the setup and punchline. As we started to talk about it, other deviations from the traditional comedy started to come out: the traditional sitcom three walled set with multiple cameras has been replaced by a single camera and movement around real-world settings. Not every scene has to end in a laugh (and The Office in particular wraps a lot of scenes with something quite far from a laugh -- a very uncomfortable silence.)

Now I find it completely intollerable watching a sitcom with canned laughter or a studio audience clapping and laughing on cue and I'm going to actively seek out shows that forgoe the laughtrack and the three-walled set.

Any suggestions?

(note: yes, I loved the original Ricky Gervais The Office. Oh, and thank you, NBC, for putting your money behind these two entertaining comedies.)

35 Comments

Easy: Arrested Development

You might have to buy DVDs though, unless it gets picked up by Showtime (or someone else). Believe me when I tell you: it's worth it. No laugh track, non-traditional set, and it's the funniest show I've ever watched (save Seinfeld).

I too loved Dead Like Me. I liked it more then I'd liked a show in many years. It was shortly after season 2 concluded that Showtime announced its cancellation. It wasn't a major announcement, but I frequented a DLM fan site knew right away. There was then talk of the Sci-Fi channel buying the show, and then nothing, have yet to ever hear anything about it again. Its a damn shame, I really loved that show.

There aren't any words for how much I hate the US-version of The Office after watching the UK, try to get your hands on the UK thing is my advice.

Yep, laugh-tracks are for the brain-dead morons, unfortunately they're the people
who make up the audience for the top ten shows, and an advertisers dream. They're the people who couldn't tell you the story of the show they watched 30 minutes ago, it's gone.

Don't look for the end of laugh-tracks anytime soon.

Oh yeah, and The British 'Office' was far superior.

Father Ted is funny.

Also, Top Gear is good, its a show about cars, but it's aimed at mortals like us.

monk.e.boy

Father ted has a laughter track, but is undeniably the best thing to ever come out of Ireland. The only other funny sitcom I can think of is Operation Good Guys, but its hard to find.

I'd strongly recommend Scrubs (which has often been getting 2 back-to-back episodes a week during its current season) - it's still very funny after 5 seasons and, yes, no laughter track!

BTW, you might like to know that M*A*S*H in the UK aired with no laughter track when it was first shown here (on BBC 2) and I heard the laughter track version recently (you can get it on the DVD sets - luckily the Region 2 sets let you turn off the laughter track) and it totally cheapened that classic series.

Check out Spaced: http://www.spaced-out.org.uk/

It's fried gold!

I'm going to forgo the usual response to other people's spelling errors.
I'm not going to show my intolerance of people who inexplicably like The Office - it don't get the appeal.

I'll adjust my last statement : "I don't get the appeal."

I'll second the recommendation of Scrubs.

I'll vote with Chris Neale against "The Office". It's dire beyond belief.

Asa, catch the "new" Doctor Who series, which premieres on Sci-Fi Channel cable network today with a two-hour event, broadcasting the series first two episodes, "Rose" and "The End of the World"

More info over at http://www.gallifreyone.com/

Phil

Have you ever seen "Monk"? That's really great! :-)

Not a comedy, but if you like dramas, there are a few gems out there that challenge the viewers, such as 24 (FOX), Veronica Mars (UPN), and Lost (ABC?). These are serial dramas that build upon previous episodes and even previous seasons to tell an ongoing story. The problem with all three of them is that the episodes really need to be watched in order (from the first season onward) to get the full effect of the storyline.

24, in particular, makes it a point to not fall for the "good feeling" at the end of every episode, and instead leaves you edgy since favorite characters get hurt and even killed on a regular basis.

Being over at europe we get some good show, but can't wait so we torrent some shows: 'My name is earl', and 'weeds' (on showtime) are good comedy. Of course 'family guy' and 'american dad' are funny.

Furthermore we watch 'lost', '24', 'desperate housewives', 'good eatz', and 'malcom in the middel'. Shows that must come back: 'Dead like me' (loved that show) and 'arrested development'

Only saw ever the original 'Office' and it is super funny. We have some BBC shows here also ;o)

Marco

"Arrested Development" is (was?) a fantastic show.
It goes through the lives of a disfunctional family and their interaction with each other, and the world.

It was funny, innovative, and the cast was fantastic. I'd really advise atleast renting one of the DVDs (preferably the first season, as after that, you're expected to know the characters).

The Office UK is awesome, the US version ain't good.

Warning about Arrested Development: you can't just watch one. Must the most addicting show since Six Feet Under. I watched season 1 in a week, and am now on season 2. I love it.

I also really love Scrubs. The writers are amazing. There's so many levels of humor that sometimes it takes a few seconds for me to understand the genius of what just happened.

My Name is Earl and The Office totally rock. Really the only shows besides The Simpsons, and Family guy, I specifically make my schedule around.

I'm going with Scrubs as well. Good mix of humor and drama. And no studio audience. In fact, they did one episode that actually poked fun at the typical sitcom. They changed their costumes, behaviors, lighting, and everything. Good stuff.

Agreed! There was a show on one of the networks a few years back called "SportsNight", if I remember correctly. It was about a ficticious SportsCenter-like show. After watching several episodes I figured out the lack of a laugh track was one reason I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, with its short run I would doubt its availability on DVD.

I think this forces more content into the show, since the actors are not waiting for the laughter to die down before delivering the next line. And the viewer has to learn to enjoy it without laughing out loud, too, lest he miss the next line.

I don't watch much television either, but the one show I can't miss is Rescue Me. Third season is coming this summer.

We enjoy Scrubs, Lost, Invasion, and Gray's Anatomy.
Sometimes Desperate Housewives...

definitely no laugh tracks in Lost or Invasion ;-)

I do like My Name is Earl, though I don't get to see it that often (no tivo), and Malcolm in the Middle reruns are recently back on tv.

Dharma & Greg was a favorite, though it's either not on right now or it's so late I can't find it.

oh, and I'd 2nd the '24' recommendations. My wife and I only had to watch about 2 of those in a row to start getting addicted. 'Lost' and 'Invasion' are similarly addictive, don't watch unless you want to get hooked. ;-)

Personally I can't stand 'office space' though I have friends who think its hilarious... matter of taste I guess.

Agreed, Scrubs has been my favorite show for a few years now. I really like my name is Earl, and I like Everybody hates Chris.

Definitely schedule Scrubs on your Tivo. The Office and Scrubs are the only sitcoms we watch.

If you like the humour of The Office you will probably like the british comedy Human Remains, produced by Steve Coogan. Fantastically dead-pan humour tinged with sadness.

Spaced is brilliant, if you can get hold of a DVD over there in the US, I'd really reccomend it. Search on Amazon.co.uk.

For those who liked the UK version of The Office, I'd really reccomend 'Extras'. Take a look at www.rickygervais.com for some more info.

Lost is another personal favourite of mine, unfortunately we're a bit behind over here (series 2 hasn't even started yet) but via a friend I have managed to get hold of series two up until episode 12, hopefully more to follow soon!

seinfeld is still the best comedy ;)

Asa, try The Loop, a new single camera comedy on Fox, which just launched this past week without a laugh track. I've tried out a lot of new sitcoms that have launched over this past season and midseason, and that one and How I Met Your Mother are the only ones I've stuck with.

Scrubs.
My Name Is Earl.

Channel 4.

United Kingdom.

Nuff said.

In addition to The Office and Earl, we do TiVo Monk, Scrubs, Weeds, Extras, SNL, and Da Ali G Show (but it has been a while). And I really like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and a couple of Adult Swim cartoons (Spaceghost & Brak; just saw 12 oz. Mouse for the first time).

Outside of comedies, we really like Deadwood and we TiVo Lost, Invasion, and Carnivale (when new seasons start). We also recently started watching In Justice. I must admit that Desperate Housewives is a guilty pleasure (maybe it's Felicity Huffman who was on Sportsnight). We're Alton Brown fans and TiVo Good Eats and we TiVoed Firefly until we ran out of episodes.

On BBC America, we TiVo Peep Show, and a few others. I love Creature Comforts (and Ab Fab and other standards were always good). Watched Father Ted a couple of times, but it didn't take.

Sportsnight was a good series and MASH was great. We started watching Arrested Development at one time, but didn't see it enough to really get hooked into the series. Too bad. Perhaps we'll eventually get the DVD's.

Watched 24 for a couple of seasons and got so fed up with so much of the gratuitous chick drama, but enjoyed it at first. I do miss DLM & SFU.

Oh! I forgot Peep Show! That's a great show, shot entirely in first person perspective; another late night Channel 4 comedy treat. For anyone out there who liked Father Ted, you should check out Black Books and The IT Crowd. If you like *any* of the comedies that have come out of Channel 4 in the UK, I'd reiterate that Spaced is definitely worth your time.

Oh! ...and also on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Rome.

I'll second spaced, I'm Alan Partridge is great, it invokes some of The Office feelings in that the main character is a complete idiot, though it has a laugh track by a live audience.

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