One of TVWriter™’s favorite comedy writers tells us why camera technique in sitcoms matters – and why writing matters more:
ANOTHER ONE OF MY RANTS
by Ken Levine
As if they do any good.
This is for all the showrunners of new multi-camera sitcoms (i.e. shows shot in front of a live studio audience) that the networks have recently picked up. The format is much maligned, but hopefully this will help you avoid the audience complaints and ride your new series to success.
I have a number of friends who are on staff of various multi-cams . They report that the one note they now get incessantly from the networks is MORE JOKES. Networks are terrified that if there’s not a joke literally every two seconds that the audience will flee en masse to something else.
What they don’t understand, of course, is that the viewer needs to be invested in the characters and story. He needs to CARE what happens to these people. Although in a stylized setting, the characters have to appear at least somewhat REAL. They have to be relatable on some recognizable level. Characters just firing a barrage of one liners at each other for a half hour is what causes audience defection.
Then things get worse. And I don’t know whether this is the network or showrunner’s fault – but the laugh track goes crazy over every line. It’s exhausting. When viewers have shouted for years that the laugh track is what turns them off the most about multi-cam shows, they’re now being fed more, not less.