September 27, 2013 at 9:38 am #303528
I’ve seen a couple of posters mention specifically that a show was a multi-cam and how they don’t like multi-cam shows, or at least don’t prefer them. I’m curious as to why. I’m not slamming that opinion at all, just a curiosity thing with me. Thanks 🙂September 27, 2013 at 9:44 am #303530
Disclaimer: Personally/In my opinion……
It’s over the top, big laughs, big actions, big hands, laugh track, poor sets, poor ‘outdoor’ scenes (the street scenes in Friends are the cringiest thing ever seen on TV), everything is cheap, every line seems like a one-liner. It’s all too staged… There is no reality, no subtlty, everything is just–to quote Elle Macpherson in Friends–“BLAH!”September 27, 2013 at 9:49 am #303531
Friends is hardly the standard of multi camera sitcoms.September 27, 2013 at 10:02 am #303532
Shooting in studio, particularly in front of a live audience just has limitations in terms of sets and overall look. Also, it tends to limit the way stories are told and staged. Can you imagine the cutaways to the often-hilarious talking heads in shows like Parks & Recreation and Modern Family being done in a multi-cam format? I mean, it’s technically possible but just not likely to be done. The only show on the air that shoots multi-cam and has been able to successfully break the studio-feel structure to me is How I Met Your Mother, but IIRC, that is done multi-cam but without a studio audience. Their computer-inserted exteriors can still be kinda bad, though.September 27, 2013 at 10:13 am #303533
The aspects of laugh track and multi-camera setup are not inherently bad; it is what they represent these days. If Larry David made Seinfeld now instead of two decades ago, it would be a single-camera show like Curb Your Enthusiasm. When people make single-camera sitcoms these days, it is a statement that they are trying to make a witty show that relies minimally on crude and lowest-common-denominator gags.September 27, 2013 at 11:01 am #303534
What thedemonhog said. These days we associate them with all those
gauche CBS shows, but 15 or so years ago they were winning all the
Emmys. I think it’s just a matter of taste shifting.
I am not
inherently against multi-camera shows. Friends is one of my favorite
sitcoms. What matters is that the show is funny and I think
single-camera shows today have more freedom to do so.
It just depends. I have seen plenty of awful and unfunny single-camera shows and lots of hilarious muti-cam shows.September 27, 2013 at 11:19 am #303535
For me it’s the overall look of the show, from actors to sets. I’m not even considering writing or if they’re funny or not (Whitney, for example, didn’t look that bad).
I think that some multicam shows just look bad right away. Dads to me is a perfect example this season, Partners last year was awful. They’re just bad examples of how to make a show look bad just with its art direction and set design. They look weird, things look out of place, there’s way too much convenience with the work desks, apartment sets and store sets.
Some shows do manage to escape this. I have zero problems with Big Bang or 2 Broke Girls for example. This year Mom only had one weak moment when Faris pushed Corddry over the fence in her house. Other than that, that show managed to get a lot of sets and the overall look right.
Also, sometimes casting for multicams is extremely weak and formulaic. Again Partners last year was awful and some people just don’t fit like Sophia Bush, Brandon Routh and the girl who played the assitant. Not everybody can adapt to this setting like say, Allison Janney already did on Mom. Even with her sometimes terrible acting, Kat Dennings fits right in, while Beth Bhers looks like a pro and Stifler’s Mom (can’t believe I forgot her name) just doesn’t work at all.
I don’t think the genre is bad, I just think that some shows just don’t know how to manage it or fall for easy solutions. Even horrible shows like Two and a Half Men have been able to escape this.September 27, 2013 at 11:42 am #303536
Multi camera sitcoms mean something different today than 20 years ago. If you want to make something subversive, something that has its own particular style and pacing you’re gonna make it a single camera series. You want to do something broad, commerical and easy to digest you’re gonna make it with multi cameras. Things like Cheers, Seinfeld and Soap would definitley be single camera shows if made today. Even Roseanne and The Mary Tyler Moore Show might be single camera-ed. To create a good multi takes a certain talent from writers and casts. A lot of that talent has moved on to single cameras.September 27, 2013 at 11:59 am #303537
Friends is not even one fo the five best multi-cams of the 90’s, let alone a parameter for great multicams.
I agree multicams became a different distinction than they used to. Seinfeld being a multicam then, but likely to be a single-cam now is a perfect example. There are shows that benefit from the format (Frasier, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Golden Girls, etc.) and there are shows that could’ve been/might have single-cams, like Seinfeld, Newsradio, Roseanne…
Todd VanderWerff made a great point about hwo people simply don’t understand the mechanics of it as well. Previous generations of shows were from people who either helped shape it or learned from people who shaped the format. Today, multi-cams are stuck to patterns of 90’s sitcoms, and they have people who didn’t have the same background as those behind it. This leads to a certain feeling of generic and cheap-looking shows. One of the reasons why Chuck Lorre shows do so well is that they mostly avoid this feeling (no wonder, since he actually is a 90’s vet).
I think the creative death of multi-cams came with the success of animated shows and cable comedies. They have a faster pace, and became the go-to example of quality comedy. Once the 90’s juggernauts ended, it was only a matter of time. Which is why the best multicams by far today woudl be, at best, moderately competent in the 90’s.
Anyway, I like multicams still. I think Mom, for example, has the potential to be something really good. I don’t have the same hyperbole hate reaction, and I don’t the same feeling that we should necessarily go back to those days when multicams where king, but I think they can stay.September 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm #303538
Thanks everyone, keep the responses coming. I am loving the different points on the same opinion! For me, it all comes down to the writing & acting. You can have a single cam or multi-cam set up, but the basics of funny are the same. I agree that some shows, like those using cutaways/reactions, benefit from the single cam setup. But those with mainly interior shots and no asides or anything could work in the multi-cam format, but sets do play an unheralded role. You have to feel like you are in that place/time.September 27, 2013 at 12:46 pm #303539
I guess multi-cams were okay back in the day because it was the standard format for comedies. Now, however, like people have said, they (for the most part) represent lowbrow, broad, lowest-common-denominator humor. Single-cams are where its at if you want to do something different and original.
I think the multi-cams of today are god-awful. They look awful, the acting style is too over-the-top for me, everything is just bad, imo. Also, the action is mostly limited to fake looking sets, like that cheap-ass looking diner in 2 Broke Girls, for example. And don’t even get me started on the laugh tracks…
I’ll take a The Office, Arrested Development or 30 Rock over a The Big Bang Theory any day.September 27, 2013 at 1:55 pm #303540
To me, multi-cam shows just feel very dated, and pretty irrelevant to the massive landscape of television available to viewers today.
The only currently running multi-cam show I watch regularly is ‘Big Bang’ which manages a modern feel and energy even with the older format. The only new one that appealed to me initially was ‘Mom’, mostly because of Faris and Janney, but I thought it was terrible, just my opinion.
Nothing against any actors, writers, or producers of those shows, it’s just a matter of personal taste.September 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm #303541
I think that multi-camera sitcoms, from the 1950s to the 1990s, were popular for the reason that television shows were live at the outset of television shows, and therefore many cameras were needed. I think what made shows like The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Frasier etc. all so popular was that they were a derivative of the theatre – acting on a stage in front of an audience. Somehow I feel that people felt that the comedy was a lot fresher in an environment such as this – the audience reactions determined the successes and failures of certain jokes and moments, and it was a very basic form of stage acting, which is very appealing (going to the theatre and seeing August: Osage County the play is a much different experience that going to a theatre and seeing the August: Osage County film, if you catch my drift). The actors were just able to act more and be funnier in some ways. And the format was very comforting – for example, Jerry’s living room in Seinfeld is iconic and is enduring to viewers, and resonates wonderfully with people who come back week after week. Because single-camera comedy allowed for more experimentation, viewers weren’t able to build a familiarity with the show in others ways apart from its actors, which can be good or bad. And because the single-camera show hadn’t yet been perfected, it was still rocky ground and producers wanted to play it safe.
However, the more modern multi-camera sitcoms have diverged from this badly. They are still achieving the same purpose, allowing actors to be funnier. But shows (like Curb Your Enthusiasm, as thedemonhog mentioned) that use the single-camera format had been perfected by drama shows and police procedurals, it allowed comedy to grow in the format as well. And because now quality shows had moved onto the single-camera format, which was more artistic and experimental, multi-camera served its purpose to bring more broad humour to its audience, which unfortunately in many cases is raunchy and tasteless.September 28, 2013 at 12:14 am #303542
I think multi-cams certainly still have a place in 21st century television. So long as they don’t keep using the comedic techniques of the 80s and 90s. The trailer/previews for Sean Saves the World makes me think they will be guilty of this.August 23, 2014 at 8:08 pm #303543
I think multi camera sitcoms come off as way to cheesy today, as another poster said (most) modern day multi camera sitcoms appeals to the lowest common denominator. I just don’t see why they won’t stop making really bad multi camera sitcoms instead of single camera.
Of course some of the greatest sitcoms of all time have been multi camera (Seinfeld, All In The Family, Cheers, Fraiser, Lucy)
Give Paul Thomas Anderson an Oscar.
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